By Carolyne

I grew up eating bread and butter pickle sandwiches, in Canada as a child of English heritage. And paper-thin cucumber tea time sandwiches galore. The fragrance of fresh sliced cucumber – well, let’s just say no perfume can match it.

Homemade bread and butter pickles were lined up on a salted butter spread on white Wonder Bread after the Second World War. Later, when Kraft Cheese (Velveeta) appeared, the cheese was spread on the buttered bread and then bread and butter pickles were lined up evenly in rows.



As was the custom and still is, with “English” sandwiches, crusts were always removed. (Continental Europeans were furious at “such waste,” especially in war-torn hungry areas.) The sandwiches were cut in soldiers or quartered triangles. For special occasions, the bread was cut in small circles.

Overseas they are still served crustless at home and in fancy restaurants. In fancy fare, it has been known that the Queen Mother enjoyed gin, as does her daughter, Queen Elizabeth. She might even have spritzed gin over the paper-thin cucumber in her little round tea-time sandwiches or her bread and butter pickle bite-size sandwiches. Gin pairs nicely with cucumbers.

I have written often about food rationing here in Canada after the war, from childhood memories. Recently in an add-on recipe comment I referred to paper-thin fresh ordinary garden cucumber sandwiches as a childhood memory. Again, crusts removed. So delicate, makes me think maybe the English created this as an amuse bouche, because royalty had to be able to swallow bite-size pieces quickly while walking and talking and shaking hands.

Store-bought unsalted butter had not yet been heard of this side of the ocean in my growing up years. A reader informed me she still only buys salted butter and that I am the only one she knows who uses unsalted butter, saying: “It’s a European thing.”  The butters are quite different from one another and will affect recipes very differently.

A visit to a family-owned dairy farm sometimes brought homemade butter to the table. Memories of the spotless dairy centrifuge separating the warm milk fresh from the milked cows’ supply, and then a broom handle-like plunger paddle used in a large wooden vessel standing on the floor so as to get enough shoulder strength pressure to pound the cream into butter from a standing position.

Being the curious child that I was, I had to ask if I could try. At grade one age, and being small-boned, I was surprised at the strength I had sloshing the real butter in its natural buttermilk. The next day the butter, buttermilk and milk and cream from the centrifuge would be delivered by the farm owner’s horse and wagon into town, amid large bales of hay and giant blocks of ice, to the local dairy customers.

Thank you for the bread and butter sandwich trip down memory lane, Eric (Food Network and Saveur). Some people make their own bread and butter (sweet) pickles. All the better to enjoy the nearly paper-thin pickles.

Any readers out there remember?

Using your mandolin, slice a fresh firm unpeeled medium-size cucumber lengthwise in see-through paper-thin long strips. Park the cucumber slices in ice water. Let rest a few minutes. Pat dry.

Present a large platter of fresh cucumber English tea sandwiches cut using the ribbon strips rolled a little on one end of each strip tucked in-between the cucumber sandwiches in a decorative manner, interspersed randomly. Spritz when ready to serve with ice cold Hendricks Gin.

Cut medium-size red radishes to bloom as flowers… make four vertical slits in each radish near the outside edge circumference being careful not to cut to the bottom.

Place the cut radishes in a bowl of ice water briefly. The cuts will exaggerate and form petal-like sides, causing the radishes to “bloom” as open flowers. Tuck the crispy cold (patted dry) radishes among the cucumber sandwiches for instant gourmet. A few flakes of Amagansett finishing salt over the radishes enhances the flavour yet again. Just the tiniest spritz of gin wakes up the taste buds when you bite into a radish.

The platter, made in minutes, will disappear even faster. Make plenty. Serve immediately or cover the cucumber tea-sandwiches on a cold metal plate, refrigerated, with moistened layers of clean, never used, muslin or cheesecloth until ready to serve to prevent the thin bread from drying out.

When ready to serve, spritz the cucumber rolls with gin, being careful to not soak the thin bread 4 o’clock tea sandwiches. Add a little fresh ground pepper to the rolls. Toss a few random briny, rinsed capers on the serving plate. You could replicate the texture instead, using roasted, popped chickpeas made in a hot sauté dry pan and sprinkled with coarse salt.

As a complementary side, cut short (four-inch) sliced celery stalks, splitting the cut end into a couple of inches of very thin strips, rest in ice water and the stalks will curl forming a flower-like end.

Stuff the celery channel with my refrigerated overnight warm blue cheese dressing. When cooled, the warm dressing will congeal and become spreadable, almost like a cheese pate. You could pipe the congealed dressing into the celery stalks using a large, ribbed-end in a forcing bag.

This delightful crispy fresh summer plate will become a regular on hot summer days in lockdown but can be served all year round at any time.

Perhaps add a few dollops of my Hendricks Gin cucumber tzatziki to my gazpacho recipe.

At each serving, use a fork to lightly stir to mix, to leave a wave of white swirls, just when ready to eat. Drizzle just a little “limon” or Bacardi Lemon Rum around the perimeter of each bowl.

