Guest Post by Rula: Middle Eastern Style Pickled Cukes

 

Since we are on a cucumber kick this week, let’s keep the ball rolling. This post is written by Rula, my neighbor, who has her own delicious family recipe to share. The best part about this recipe, aside from the food, is hearing her story behind it. Sharing food is an important gesture, because food is not just food – it comes along with the story of where are roots lie, what we are willing to try and share, and all the memories that the food brings back to us with a simple bite. So, without further ado…here’s Rula’s Middle Eastern Cucumber recipe!

Hello, my name is Rula and since finding Ali’s blog I have become a faithful reader of this wonderfully adventerous and humerous DIY experimenter and writer! Since the current topic is cucumbers I would like to share with you a recipe for pickling that might come in handy for those of you whose gardens seem to be overflowing with this particular green vegetable, or just for those of you who adore pickles and would like to try a new variety. But first, a little personal history of my own encounter with this particular pickle whose origin is the ancient and historically rich culture of the Middle East. 
 
I was born in Amman, Jordan and lived in the Middle East for the first nine years of my life. Although I am told by my parents that until the age of two I was a ‘nightmare’ eater and was practically force fed (to this day my mother folds her arms over her chest and gives me a disapproving look when she recounts this bit of my history), I soon grew to be an enormous food lover. (Okay, I wasn’t enormous, but I definitely gained a lot more weight!) 
 
My father is Lebanese and Armenian and my Mother is Jordanian with Palestinian and Greek roots, and in my humble opinion, one can find some of the most delectable dishes in this part of the world. In fact, although the preparation of Middle Eastern dishes vary from country to country, olives, olive oil, plain yogurt, garlic, salt, lemon, parsley, and mint seem to prevail as the quality standard ingredients and/or garnishes at most dinner tables. 
 
As a vegetarian, one aspect that I find wonderful about Middle Eastern food is that its repertoire includes an array of colorful dishes, both meat and vegetarian, which are often eaten in combination with each other at the dinner table. To be more accurate, in the Middle East (as I knew it) the largest meal of the day was actually lunch, not dinner, as many people in the work force would come home in the afternoon for a large lunch and brief siesta before returning to work (as my grandfather used to do). In any case, one could always find several vegetarian staples (such as hummus and salad) accompanying the main meat dish. One of those staples, which is what I would like to talk about, is the Middle Eastern style pickle!
 
I have to say that as a child growing up in Amman I did love these pickles that were almost always offered at my grandmother’s dinnertable sliced lengthwise in a small dish. But it wasn’t until I moved to the United States that my obsession with these spicy pickles really took off! (I was also taken to eating raw lemons with salt, but please don’t judge a pickle by its quirky lemon-sucking devour-er.) My Mom would always buy two jars at a time because I could literally polish off half a jar in just one sitting! (Most kids got canker sores from eating too much candy, but mine were always a result of eating too many pickles, haha!) Needless to say I should have carried an extra toothbrush and paste in my back pocket at all times.

So, this spring was my first attempt at a vegetable garden, and the winning vegetable (that is the one that survived my seriously flesh-colored thumb) was the cucumber! Those cucumbers came at me from every direction and I found myself with a large drawer full of them in my fridge (which is why I couldn’t wait for Ali’s cool cucumber mask recipe!). Although I usually buy my Middle Eastern pickles from the (you guessed it) Middle Eastern store, this seemed the perfect time to finally ask my mother for the recipe for those pickles of my childhood (and present day) dreams. 

By the way, these pickles are often offered at lunch and dinner and add an extra ‘kick’ to the meal, or as a garnish for side dishes such as hummus. They are also a fundamental part of a genuine falafel or shawarma (gyro-like) wrap. The same or similar pickling recipes are also used to pickle other vegetables such as turnips, cauliflower, and carrots which are also used to add extra flavor to a meal and/or as a colorful garnish for certain dishes.

