Baked Summer Ratatouille
One of the first local recipes we made for the Oregon Food Bank's Eat Local Challenge!
This is the first year we’ve ever grown cucumbers in our garden. They’re actually kind of convenient in that the vines can just grow over the edge of the garden beds, not taking up too much precious square footage. And we have already harvested quite a few! This brings me a little peace of mind as I pace the raised beds twice a day, hoping that eventually I will have stared at the tomatoes enough that they’ll start ripening (Yes, they are late, I lost my first starts). But they are GETTING THERE (she says as she nervously glances back toward the garden).
Back to the cukes. I think we’ve picked 7 or 8 so far, but there are many more on the way. Way more than we will be able to eat fresh, especially if the rain holds. Actually, I don’t even know if the rain will be a problem. I know it will for tomatoes, but maybe they are the only plants that really go bad once the rain starts. Any experts out there?
In the meantime, I know how to take care of that bountiful harvest – that’s where this recipe comes in. Dave and I did quite a bit of small-batch canning and preserving this weekend. We made pickles, applesauce and some strawberry vanilla rose jam. I love being able to spend time in the kitchen together with him.
Making easy fridge pickles will take your backyard cukes to veggie nirvana. They taste SO different than the ones you might buy in a jar. I wish I had taken a photo of these jars next to the jar of regular store-bought dills in our fridge. The color difference is amazing. And so is the taste, and the texture.
They’re easy, they’re incredibly inexpensive and so worth the effort. You’ve got to try ’em! And then you should try them again, because once you open one of these jars, they will be gone within minutes.
Here’s what you need, per one pint:
In a clean jar, place several sprigs of dill, including any large stems or flowers that might be on it, in the bottom of the jar. Add the crushed garlic, peppercorns and red pepper flakes.
Scrub the spines off of the cucumbers, if they have them, and slice into spears. Pack into the glass jar – there should be room for there to be a little liquid around them, but not very much.
In a saucepan, gently heat the water, vinegar and salt until the salt dissolves (this will not take long). Pour the hot liquid over the jar, covering the cucumbers. Cover and allow to cool completely before putting into the fridge. They will be ready to go in 48 hours!