More Than Pickles: Preserving Cucumbers

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I was recently gifted 30 pounds of freshly picked but slightly over-grown pickling cucumbers. We were fortunate to be able to rescue some of the Florida-fresh produce that did not make it to the traditional market during the pandemic, so we wanted to honor the energy that was put forth by the farmers, picking and transporting it possibly without profit, by not letting even a single bit go to waste.

My family likes pickles but that is thirty pounds is A LOT of pickles, so I turned to Google to find inspiration for alternatives. It took some digging, but I tried a few new ideas and had great success. I have a new appreciation for cucumbers now, and will make more of an effort to grow them next season.

I thought I was being creative by making Cucumber-Dill Pasta Salad, but I have since learned that there are tons of different ways to use that cucumber harvest and hope for more!

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Immediately, I needed to figure out a way to preserve about 15 cucumbers – I couldn’t get 30 pounds into my refrigerator! My very first cucumber adventure was actually cucumber chips. Yes, I actually dehydrated cucumbers. Couldn’t be easier! My just-turned 4 year old likes to help place the veggies on the dehydrator racks and sprinkle the salt and pepper. We used about 10 cucumbers to fill the 4 racks in the dehydrator. Next time, I may try brushing them with apple cider vinegar to see how that comes out.

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This was surprisingly easy to do, and makes a great grab and go snack that doesn’t need refrigeration. I store my dehydrated veggies in re-purposed glass jars with a desiccant pack to help them last longer in the Florida humidity.

My toddler is in this vegetable hating phase which drives me crazy. I help families grow gardens as a living, and my own child is refusing to eat his vegetables. Any time that I can get my little one to voluntarily eat and enjoy veggies, I’m all for it!

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Cucumber Chips

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  1. Wash and dry the cucumbers.
  2. Trim off the ends.
  3. Slice them about 1/4 inch thick.
  4. Place in the dehydrator or on a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking liner or parchment paper.
  5. Add seasonings. We used salt, pepper and fresh dill.
  6. Dehydrate in the dehydrator on vegetable setting until they are done, or on the lowest setting on your oven, opening the door periodically to release the moisture from the cucumbers dehydrating.
  7. Let cool and enjoy or store in a sealed jar.

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Frozen Cucumbers

Yep. You can freeze cucumbers to use later. They won’t be great for sliced up fresh or for salads, but they are great in cold soups, smoothies, and cocktails.

We don’t have a high powered blender yet – it’s on the list. My regular blender was able to handle this job. I washed, chopped, and blended enough to fill my blender up halfway with this cucumber puree (about 5 large cucumbers). I did add a little water, maybe a cup, to help it get started.

Simply pour the cucumber puree into silicone muffin pans for individual servings, and freeze them overnight. Pop them out into a freezer bag and do it again. Toss one in to your next smoothie to up the nutrient content and add in a vegetable.

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If you have fresh herbs on hand you could toss some in. I recommend mint to make a slushy version of my favorite cocktail, a Cucumber Gimlet, easier to make. It’s just cucumber, mint, lime juice and gin. It’s traditionally served on the rocks but who says we can’t go frozen for summertime? This is also GREAT without the gin.

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These cucumbers were on the larger side, so the seeds were big and the flesh surrounding them was slimy and soft. No problem there – I cut the cucumbers in half then scooped the seeds out for compost, leaving me with cucumber boats ready for slicing.

PRO TIP:
Cut your cucumbers differently for different types of pickles. That way, if your label falls off, it should be pretty obvious what’s what. (Label them – you won’t remember, I promise.)

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Fermented Cucumbers

The last few cucumbers got fermented with a bunch of herbs and spices. I love the tangy flavor without the bite of the vinegar that comes from home-fermented veggies.

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Of course, we made pickles. So many pickles. Sweet pickles, bread and butters, kosher dills, spicy dills with some extra jalapenos, and my favorite – sweet relish. Most of these pickles were canned in the traditional way, and will be happy on the shelf, waiting for the next potluck or barbecue to be popped open and enjoyed.

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These are just a few of the many creative ways that I found to preserve my cucumber abundance. If you try any of these suggestions, let me know how it turns out in the comments.

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If you are interested in learning more about preserving cucumber and other food at home, check out our recorded class, The Joy of Preserving Food at Home.

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