Category Archives: Finnish

Pickled Dill Cucumbers and Pickled Cucumber Salad

pickledcp

Pantry-filling season has started for good. This weekend was cucumber pickling time. Cucumbers pickled in vinegared brine are easy, relatively quick and the seasoning possibilities are endless. After several years and at least a dozen different experiments (including such exotic versions like curry powder or Sichuan pepper and more basic, with bay leaves or allspice), I have decided to stick to my oldest recipe, with dill playing the most important role. I also prefer them slightly more acid than most people, but dill and garlic are the ones which give the typical traditional flavours of Polish pickled cucumbers. This time I was extremely lucky to have fresh horseradish, but it can be omitted.

Short, hard, prickly cucumbers, also called “gherkins”, are the only ones that can be pickled whole, but they might be difficult or impossible to find in some countries, so if you feel like pickling, but have access only to other smooth skinned, softer varieties, try this fabulous Moomins’ Pickled Cucumber Salad (which can be prepared with gherkins too):

Moomins' Pickled Cucumber Salad

Moomins’ Pickled Cucumber Salad

I have actually made both preserves this weekend, the second one with long smooth cucumbers. Click here to check this pickled salad recipe (I have already written about it last year). I have found the recipe in a charming book called Moomins Coookbook. An Introduction to Finnish Cuisine. The original recipe called for short gherkins but I discovered that any cucumber can be used instead with equally good results. The salad is sweeter and milder than whole pickled cucumbers.

If you feel like making short-term Japanese pickles, you might like this quick and easy Kyuuri no Kyuuchan (Cucumber Pickled with Soy Sauce and Ginger):

Kyuuri no Kyuuchan

Kyuuri no Kyuuchan

TIPS: Horseradish is not necessary, but if you can get it, it will improve the taste of dill pickles.Both preserves, the pickled whole cucumbers and the salad, can be made as short-term pickles and kept in the fridge without being processed, but I think it’s worth trying traditional long-term preserves.

My favourite dill parts here are long, thick old branches, flower crowns and/or seeds, but – unless you live in a country where many people prepare pickles with dill – you need to grow your own dill and wait until it flowers. If you have access to young fresh dill only, you can use it too (fresh or dried).

The seasonings’ amounts below are just an example of what you can put into one liter jars. Of course you can change them as you wish, but don’t put too much mustard seeds, peppercorns, horseradish or garlic cloves: they might make the taste too harsh or too bitter. It’s difficult to say how much dill you can put… the younger the dill the less aromatic. I have always used thick “old” dill branches, stalks, flower crowns and seeds, approximately one long branch (20 cm/about 8 in) and one crown per jar.

You can add more sugar to the brine if you prefer sweet pickles, but don’t dilute the vinegar (a certain acidity or/and sugar level is obligatory to preserve food).

Preparation: about 1 hour

Ingredients (yields at least 5 x 1 litre jars, but everything depends on the jars’ size, shape, the cucumbers’ size, etc.): 

2 kg (4 lbs) short, hard pickling cucumbers (“gherkins”)

10 flat tablespoons sugar

2,5 heaped tablespoons salt

2 litres (about 8 cups) vinegar (I have used 4,5% white wine vinegar; if your vinegar is more acid, use more water accordingly)

500 ml (about 2 cups) water

yellow mustard seeds

garlic cloves (peeled)

dill branches, stalks, “crowns” (flowering dill) or seeds, preferably dried (if you have only young fresh dill, it will be ok too but a bit less strong in aroma)

peppercorns

(fresh horseradish, peeled and cut into small pieces, about 1/2 garlic clove size)

Prepare clean, sterilised, dry jars (washing in the dish washer at 70°C is enough), checking if the lids don’t have any trace of rust.

In each empty jar place 1/2 teaspoon of mustard seeds, 3-4 peppercorns, some dill, 2 garlic cloves and, if you have, two-three horseradish pieces).

Wash the cucumbers well and dry them.

Put them into the jars not higher than 3/4 of the jars’ height.

Combine the vinegar, the water, the sugar and the salt. Bring to a boil, stirring from time to time, and let it simmer for 5 minutes.

Put aside the brine and after about 10 – 15 minutes fill the jars with it, very slowly (if you are afraid they might break, wait until the brine is no longer hot; personally I have never broken a single jar this way) up to about 2 cm/about 2/3 inch from the jar’s edge.

Do not worry if you see that the cucumbers stick a bit out of the brine. If you have respected the above instructions (cucumbers packed only up to 3/4 of the jar’s height and brine stops 2 cm below the jar’s edge), the cucumbers will have space at the bottom of the jar and they will gradually fall down after being processed.

Close tightly the jars and put them aside until they are cool (I usually leave them overnight).

/At this point you can (after the jars have cooled down)  either keep them in the fridge for a couple of weeks or process as described below and store in your pantry for at least a year. The below method is the way me and lots of people I know have been processing pickles, but choose any method you know and prefer./

Place the cool jars into a big pan, bottom lined with an old kitchen towel folded in two (this will prevent the jars from breaking), cover up with hot – but not boiling – water to the level just below the lid. Bring to a boil and keep on a very low heat, in simmering water, for around 20 minutes.