 
The first recipe is from my Mother, who speaks about how her own Mother (my grandmother) used to make these pickles. Following her mother’s recipe is one that comes out of an old Middle Eastern cookbook that she has. (The egg version is particularly fun!) Combining the two recipes creates a seriously delicious pickle 🙂
 
The following is what my mother had to say about the home made Middle Eastern pickles of her childhood: 
 
“For the cucumber pickles my Mom used only salt and water…it was funny because she would put water, some salt (dissolving well), and then…she would add an egg…and keep adding salt and stirring until the egg floated to the top, and that would indicate the right amount of salt!
 
Here is the simple recipe:
 
Fill a glass jar with cucumbers that you slit in the middle with a knife.
 
Add the salt water to the top of the jar.
 
I used to know how much salt to water, but now I have to use an egg again. Ha ha ha.”
 
Recipe from the Arabic cookbook is
 
2 1/2 lbs cucumbers slit inherit
17 oz vinegar
17 oz water
1 1/2 oz salt
1 pod hot pepper
 
“Melt salt in water and strain. Add the rest of the ingredients in a glass jar and close tightly. I don’t remember exactly how long they are kept in the jar, but it shouldn’t be much more than 10-14 days (until tender and juicy).”
 
And that’s pretty much it! I know, that’s a lot of talk for two such tiny little recipe’s, but I guarantee you that these tiny recipe’s produce a mighty tasty and powerfully potent pickle! I hope you have fun with and these recipes and enjoy the added kick of flavor at your next meal 😉
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Hey Rula, first of all this is a lovely blog post. I was born and bought up in India and had no clue that these kind of pickles existed till I came to US. Indian pickles are just so different. We pickle carrots, raw mangoes, lemon, green chilis and even fruits! They are then ‘cooked’ in the sun for 4-5 days and last for months. The egg technique you mentioned is pretty interesting! Well, the best cooking tips always come from Moms!

Dhara I spent a few months in india and used to eat those pickles every day. They are SO good (though heavy on the stomach). I would love those recipes if you have them. I heard that the lemon pickle only uses salt. And yes, you’re right, Mom’s always have the best recipes since they are often handed down from generation to generation and are so authentic. 🙂

‘@rshin Thats so good to know! Where in India did you spend a few months? Yes, Indian pickles are a bit on heavier as well as spicier side 🙂

Here is a recipe by showmethecurry for you to try : http://showmethecurry.com/pickles-chutneys/mango-pickle-aavakai.html … these ladies are awesome and freakishly responsive if you have any questions.. Regarding the lemon pickle, I will get you my grandmother’s recipe.. need to ask her the ingredients first 🙂

Oh how lovely that you have your grandmother to go to! Thank you for the ‘freakishly responsive’ ladies too haha 😉

In terms of India I went twice (2005 & 2006), staying about one month each time. My friend’s place is in Raipur but they took me to many places including Mumbai, Kolkata, Kanha National Park, Puri Beach, New Delhi, Nagpur and even Kashmir. It was magnificent (in great part due to my wonderful hosts). I fell in love with India and hope to go back soon.

By the way Ali, tonight I just jarred some more cucumbers using my grandmother’s salt and water method. The egg did indeed float. My husband reminded me of the Dead Sea saying, “don’t things float there too?” It brought me back to another memory of my childhood in which we took several trips to the Dead Sea. I remember seeing a man sitting, literally sitting, on top of the water with one leg crossed over the other reading a newspaper haha I swear I remember this image distinctly although I was quite young.

In any case, the egg did eventually float. I’ll let you know how this batch turns out in a couple of weeks.

‘@rshin That is so crazy!! I’m totally going to picture that now when I float the egg hahahah….yes, definitely let me know!

