foodie mcfooderson

a home cook with notions & an appetite

kitchen tigress’ spicy pickled cucumbers – sichuan style

The joy of planting cucumbers is that it’s a slam-dunk crop.  The downside of planting cucumbers is that it’s a slam-dunk crop where you’ll end up swearing that you really did pick all the cucumbers when you went out the day before and it’s impossible that this many cucumbers grew overnight.

So here I am faced with another cucumber harvest and the same thought I always have: isn’t there something just a little bit different that I can do with these?  It’s my burden.  I will warn you that simply chopping up your cucumbers and splashing them with balsamic as a snack during the workday as a stalling tactic will get noticed by co-workers on day three as a “problem” that you may be developing.  Luckily, I found Kitchen Tigress’ recipe for Spicy Pickled Cucumbers.  Even though she mentions Chinese New Year throughout, the flavors reminded me a lot of the cucumber pickles you get in the banchan plates in a Korean restaurant.  But I’m getting ahead of myself…

The ingredients are simple, but some did require a visit to the New Asian Supermarket (I love that store):

  • 1.2 kg cucumbers (2.64 pounds if you don’t have a scale with metric)
  • 1 Tbs kosher salt
  • 2 large garlic cloves, sliced thinly
  • 4 Tbs hot broad bean paste (the brand name is in Chinese, it’s just called bean paste with chili – if you go to an Asian market of any kind, there will be an entire aisle of various chili pastes and you’ll find it there)
  • 2-4 Tbs hot chili oil (this is even available at my mega-mart)
  • 250 g sugar
  • 300 ml vinegar (I used 5% white vinegar after trying to locate a 5% rice vinegar…the best the market could offer was “greater than 4.5%”)
  • 4 Tbs white sesame oil (again, brand name is in Chinese, but the logo is a cartoon sun in a jumper with a mischievous look about him)

Kitchen Tigress’ recipe also calls for 3 Tbs toasted and ground Sichuan peppercorns.  I didn’t have any and completely spaced on them while at the market.  In the end, I left them out of the recipe.  I still loved the results.

Above, you see me “milking” the cucumber.  To do this, you cut off the end of the cucumber and rub the cut ends together until the milky substance appears.  According to various bits of lore, this either takes away some of the cucumber’s bitterness or the “burpiness” of the cucumber.  Who knows?  Either way, rinse and pat these dry after milking.

At this point, it’s about cutting down the cucumbers.  This means de-seeding them and chopping them down into half-spears:

Notice that my de-seeding isn’t perfect?  That’s right, my faults on display for the whole world to see.

The salt is mixed with your cucumber slices and left to rest for half an hour.  I will say that I’m initially worried as most of the time, the salt portion of recipes is a few hours, if not overnight.  After half an hour, though, the cucumbers have given up a ton of water.  Between the de-seeding and spears (and not being the sheer bulk of slices), I’m guessing this is why and I’m happy.

Now it’s a rinse and pat dry for all of the spears.  For the pat dry, I just do this on a ton of paper towels with gentle pressure.

I’m now ready to get started on seasoning the pickles.

This part is a snap.  I transfer the clean and dry cucumber spears to a bowl and add in the thinly sliced garlic and the remaining ingredients:

After stirring, the bowl is covered in plastic wrap and refrigerated.  After half a day, I check the seasonings and I get the best sweet/hot (but not too hot) taste with these underlying nutty notes.  This would have been my chance to adjust the seasonings, but there was no need.  Another half day (this means one full day of pickling in the refrigerator) and the pickles are ready to snack on.  I did leave the pickle in the liquid for an additional day before draining off all but enough to leave it nicely coated.

Theoretically, these can last up to a month, but I wouldn’t know.  They’re really addictive and yummy.  And definitely what you need when you want a pickle that’s a bit different.  Or if you want to set up your own banchan plates for fun.

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This entry was posted on August 13, 2011 by in garden, preserving and tagged , , , , .

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