Finnish pickled summer cucumbers - and an acid trip down the memory lane


Traditional Finnish pickled dill cucumbers

Here's another very traditional Finnish recipe that everyone's grandmother used to make every summer. In the old days cucumbers were not available year round, so this was a real summer recipe made with the fresh harvest of homegrown cucumbers. Nowadays with greenhouses and imported cucumbers we could do this any time of the year, but it is so rooted in summer that it would be wrong somehow to serve it in January.

I have always loved these. You can put pretty much anything in vinegar and I will eat it. I am an avid fan of pickled eggs. They were actually one of the first things I loved about this adopted home country of mine when I first visited England when I was 13.

I came for a 3 week language course in the little town of Sidmouth in beautiful Devon of all places. I did learn some English, but mostly I remember the pickled eggs. I remember exactly the lunch salad with segments of pickled eggs, that my host mum had left for me ready for when I got home from the language school. I thought they were normal boiled eggs and I can't describe the ecstasy as I bit into the acidic gorgeousness of these epic eggs.

I also clearly remember the light blue bags of salt and vinegar crisps which I had never had before, and evening snacks of chips with malt vinegar from the little chippie next door. From the non-vinegar category it was Maltesers that made an everlasting impression. I also remember my host-dad's outrageous ginger sideburns, the endless cups of tea offered at every turn, the donkey sanctuary and becoming embarrassingly homesick on the phone to mum and dad and then explaining to my hosts that it was the seawater from an earlier swim that made my eyes red. Yes, of course they believed me.

I remember the two days we stayed in London that would become my hometown 20 years later. It was scary, exciting and completely mind-blowing to me coming from a little town of 8000 people. I remember the smell of fast food on the hot summer nights and the visit to Wimpy. In my little home town there were no fast food restaurants, believe it or not, just a "grill kiosk" where dad got us hamburgers on a Saturday night every once in a while. Or for some inexplicable reason I always chose boiled wiener sausages over hamburgers. So a fast food restaurant would actually have been more or less lost on me.

This recipe is very simple and goes wonderfully together with barbecued meats or fish or boiled wieners if they're your thing. You can heap them on an open sandwich or serve as a nice summery little side with almost anything. They are beautifully fresh, sweet and tart all at once.

I don't often make these because they are not husband's cup of tea at all. This time he wouldn't even try them smelling the vinegar and saying they looked dead. Which was completely unfair - they are vibrant green, crisp and full of life.

Dill pickled cucumbers

I made them this time with our #fishfriday BBQ which for a change wasn't a massive wild sea bass and a grouper, but cute little skewers of salmon, tuna, scallops and prawns that I marinated with herbs and lemon.

After dinner I topped up the liquid with more cucumber slices, you could go on like this for a couple of days just adding more cucumbers to replace what you have eaten. I suggest after a week either make a new batch from the beginning - the liquid doesn't keep forever - or maybe take a break so as not to aggravate your vata energy. I'm not much of a hippie, but I just put that in there to honour my bebirkenstocked friends who tirelessly try to lead my limited mind towards the enlightened paths.

Grandma's pickled cucumber's recipe

1/2 cup of vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
pinch of salt
1/3 cup of chopped dill
1 cucumber (or 2 if very small)

For vinegar I use a basic distilled white vinegar, because that's what my grandmother would have used, they didn't have fancy wine or cider vinegars then. For cucumbers I found cute small curly ones, but just a normal cucumber works perfectly.

Some people just put the vinegar, sugar and water in a tight container or bottle and shake until sugar is dissolved. But you can also quickly bring the water and sugar to boil so that the sugar dissolves. Then add the vinegar and salt. Check the taste. If you like it less sweet you can add a splash of vinegar (yes, please!) or if you find it too sharp add sugar.

You can peel the cucumber if you like, it makes it a bit more pretty and delicate. But be sure to peel a bit haphazardly leaving some strips of peel on the cucumber. It looks nicer that way. But if you don't want to bother, leave it unpeeled. Slice the cucumber with a mandolin or cheese slicer into thin slices. Layer the slices with the chopped dill in a container until full. Pour as much of the vinegar mixture as you can fit in the container. Seal and place in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.

Grandma's dill pickled cucumbers

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