This is one of those dishes that just zaps me back in time to the glass-topped table in my grandparents’ kitchen. We would go down to their house in Swainsboro, Ga., sometimes for spring break, or for a week or so in the summer—and every day at lunch, Mema would set out a dish of sliced cucumbers in vinegar. Sometimes she would add a few slices of ripe tomatoes, but it’s the cucumbers—fresh ones that were probably picked in the big garden she kept out at my grandfather’s farm—that were the stars. Nothing else was quite as cooling on those hot, humid summer days, except maybe Papa’s ice cream stash in the carport freezer.
This recipe, from The Gift of Southern Cooking by Scott Peacock and Edna Lewis, isn’t quite the same. I’m pretty sure my grandmother just sliced up a few cucumbers, poured white vinegar over them, and, at the most, dusted them with salt and pepper. Scott Peacock is the chef at one of the best restaurants in Georgia (and one of my very favorites), right down the street from my old apartment in Decatur, and Edna Lewis was probably one of the most well-known Southern chefs. Needless to say, I wanted to give their recipe a try and compare it to the cucumbers-in-vinegar days of yore. I’m excited about trying other recipes from this book, so stay tuned for more.
Sliced Cucumbers Dressed with Vinegar and Sugar
From The Gift of Southern Cooking by Scott Peacock and Edna Lewis. Makes enough to serve 6–8 people.
1 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 kirby cucumbers, peeled if waxed, and sliced thinly (I actually prefer my cukes sliced thickly, so to each their own)
Put the vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper in a mixing bowl, and stir together until the sugar is dissolved. Add the cukes, and taste to adjust the seasoning. You can eat them as-is, or chill them for a bit.
The biggest difference between this recipe and Mema’s cukes is the addition of sugar, and the use of cider vinegar instead of white vinegar. Next time, I think I’ll scale back the sugar—it was too sweet for my taste—and substitute white vinegar. Maybe add more pepper, too. But it’s got a great, crisp bite to it…perfect for summertime cookouts!