Several weeks ago, I saw some Persian cucumbers at the farmers market and decided to pickle some. Similar to the common garden cucumber you find in the supermarket, the Persian variety only grow to four or five inches in length. Also known as Middle Eastern or Beit Alpha cucumbers, they have a crisper somewhat slighter texture.
Although available year round, cucumbers are really a spring-summer vegetable. Their flavor is so mellow that they are often upstaged when combined with other ingredients. In too many cases, the cucumber is merely added to give crunch and texture.
Considered one of the oldest cultivated vegetables (3,000-4,000 years), they originated in India and were brought to the Americas by that Italian gadabout, Christopher Columbus.
Because of their high water content, cukes perish quickly. So pickling them is a natural choice. Cucumbers also have a natural affinity for vinegar. We commonly pair them with fresh dill, but I like the following recipe, which uses tarragon instead. Taken from Canning for a New Generation by Liana Krissoff, the original recipe calls for pickling the cucumbers whole, but I have chosen to cut them instead. This makes it easier for me to pull out a few slices and snack on them or chop them for a relish or condiment. I also believe it speeds up the pickling process.
Persian Tarragon Pickles
- 1 pound small Persian cucumbers
- 2 cloves garlic, unpeeled by smashed
- 3 sprigs fresh tarragon
- 1 ½ teaspoons coriander seeds
- 2 dried chilies
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- ½ cup cider vinegar (5% acidity)
Slice the cucumbers into ½ inch thick pieces. Place them in a one quart jar along with the garlic cloves, tarragon, coriander seeds, and chilies. In a separate bowl, combine salt and vinegar and stir to dissolve. Add two cups of water and mix thoroughly. Pour vinegar mixture into the jar, seal and refrigerate for 3-4 weeks.
Recipe adapted from Canning for a New Generation: Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry by Liana Krissoff. Stewart, Tabori & Chang, New York.