Huzzah, Memorial Day weekend! It's the official start of summer, and I went out and bought a pair of white sandals yesterday just to celebrate! OK, they are more like "nice flip-flops" than sandals per se, but whatever. You don't care about my footwear, you care about my delicious recipes, n'est-ce pas?
With the start of summer also comes grilling season, and unless you are a total misanthrope, you will probably be invited to (or host) a BBQ party or twelve in the coming months. But you cannot show up empty handed, can you? Now, maybe you find that it is just so stress-free to pick up a bag of Tostitos (tm) and a jar of Old El Paso (tm) on your way to the party, but as a frequent party-thrower let me tell you, the person who brings chips and salsa to the party is LAME. Seriously. Don't be that guy. Do be the guy who brings my mom's pickled cucumbers, because they are the easiest and cheapest thing in the world to make, and if you bring these to a party, rest assured that you will be invited to EVERY party henceforth.
First you need a giant English/seedless cucumber, and I will fucking hurt you if you try to do this with a standard cucumber. I am not even kidding! I know they're more expensive, but this entire dish is going to cost you about $2.75, which is less than half the cost of chips and salsa, so splurge on the fancy cukes already! I was talking with one of my lab mates the other day about salad (you can see that we are the kind of lab that is not afraid to tackle the Big Issues) and I literally spoke the words "But the thing is, I'm kind of a cucumber snob?" and I totally said it in that annoying up-talking way, too. At first I hated myself for saying something like that, but then I decided that I have no shame in my cucumber snobbery. If it were possible for non-English cucumbers to become extinct, I would fully support the loss of species. (Are they even different species? I have no idea. I'm a neuroscientist, not a botanist!)
Anyway. Take your fancy cucumber and take a fork. Run the fork down the length of the cucumber, all the way around, so that you've scored the skin (you have to press kind of hard). This will make the cucumber slices look pretty and somewhat flower-like when you're done! Then, slice the cucumber as thinly as is humanly possible. I mean seriously, crazy thin. Put all the slices in a bowl, and add a little also-extremely-thinly-sliced onion. Not a ton, just enough to add a little variety. This is "pickled cucumbers," not "pickled cucumbers and onions," you understand? Put everything in a bowl.
Next, put equal parts white sugar and white vinegar (do NOT use a different kind of vinegar. I will not vouch for your results) in a small saucepan. 1/2 cup of each usually works for a normal-sized cuke, but if you happen to have gotten a real big one, add a little more. Toss in a little salt. Cook until the sugar is dissolved or almost dissolved, which will only take a few minutes--you don't even have to boil it!
Pour the mixture over your sliced cukes and onions. It may not quite cover everything, but this is OK, I promise! The cucumbers are going to release a ton of water, so in a couple hours it will all be submerged.
***Important*** This reminds me, you should be doing this at least 4-5 hrs (ideally a whole day) before people are actually going to be eating your delicious pickled cucumbers.
Cover and refrigerate. That is all! Be aware, at first people are going to be like, "Hmm, you brought pickles. Weird!" But then they're going to eat them and then they're going to freak out. I had a party once and someone had brought a different salad, and even though the pickled cucumbers were long gone, people were pouring the juice from the pickle bowl onto the other salad. I would not make this up; this is how good these pickles are. They are great as a little crunchy side, or as a topping on burgers, pulled pork sandwiches, etc. They are magical.
So have a great weekend, everyone! I have loads of news and things re: my sciency life, but I'm trying to organize my thoughts and whatnot before spewing the past few weeks' events into cyberspace. In the meantime, happy pickling!
The Plight of the Post-Doc