Since the proper way to eat soup in a bowl with a spoon is to dip the spoon facing away from you tipped up the far side of your bowl, you will collect the lemon rum edge easily in your first spoonful.

You might enjoy my special gin enhanced tzatziki swirled into my roasted bell pepper soup or even in my roasted tomato soup.

My tzatziki sauce: Wonderful cucumber dip

Grate using a box grater, a third of a cup of seeded cucumber into two cups of full-fat sour cream. Add an eighth teaspoon of fresh, mashed in lemon juice and salt, minced garlic.

Add a quarter teaspoon of your own garden-grown fresh chopped mint or use freeze-dried LiteHouse brand. You could make candied, deep-fried mint the same way you prepare my candied, dried fried sage and store in an airtight container alongside your pantry sage.

Stir into the sour cream mix, a teaspoon of white balsamic vinegar. Finely chop fresh or dried dill and add it just before serving.

As an alternate to balsamic vinegar, stir in a teaspoon of the congealed figgy brandy marinating jus in your black mission fig jar.

Serve the tzatziki with any salad or as a side with roasted or barbecued lamb. Or maybe use as a dipping sauce with your Celebrity brand Canadian white cheddar goat cheese sandwich.

I love my gin tzatziki sauce served in stuffed pita pockets: separate dishes to choose from to build your own personal pita pocket:

Chopped firm red fresh tomato (or any colour)

Brunoised seeded cucumber (spritzed with Hendricks Gin)

Shredded iceberg lettuce

Grated on large hole side of box grater, mixed hard cheeses (try adding Canadian Celebrity brand white cheddar goat cheese)

Full-fat sour cream or my homemade gin tzatziki sauce

Finely chopped marinated red or Spanish onion

Coarsely chopped raw white button mushrooms

Your favourite chutney or salsa

Sauté top grade ground beef or grind/mince your own in your food processor, drizzled with your favourite taco sauce.

A side dish of my tomato butter and a side dish of my spectacular barbecue serving sauce; and a bowl of Elderflower St-Germain Date Confit.

Everything can be made ahead, ready to serve when anyone is hungry. This is a great après ski treat or at poolside, or during or after the game. Create your own celebration. No excuse needed. Great all year round.

Popsicle your salad cucumbers

Using your mandolin, slice a small diameter garden-fresh cucumber in paper-thin slices. Cut the thin slices into quarters. Salt the cucumber slices quite heavily and set aside in a covered glass dish.

Prepare my Hendricks Gin tzatziki, and refrigerate in the coldest part of the refrigerator, covered in a glass bowl.

Rinse the cucumber slices in a colander under gently running cold water. The salt will draw out most of the cucumber excess juices. Pat dry gently tumbling in a clean white tea towel. Spritz just a little Bacardi lemon rum on the cucumber slices to zap the flavour. Add the cucumber slices to the thick cold tzatziki.

Using a tablespoon, fill individual pockets in a popsicle tray, poke in the sticks and freeze overnight in coldest part of your freezer.

A refreshing cold adult treat on a hot summer day. You might consider small individual dipping dishes of my beurre blanc sauce (served cold).

Beurre blanc

Just when ready to serve, offer just a little cooled grapefruit beurre blanc. Make it in this case by sautéing a small minced pomegranate shell in a 1/4 cup of unsalted butter, heated with a 1/4 cup of Noilly Prat, a 1/4 cup of fresh grapefruit juice (either colour) and let heat through but do not boil.

Gradually add a cup of half and half cream and a tablespoon of sugar and gently stir to combine. One by one add tablespoon-size cubes of very cold unsalted butter. The sauce will begin to thicken as the cold butter gets incorporated. Be careful to monitor the heat. Lift the pot if necessary so as not to burn the cream. Keep it hot but not boiling.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and let it come to room temperature. Strain them and cool in the coldest part of refrigerator. Just when ready to serve, add a half cup of pomegranate seeds.

(See my grapefruit Carpaccio recipe column add-on comments).

Note: If you have a spiralizer, you could make paper-thin cucumber strings instead of using the mandolin, and even blanch carrot “strings” quickly and toss in ice water, dry and add along with the cucumber to my gin tzatziki, to make these delicious popsicles.

Your friends might want the recipe. A handy take-along conversation treat for a potluck packed in a freezer cooler so long as travel time is brief.

Last but not least: You have a container of frozen compound butter, a variety of choices. Add this to your container. Mash a half pound of cool unsalted butter with two tablespoons of my gin cucumber tzatziki, a teaspoon of lemon zest, and roll in cling wrap to form a log. As usual, when frozen but not yet rock hard, slice in half-inch pieces using a sharp thin knife, and rewrap and freeze hard. Loads of uses in your cooking. (You could add the compound butter slices to your beurre blanc; top ground lamb burgers or use when making crostini or your favourite bruschetta to paint the grilled bread.)


