My husband hates cucumbers. He also hates pickled things. Therefore, cucumbers that have been pickled (a.k.a. pickles) are his least favorite food. Ever. His relationship to these little green beasts can be summed up by this cat video. I, on the other hand, enjoy the occasional spear served alongside a sandwich. Whenever we eat out I get a double-ration of pickles: my own, as well as refugees from my husband’s plate!
When pickling cucumbers (small Kirby-variety cucumbers) were offered at our CSA, I was eager to try my hand at making a few jars of spears. My husband would never condone the purchase of this loathed ingredient for my sinister plans to fill the fridge with pickles. He acquiesced, though, when he thought of his mother’s pickle recipe; he has never actually tried her pickles, but had heard enough rave reviews of her pickles over the years to recommend that I give them a try.
葉媽媽 (Yeh Mama, a.k.a. my mother-in-law) graciously provided the recipe, as well as permission to post about it on the blog. Unfortunately, I don’t know if I’ve actually successfully replicated her pickles since the recipe is simply a list of ingredients with a few volumetric ratios. The important thing is that I like the end product… and I hope that you will too!
The key ingredients (besides cucumbers, of course) are fresh ginger slices, Chinese peppercorns, and dried shrimp. The shrimp feel like the tiny dehydrated shrimp that came in the Cup ‘O Noodles of my childhood. You can find packages of dried shrimp in the refrigerated section of your local Asian grocery store.
Not gonna lie, these shrimp were pretty pricey ($15 for this 6 oz package), but they are potent and go a long way when used in recipes. We often throw a few dried shrimp in the pan when sauté-ing blander veggies such as napa cabbage.
I would characterize these pickles as tangy, slightly-sweet, with a pleasant spiciness… and remember, I’m not really a spice-girl! I just casually polished off a jar a few minutes ago as a midnight snack to provide some cold relief from the mid-summer heat!
Recipe: 葉媽媽’s (Yeh Mama’s) Pickles
1 lb cucumbers (I used Kirby-variety cukes)
2 tsp canola oil (or other neutral-flavored oil)
10 grams dried shrimp
1-inch chunk of ginger, julienned
1/4 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
3/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup sugar*
*葉媽媽’s original recipe for the pickling brine is 2 parts rice vinegar to 1 part sugar, but I prefer a less-sweet pickle.
- Wash and cut cucumbers into quarters. If cucumbers are large (greater than ~1.5″ diameter) and/or have large seeds, remove the seedy middle-section.
- Sprinkle a generous amount of salt over the cucumber slices and let sit for 30 minutes.
- Heat oil in a pot over medium-high heat and sauté shrimp, ginger, and peppercorns for about 2 minutes until very fragrant.
- Add rice vinegar and sugar to pot and bring mixture to a boil.
- Remove pot from heat and add in cucumber slices, stirring constantly to coat spears for about 3 minutes.
- Allow to cool. Place spears and liquid in jars for refrigerator storage.
Pickles can be eaten immediately, or refrigerated for months (unsure of actual shelf life since they don’t remain uneaten for long!) while maintaining original crunch. The pickling liquid probably will not fill the jar; don’t worry, simply shake the jar before retrieving pickles to redistribute the liquid.