Monday, June 25, 2012

Danish Cucumbers from The Feast Nearby

I have a dream: To eat foods from local sources as much as possible. After more than a decade of writing about food, I firmly believe in the importance of buying local foods, supporting local growers, and dinning at local restaurants. Not only does it keep my money in the community, but it also contributes to the survival of small farms, restaurants, and businesses.

Plus, the food tastes better! My husband, Michael, The Picky Eater, learned this lesson recently when he bought a few peaches at the grocery store. You guessed it—they were mealy and flavorless. I had him take a bite from one I purchased at Saturday’s farmers market. Now he’s a believer.

To fulfill my dream, I buy my coffee from a local coffee shop and our meat, produce and eggs from the farmers market. I also get our milk and cream from a local dairy. I’m still looking for a local cheese source. The one I had is no longer available.

Recently, I was freshly inspired by the book The Feast Nearby by Robin Mather. A long-time food writer, she lost her position at the Chicago Tribune and her marriage all in one week. So she moved to her small lake house in Michigan and created a life of eating locally by raising chickens, reserving produce from the farmers market and trades with neighbors, and buying as much as possible from local sources, for just $40 a week!

When I visited her website, I was surprised and thrilled to discover she now lives here in Topeka, Kansas and is an editor at Mother Earth News.   

I liked Mather’s realistic approach to local living. Not everything can come from a local source. For those items, she would look for producers as close to home as possible, or make her purchases from locally owned retailers as opposed to national chains. I was also inspired by how much she preserved during the growing season, which was enough to see her through the winter. In this, she was also realistic, advising readers to preserve a few jars each week instead of putting up bushels of produces at one time, to make the process more manageable.

The book is full of recipes that encourage readers to eat seasonably. I was taken with her chapter on eating and cooking during the heat of summer. (Not surprising considering it is 101 degrees as I write this post.) It was all about adjusting the type of food you eat to the weather outside, something we often forget as we go from an air conditioned house to an air conditioned car to an air conditioned office.

That chapter included this recipe for Danish Cucumbers. I remember eating these cool, crisp disks growing up in Missouri. A bowl was on almost every summer dinner table. We didn’t call them Danish. I have a feeling the Germans also enjoyed them as well, since my ancestry is primarily from that nation (along with British.)

These fresh-style pickles need to be refrigerated and eaten within just a few days. I can imagine adding other flavors to the recipe—fresh dill or hot peppers come to mind—along with other produce, such as carrots, cauliflower, green beans, and peppers, much like an Italian giardiniera.

I’m going to have fun playing with this recipe all summer long.  

Danish Cucumbers
Adapted from The Feast Nearby by Robin Mather

2 cucumbers
1 sweet onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1/2 cup white wine vinegar (can also use cider or white vinegar)
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons sugar
Freshly ground black pepper
Coarse salt, such as kosher salt

Before slicing the cucumbers, taste one slice to see if the peel is bitter. If so, or if the cucumber has been waxed, peel the cucumber before slicing. I use farmer’s market or organic cucumbers, which are not waxed.

Slice the cucumbers into thin slices and place into a non-reactive container—glass jar or bowl. Add the sliced onion.

In a separate bowl, mix together the vinegar, water, and sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Add ground pepper, to taste. Pour over the cucumbers and stir to combine. Add salt, to taste.
Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving. Tastes better the second day. Keep the cucumbers refrigerated and use within a couple of days.


  1. My Hungarian grandmother used to make a cucumber salad very similar to this one….she also used to mix them with a sour cream dressing! I can’t wait till my cucumbers come in! I try to buy all my produce local…I wish I had a local dairy!!

  2. Excellent. My midwest granny always had these on the table. Delicious.