Our first summer in New England we planted cucumbers. Lots of cucumbers.
We had moved in the winter, from a tiny duplex apartment in San Diego to an old farmhouse on 11 acres of land. Room for a garden, our first. We tilled a large plot of land and proceeded to plant. Peas, beans, corn, potatoes, radishes, every vegetable we could think of and hill after hill of cucumbers, four plants to a hill. Our neighbor, in the taciturn way of many old Yankees commented that one hill would have been plenty.
By July the cucumbers were more than plentiful. It seemed important to use the bounty, thus began the summer of pickles. Max brought them into the house by the bushel and I studied my cookbooks for pickle recipes. Soon I was scrubbing, slicing, salting, and brewing vinegar brines. Dill pickles, sweet pickles, bread and butter pickles, pickle relish, and sour pickles. We had found more than 100 canning jars in the cellar of the house. They all had to be washed and then sterilized with boiling water before being filled. Some recipes also called for processing in a hot water bath.
Did I mention that we had three children under three and it was a very hot summer?
One recipe called for putting the cucumbers in a large crock, filling it with a salt brine and weighing them all down with brick placed on a large plate. This mixture was supposed to sit in a cool place for six weeks before the pickles were bottled, or they could be stored in the brine. I don’t know if it was the lack of a cool place (a corner of the kitchen) or not doing it right, but it wasn’t long before a white scum started appearing at the top of the brine. In the end that crock of pickles ended up on the compost pile.
It’s been a long time since I’ve made pickles but I have found a way to turn fresh cucumbers into a crunchy semi-pickle. I keep a mix of vinegar, water, sugar, and spices in a jar in the refrigerator. If I need a little something extra to jazz up a meal, I slice a cucumber into the brine before I start dinner. An hour in the brine gives a bit of flavor, a nice addition to a meal.

Fresh Cucumber Slices
2/3 cup vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1-1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
Spices or herbs of choice
One of my favorites is the addition of eight whole allspice berries and a half teaspoon of red pepper flakes for some bite. Or a teaspoon of mustard seed and a whole head of fresh dill seeds. The market sells packets of pickle seasoning, I haven’t used it but I’m sure it would also work.
I keep a jar of this in the refrigerator for weeks adding more vinegar if needed. I dip the slices out when I’m ready to use them and save the mixture for another time. it is a fast way to add a bit of bright flavor to a meal. The slices are also good in sandwiches.