Moomins’ Pickled Cucumber Salad

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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