When the greenhouse starts pumping out cucumbers one or two a day and you start wondering why your other plants aren’t this productive, be consoled and comforted by the thought that you can never eat too much agurkesalat, or Cucumber Salad as non-Danish speaking cucumber-lovers might say. This is a mildly acidic salad that also works well as a condiment. Danes slap a fork-load of agurkesalat on hotdogs, treating it as a relish…and the Danes ‘relish’ their agurkesalat. Meeee, too. It cuts right through the richness and fattiness of meats; it’s a perfect accompaniment for pork, ham, beef, liquorice, chicken, pâté, crayons … well, it’s a perfect partner with just about anything that no longer walks, runs or squeaks.
If your local grocer is behind the times and doesn’t stock rice vinegar, you can use white wine vinegar but you’ll need to cut the acidity with a bit more water. Rely on your taste buds for the correct acidity, remembering that it should jolt your jaw muscles into a rigid spasm in order to properly ‘pickle’ the cucumber slices. Not to worry though — you don’t drink the juice; it’s not an aperitif. When you serve the salad, the cucumbers are drained from the juice so a good sharp taste is required.
If your cucumbers are old, overgrown and the approximate size of the Jolly Green Giant’s shoe, you might consider de-seeding and peeling them. I rarely peel cucumbers because I like the contrast of deep forest green against the milky-white flesh. Many people peel the skins, resulting in a pickled-albino effect. The dill, whether dried or fresh, adds lovely green flecks to the salad also, so perhaps it’s not totally albino if you peel the cucumber.
A word about slicing. I use a mandolin, a flat slicing mechanism, that’s more like a horizontal guillotine really. I’ve never cut myself on it, yet. Yet, that is. Everyone else I know who’s used one has sliced bits of fingernail and/or flesh into food at one time or another. Most also admit they were never able to find the bits of themselves that became that evening’s meal. If you use a mandolin, use the finger-guard. If you’re like me, say pshaw and don’t. I’d probably not admit to adding a surprising ingredient to meal either.
The amount of time that the salted cucumber slices sit depends on just how juicy they are. I find that an hour is usual. After 30-minutes, give it a test. Pick up a slice and wave it about in the air; if it’s all limp and wiggly and pathetic, it’s perfect. There’s apt to be anywhere from a few tablespoons to 100ml of juice at the bottom of your bowl when it’s ready. You might need to add a trickle of vinegar to tart-it-up again if a lot of juice has leached out. And for goodness sake, don’t throw out the cucumber water because the salt and juice cuts the vinegar’s acidity. Did I already mention that? Oh, sorry.
Danish Cucumber Salad – Agurkesalat
1 cucumber (English Telegraph/Greenhouse variety)
1 teaspoon flaked salt (I use Cornish flaked salt)
30-35ml rice wine vinegar
1/8-1/4 teaspoon granulated Sweetener (Splenda, etc.) or 1 tablespoon granulated/caster sugar (to taste)
1/4 teaspoon white pepper (add more or less to taste)
1 teaspoon dried dill or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
Wash the cucumber but don’t peel it. Slice it very, very thinly into a medium bowl. A mandolin is easiest and fastest but not necessarily the safest method.
Sprinkle the sliced cucumber with the flaked salt, white pepper and dill. Toss and turn the slices so that the salt, white pepper and dill are evenly and thoroughly mixed together. After 10-minutes, toss and turn again. Juice should already be collecting at the bottom of the bowl, making it easier to distribute the salt, pepper and dill throughout the slices. Leave to rest at room temperature for one hour until a puddle of cucumber juice sits at the bottom of the bowl. Voilà: osmosis. The salt leaches the cucumber’s juice from its flesh. Don’t throw it away. This fluid will dilute the vinegar mixture when everything is stirred together.
In a separate small bowl or teacup, mix together the vinegar and sugar/sweetener, stirring until dissolved completely. Pour over the cucumber slices, and toss and turn gently. Taste and add more vinegar if required. Refrigerate for at least 30-minutes until well chilled.
To serve, transfer the pickled cucumber slices to a small serving bowl using a fork, so your cucumbers aren’t served swimming in pickling juice.
© Misk Cooks 12 July 2011