‘@Dhara Mistry @rshin showmethecurry Thanks for posting this site! I have been on a serious Indian food kick these days so I am going to check this out. On another note, my sister-in-law is in India right now, she went for three weeks to volunteer as a teacher. She is staying on a tea farm . I’m going to need to get her in on this conversation when she gets back…

‘@rshin wow! thats so good to know! I am originally from Mumbai and when I hear from people that they have been there my excitement peaks! 🙂 Awww how much I miss Mumbai, my family and last but not the least all the food :(.. And please tell me the best part of your visit to Mumbai was the street food :-D…Glad to know you love travelling having visited India twice…

‘@Ali Mac @rshin Oh tea farm? That must be Darjeeling…would love to meet her here..:) And the showmethecurry ladies are some on the top indian food bloggers.. they always come to my rescue when i need to impress my husband :-D…Have you tried any Indian recipes? It would be great to see some of them here! 🙂

Yum…this all sounds delish…one of my FAVORITE things to munch on in the summer are cucumbers!
I love esting them bysleves, with red onion & tomato, OR just some black pepper and balsamic vinegar…Very refreshing….That pickling recipe looks Really INTERESTING!!
I can’t wait to see your garden again Ali!!!!

‘@rshin BTW my grandma is 90 years old and her memory is as sharp as a tack! She remembers all the recipes that HER grandma gave her :-O

‘@LisaZ mmmm black pepper and balsamic…Yum 🙂

‘@Dhara Mistry @rshin I have mostly been trying new restaurants and experiencing all the dishes there, but I have tried a few at home. Here is one that I did a while back (it’s very basic!) http://punkwife.com/2011/03/16/chickpea-and-eggplant-curry-recipe/

‘@Dhara Mistry

Wow, that’s amazing!

‘@Dhara Mistry

Yes, I had the chai from the vendors and something else I can’t quite recall now hahaha It’s been way too long! Wish to go back…

Wow.. this thing is one of my favorite. This is so delicious even that you are just going to put a vinegar on it, It will taste yummy.. I used this for my eyes also. I am going to listing down your recipe. I will do this at home with my family.

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Wow.. this thing is one of my favorite. This is so delicious even that you are just going to put a vinegar on it, It will taste yummy.. I used this for my eyes also. I am going to listing down your recipe. I will do this at home with my family.

Wow.. this thing is one of my favorite. This is so delicious even that you are just going to put a vinegar on it, It will taste yummy.. I used this for my eyes also. I am going to listing down your recipe. I will do this at home with my family.

Wow.. this thing is one of my favorite. This is so delicious even that you are just going to put a vinegar on it, It will taste yummy.. I used this for my eyes also. I am going to listing down your recipe. I will do this at home with my family. [url=http://www.highpowersites.com]website builder[/url]

Hey Ali, I wanted to update you on how this went when I tried to make it. Apparently when it came to the amount of salt that I used I wasn’t satisfied until that egg literally floated right to the top. Well what I ended up with was WAAAY over-salted pickles which got very mushy very fast. I think the key is to just get that egg to float slightly. I’m going to try the recipe again and using the egg I will also measure the amount of salt and get back to you. Thanks!

Ooo that is good to know! Thanks Rula – I’ll update the post!

Wow.. this thing is one of my favorite. This is so delicious even that you are just going to put a vinegar on it, It will taste yummy.. I used this for my eyes also. I am going to listing down your recipe. I will do this at home with my family.

making a website

Wow.. this thing is one of my favorite. This is so delicious even that you are just going to put a vinegar on it, It will taste yummy.. I used this for my eyes also. I am going to listing down your recipe. I will do this at home with my family.

Wow.. this thing is one of my favorite. This is so delicious even that you are just going to put a vinegar on it, It will taste yummy.. I used this for my eyes also. I am going to listing down your recipe. I will do this at home with my family.

Wow.. this thing is one of my favorite. This is so delicious even that you are just going to put a vinegar on it, It will taste yummy.. I used this for my eyes also. I am going to listing down your recipe. I will do this at home with my family. [url=http://www.highpowersites.com]website builder[/url]

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