Doris' Cucumber Salad

My mother, Doris, has been making this cucumber salad for as long as I can remember. And I liked it even as a kid, unlike a lot of things that required a mature tongue to appreciate. The most important part is the salting and draining. If you skip that step, you will hate the result.

5 cucumbers, 1 1/2 inches in diameter, 5 to 6 inches long
1 medium size white onion

Peel the cucumbers.
Into a large bowl with a 8-inch or larger mouth begin slicing the cucumbers into slices about 1/16 inch thick. It's best to use a mandolin, even if only a $10 one like mine. And of course, be careful with the damn thing.
After each 1 1/2 cucumbers, run the onion through the mandolin to make three or four slices right on top of the cucumbers. Then salt the cucumber-onion layer with 2 teaspoons or so (I never really measure, just what seems right) and go back to slicing another 1 1/2 cucumbers for the next layer, the onion and more salt. Repeat the ritual until the cucumbers are gone, topping each layer with onion and salt.
Now find a salad or other small plate that will fit inside the large bowl without hanging up on the sides. Place the small plate face down on the cucumber-onion layers and then place something heavy like a muskmelon or a stack of 3 or 4 other plates on top of the small facedown plate to weigh it down.
After an hour or so, remove the weights, drain the cucumbers and return the weights. You will be amazed at the amount of water that comes off the cucumbers. Drain them a few more times over the course of several hours. I would say the minimum time under the weights should be about 2 hours but it would be fine and maybe even better to keep draining overnight in the refrigerator. So for a party, the slicing and draining could be done the day ahead.
Once finished draining, you're ready for the dressing.
In a small bowl, equal parts vinegar and sugar and whisk to dissolve. Dip your finger in and sample. You want to be able to taste the vinegar and the salt simultaneously, a nice balance. But make it to your own tastes.
Returning to the cucumbers, run fresh water over them and drain to remove some but not all of the salt. Doris skips this step, but I find that sometimes I go a little crazy with the salt and it needs to be tamed down a little.
Pour enough of the vinegar-sugar mixture over the cucumbers to coat them well. But don't drown them. I like to add a few turns of black pepper from the mill if you like and then mix the salad gently but well.
You'll find that the slices of cucumber have thinned considerably and become quite crisp. The onions, likewise.
You'll probably want to start forking up mouthful after mouthful of the salad right out of the bowl, but it's better to wait and serve it with grilled chicken or steak.
After the cucumbers are all eaten, you'll find quite a bit of dressing remaining in the bowl, which by then will also contain a lot of cucumber juice and flavor. Doris likes to just add more drained cucumbers and onions to the leftover juice and jusst keep going like, always replenishing, through the cucumber season.
5 cukes of the specified size will serve four people as long as you have a decent amount of other sides. You can use the smaller Kirby cucumbers as well, but they are considerably more tedious to peel and slice.

10:38:14 on 08/24/05 by greg - Category: Recipes


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