my grandparents married when they were 15 and 16. The year my grandmother passed marked their 71st year of being a fantastic team. One of their projects I loved the most as a kid was my grandfather’s garden. I spent my childhood summers following him around in it.
He took so much pride in his big summer project and never once complained about one minute of hard work. Perfect rows, militant watering techniques, tomato vines held up with scraps of stretched out pantyhose lol (gram would be mortified if she knew I told you that)….and gorgeous, amazing sunflowers. He would pick and prune and harvest every day of the summer, and my grandmother turned his bounty into delicious, and for me, mesmerizingly memorable bites of fresh tasty food. If I close my eyes I can still taste the flavors in my head. She would cut a tomato still warm from the afternoon sun, liberally salt it and shove it in my mouth then giggle when the juice would drip down my chin.
I loved every second I spent in her kitchen, but it certainly was the most fun during the summer months. At night we would eat the most delicious, butter lathered “real” popcorn she insisted be popped in a heavy bottomed pot and drink icy cold glass bottles of Pepsi outside on the porch swing. By the time I stumbled out of bed the next morning…(which, btw was not late, because gram didn’t find it appropriate that young, able-bodied children “sleep all morning” I was expected to get up and start “doing something”) the kitchen looked like a factory.
She canned bushels of green beans and tomatoes, made pickles of every variety and always shared her passionately made goodies with everyone she knew. Beets, okra and pickled peaches were on the top of my list of favorites, but I enjoyed the simplicity of buttery ears of corn on the cob and crisp, crunchy cucumbers just the same.
this cucumber salad made it to the table at least twice a week during the garden months, and always by popular demand.
gram’s cucumber salad.
(with a tiny update* gram would approve of, I promise.)
6 mini cucumbers
4 strips of any delicious thick cut bacon your little heart desires.
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. water
1 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper (medium grind)
(you really should buy and only use a peppermill filled with fresh, telicherry peppercorns. You now have control of how fine or course you’d like.
2 tsp. natural sugar (I choose coconut sugar for this, but raw honey or maple syrup would be delicious as well)
1 tsp. Jacobsen sea salt
method of preparation.
- rinse mini cukes in cold water and towel dry
- trim bottom and tops of each cuke
- cut into 1-inch “stumps” and lay them on their side
- using the heel of your palm smash each stump with a firm, swift motion (it’s pretty stress relieving actually)
- collect all your smashed pieces, including the juice on your work surface and place in a medium-sized mixing bowl
- dry the work surface and lay out the strips of bacon all stacked directly on top of one another, forming what looks like one very thick piece of bacon. now cut this bacon bad boy into 5 equal stacks (I hope this makes sense)
- in a medium-sized sauté pan over medium-low heat cook bacon “chips” low, slow, and with a very watchful eye until crisp. remove from heat and set aside.
- reduce heat to low and whisk in apple cider vinegar, water, salt, and cracked pepper
- increase heat to medium-high and whisk in natural sugar. allow the mixture to come to a boil and rapidly reduce by half while whisking constantly.
- remove from heat and allow to cool slightly, and immediately pour over smashed cukes. be certain you scrape every oz. of the warm dressing you can out of the pan
- as soon as it’s cool enough, get in there with your hands and massage the dressing into the cukes
- just before enjoying stir in the crisp bacon chips, and give it one more pinch of salt and pepper and one more toss.
*gram used regular ol’ table sugar in this recipe but was the kind of woman who tried every crazy diet (like the cabbage soup one…yuck.) and was very interested in what “the experts” said. when she knew better, she definitely did better.