Stick on self-adhesive labels, write the name of the pickles and don’t forget to mark the date. If you  experiment with different vinegar or sugar amounts or seasonings, mark the different versions on the label. This way you will know what suits your taste buds best for next year!

 

Moomins’ Pickled Cucumber Salad

moominsaladpp

Moomins, aka Moomin trolls, are chubby characters invented by the Finnish-Swedish writer Tove Janssen who depicted their adventures in a series of sparingly illustrated books I used to devour in my early teens. The books were originally written in Swedish and then became famous all around the world, in as different countries as Germany and Japan, where they were extremely popular. I remember I immensely enjoyed finding myself plunged in the peaceful, simple Moomin world, where everyone was kind and even the scariest characters end up being nice… I got really addicted to Moomins when, in the 90s, the tv started to broadcast a full-coloured Japanese Moomin cartoon. Here is the English theme song, just to give you an idea of what Moomins’ world looks like:

Afterwards I learnt that several different cartoons had been produced not only in Japan, and some as early as in the 60s! I have to confess even as an adult I feel nostalgic about Moomins. Once, I have even given CG from Cooking Gallery an idea to put them into one of her extraordinary charaben (character bento boxes). Imagine my joy when I saw she actually made perfect, beautiful, edible Moomin family! Click here to see what I of course consider as the most beautiful of CG’s bento boxes.

Moomins’ adventures haven’t been developped for years, so imagine my emotion when I learnt the existence of the Moomins Cookbook! Luckily, it has already been translated into English, otherwise I would certainly order it in Swedish (or Finnish) and would insist on reading it with a dictionary in one hand! As its title suggests (Moomins Coookbook. An Introduction to Finnish Cuisine), this illustrated book contains Finnish recipes. However, I must admit I haven’t ordered it with intention of its practical use, but merely to purchase a new Moomin item.

Imagine how excited I was to discover there not only an ideal way to pickle the cucumbers I was offered at the farmers’ market, but to realise that the result went far beyond what I had hoped for. The salad is extremely flavoursome, it can be served as a side dish or drained and put into sandwiches and I recommend it to everyone, not only Moomins’ fans. However, I admit that labeling the jars as “Moomins’ Salad” is a particularly thrilling experience for someone who feels nostalgic for these chubby characters.

I have slightly changed the recipe, skipping cloves (not my kind of seasoning in cucumber pickles) and horseradish,  which I didn’t have and decreasing the sugar amount. In my first batch I have substituted fresh black currant leaves with dried ones but it didn’t add any taste, so I have skipped them in following batches. Check the Moomins Cookbook for the original recipe.

TIPS: The recipe calls for sliced gherkins, but long cucumbers were a perfect substitute. I have only slightly modified it, mainly reducing the sugar content, so if you prefer sweeter pickles, add 320 g sugar.

I didn’t have fresh black currant leaves, have put dried ones instead, but I think they don’t change the taste at all, so I shall skip them next time. The salad tastes lovely without them too!

I have also skipped grated horseradish and the pickles were excellent anyway.

This salad can of course be made as a short-term pickle too and kept in the fridge. It is ready after a couple of days.

After several experiments I must say I prefer 2 mm cucumber slices (about 0.05 in) rather than paper thin. As for the carrot, I prefer it paper thin.

Preparation: 1 hour + hot water bath processing (or another method)

Ingredients (I have obtained 5 x 400 ml jars):

1 kg gherkins or cucumbers

1 big carrot

1 tablespoon allspice berries

1 tablespoon peppercorns

1 tablespoon mustard seeds

4 garlic cloves (peeled and cut in two)

(1 tablespoon grated horseradish, which is optional in the recipe and which I didn’t have)

dill flowers, stems (dried or fresh) or seeds

(blackcurrant leaves (I used dried, but they don’t really change the taste so either use fresh ones or skip them))

1 liter wine or cider vinegar (4,5%)

200 g sugar

3 tablespoons salt

Wash and scrub the gherkins. If using big long cucumbers you can peel them if the skin is very tough or only one row in two (as I did) or not at all (the pickles will be crunchier). Slice the cucumbers or gherkins finely with a knife or with a mandolin.

Peel the carrot and slice it finely too.

Pack the sliced vegetables tightly into the jars, distributing the spices and garlic evenly between the layers (one garlic clove for one jar). Finish the layering at the 3/4 of the jars’ height.

Combine the vinegar, the salt and the sugar. Bring to boil, stirring.

Pour the hot vinegar into the jars (leave 1,5 cm under the rim) and close them.

/At this point you can (after the jars have cooled down)  either keep them in the fridge for a couple of weeks or process as described below and store in your pantry for at least a year!/

Leave the jars to cool.

Place the cool jars into a big pan, bottom lined with an old kitchen towel folded in two (this will prevent the jars from breaking), cover up with hot – but not boiling- water to the level just below the lid. Bring to boil and keep on a very low heat, in simmering water, for around 20 minutes.

Stick on self-adhesive labels, write the name of the salad and don’t forget to mark the date.

NOTE: For the readers who live in the USA, the USDA-approved canning method is different. You can find it described here: http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/publications/uga/using_bw_canners.html.

Moomins' Cucumber Salad on Punk Domestics