Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Redux: Scandinavian Cucumber Pickle

      I'm having some friends for lunch on Friday and in planning a menu for the get-together I came across this recipe for a cucumber pickle. It was originally featured in 2011 and has proved to be an entry that folks like to re-visit. I know it touched hearts as well as palates and I thought it deserved a "second life." I hope you enjoy the story, hymn and recipe.

From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...I am, by disposition, easily moved to laughter or tears and I have an unusually expressive face. It takes no special training to sense my mood or humor, but every once in a while I fool everyone. I mention this, because last weekend I was moved to tears by something quite extraordinary. Bob and I make it a point to attend local celebrations and festivals. These events were originally created to celebrate family, community and heritage, and we like to honor that spirit whenever we can. Last weekend, one of the towns close to us held their annual Scandinavian Festival and we happily attended. Usually, the entertainment consists of folk dancing and music from Finland, Norway, Denmark or Sweden. The dancers are members of groups that meet bi-monthly for practice and some of them are very good. They are, however, amateurs. What makes them special is the participation of families who often have three generations on stage for any given performance. Despite the participation of families, the number of dancers dwindles every year. There, obviously, are not enough young people to replace the seniors who can no longer participate. It's sad to see the passing of a tradition, but we enjoy it while we can and applaud the efforts of those who try to preserve memories of the old ways for their children. We sat through a handful of dance performances before heading to the beer garden to sample some typically Scandinavian food and drink. We never made it. A men's chorus, about 50 members strong, had taken the stage and, as they began to sing, it was clear we were in for something special. These were not young men, and I'd guess the youngest of them to be my age. That meant the group had lots of time to practice and perfect their singing, and perfect it they had. As they sang, my throat started to knot, but I kept my act together until the end of their performance when they began to sing the Finlandia hymn. As they sang, an elderly group in the back of audience stood and joined hands. Some of them were moved to tears and as I watched I, too, began to cry. Now it was a sedate cry, mind you, but the tears were very real. I was moved by the haunting beauty of the music and their obvious remembrance of times and places once well known but never more to be. I think you might understand the emotion if you listen to this small portion of the Finnish hymn that many call the Finnish National Song. It is quite beautiful.

Now, because this is a food blog, I can't let you go without sharing a recipe. It's time for us to move from the sublime to the ridiculous. Actually, there will be two new Scandinavian recipes, but only one of them will be featured today. This is a cucumber pickle that is lovely to serve with dishes as diverse as barbecue or Swedish meatballs. It is amazingly easy to make, and, as long as you thinly slice the cucumbers, you can't go wrong. Ideally, the dish should be made with seedless cucumbers, but as you can see I break my own rules. I know you'll enjoy these. Here's the recipe.

Scandinavian-Style Cucumber Pickle...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite courtesy of Gourmet magazine


1 English cucumber
1/2 cup white-wine vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint leaves
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Cut cucumber crosswise into very thin slices (preferably using a manual slicer). In a bowl whisk together remaining ingredients until sugar is dissolved and add cucumber, tossing to coat. Marinate cucumbers, covered and chilled, stirring occasionally, 4 hours. Yield: 10 to 12 servings.


e* said...

Thank you for this recipe Mary. My husband and I are currently living in Sweden and we love these pickled cucumbers. Now I have an opportunity to make them myself.

Patricia said...

Beautiful post, as always. Truly enjoy your blog. Good to see you posting again. Warmest regards from Perth, Australia.

From the Kitchen said...

I didn't need to be reminded because I always have a bowl of this in our summer refrigerator!! In fact, I "refill" it with fresh cucumbers at least once before making more of the marinade. I enjoyed hearing that lovely hymn again.


Alicia said...

I've seen quite a few cucumber pickle recipes lately but this one with the mint sounds fabulous! I'll have to try it.

Thanks for sharing that hymn, it's beautifully haunting.

David said...

Mary, I like cucumber pickles like these but my favorite are my wife's sweet and sour cucumber slices! They're best after sitting in the refrigerator overnight. Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Tricia Buice said...

Hi Mary! Came across one of your comments and thought I would pop over and say hello. Hope you are doing great! Blessings :)

Nickie and Jim said...

Thanks for sharing that beautiful rendition of Finlandia. That could easily cause emotional tears. Appreciate your cuke recipe, also, as I threw mine out because Jimmy doesn't like cukes. That was a mistake, because I do! Have you heard of adding six (or was it five?) Allspice to the mixture? Good news -- we have lots of cucumbers at hand.

Andie Michael said...

I was one of the lucky recipients of Mary's Scandinavian Cucumber Pickle yesterday and I can tell you it was delicious - as her dishes always are! And now I've also enjoyed the moving Finnish National Anthem as well as the back story. Thank you Mary!

Velva said...

Cucumber salads are the best in summer. I make a cucumber salad similar to this one that I can keep in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks. Your posts are delightful to read.


Buttercup said...

Just saw this post. I would have been crying, too. Beautiful, sweet and sad.

Patricia said...

Thank you so very much for sharing the Finland Hymn. I do wish that you could provide a translation for the lyrics. My maternal grandmother immigrated to Canada from Iceland in the early years of the 20th century, and lived in Gimli, Manitoba. In Iceland, she was what we today would call a Nurse Midwife. She rode by Icelandic Pony to remote settlements, and assisted in over 700 births -- never losing an infant or mother. In Canada, she had six children of her own, and was relied on by the local population almost as a doctor, since there was little other medical assistance available in the area. I myself am old now, and the only survivor of my original nuclear family. It saddens me that in so many important family events, there is no-one else left who remembers. When I die, so many rich and meaningful memories will die with me. Nobody else will be able to attach names or details to the faded family photographs, or identify the bloodlines and relationships. So sad.

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