© Spirits in My Kitchen: Lady Ralston – Canadian Cooking with Bouquets and Aromas – Good Food Made Better Adding Spirits

2 COMMENTS

  1. This should wrap up the REM cucumber topic nicely for maybe making on the holiday weekend, for those who enjoy being in their own kitchen, or even just for those who enjoy reading recipes. For those of us who are pasta-addicted, an interesting little bit different way to offer…

    “Scallops Carpaccio on the Half-Shell with Lemonade Gin Linguini ”

    First, sear your scallops in just a little sizzling butter with a pinch of thyme.

    Set aside half the number of bottom shells. Wash the scallop shells well and using a sanitary firm kitchen-toothbrush, or use a reserved hard bristle nail brush only used for food prep, brush the shells under running cold water. Set aside and pat dry with paper towel. The shells can be used over and over again.

    For keeping the scallop carpaccio presentation warm, heat the bottom shells in a bowl of very hot water and pat dry.

    Handling carefully because the scallops are hot, using a very sharp thin-blade knife, perhaps a serrated knife, slice each scallop, horizontally into paper-thin slices. You could have six thin coins from each scallop. Use as many scallops as you need to rim each coquille.

    Perhaps use dedicated kitchen-tweezers to hold the paper-thin scallop slices. Arrange the scallop slices in a concentric circle around the outer edge of each shell, slightly overlapping.

    Sprinkle with minuscule bits of fresh thyme and flutter a little East Coast Atlantic Ocean Amagansett hand-cultured finishing sea salt over the scallop coins rim, just when ready to serve. A sprinkle of pea greens on the linguini makes an attractive picture for eating with our eyes.

    Now, here’s a delicious way to finish the scallop carpaccio:

    Make ahead my Lemon Gin Linguini in Sauce. See:

    My Homemade Lemonade Hendricks Gin on Linguini – and then there’s granita for dessert

    Mound the twist of covered in sauce linguini carefully filling the scallop shell centre with a small serving of the freshly made hot, sauced linguini. Dot with a coin of your cold lobster compound butter. Don’t stir. Just let the butter melt. When you twirl your fork in the linguini, attach a coin or two of the scallops.

    You can keep the filled scallop shells warm in a hot oven (Turn the oven off.) on a middle rack using a parchment paper covered baking sheet.

    To serve hot, balance the filled coquilles on a bed of coarse pickling salt arranged in a large flat soup plate. Serve with a three-pronged pie fork if you have.

    Follow the rest of the referenced Lemonade Gin Linguini recipe and make whatever changes you like to make it your own.

    Play with your food. Experiment. Enjoy your kitchen now more than ever.

    ALTERNATES: You might choose to fill the centre with my often complimented:

    https://www.remonline.com/gourmet-cooking-for-real-estate-professionals-salad-on-the-run/

    Or even with just a generous handful of mesclun leaves spritzed with 3:1 extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar from your refrigerated shaking jar.

    ===
    If you prefer to serve the carpaccio shell at room temperature and change it up a bit you might instead, fill the centre with candied pink and yellow grapefruit segments cut from between the fruit membranes and scatter with chopped mixed homemade candied citrus rinds from your pantry sugar jar. Spritz the grapefruit centre with my Hendricks Lemonade Gin.

    Drizzle the paper-thin scallops with my special Beurre Blanc recipe for an unusual delightful plate. Rest the cold shell on a large Boston Bibb (butter) leaf to stabilize.

    ===

    “My Homemade Lemonade Hendricks Gin on Linguini – and then there’s granita for dessert”

    Forget the extra ice for serving the lemonade gin for the moment. Let the homemade lemonade gin come to room temperature. Whisk four egg yolks and 2 cups of reduced thickened, cooled just a little, half and half cream, tempered.

    Mash a log of Celebrity plain cream goat cheese (or their Fig log) and whisk into the warm egg cream mix until there are no lumps. The heat of the reduced cream is sufficient to cook the egg yolks but if you prefer you can stir over a Bain Marie being careful that the bowl doesn’t touch the simmering warm, not hot water. You don’t want the egg yolks to solidify. Stir in a cup of lemonade gin.

    Prepare a half cup of thin slices of Romano cheese run up on the coarse side of a box grater or use a kase scharfe to peel thin strips off the pecorino wedge and set aside.

    Ahead of time choose one of your compound butter logs and knock off a few coins. But keep refrigerated. Let the cold butter just sit and melt on top of the hot egg sauce. Don’t stir. You might even choose your lobster compound butter. Or maybe Jerk from your freezer container.

    Add a few chopped candied citrus rinds from your pantry sugar jar.

    Swirl a generous serving of hot linguine cooked al dente in salted water, onto oversize warmed dinner plates in the centre of each plate, so there’s a large unused edge area.

    Top with my incredible Celebrity goat cheese lemonade Hendricks gin egg sauce. And scatter the grated or sheared Romano over the sauce. Grind fresh pink peppercorns over each plate.

    Drizzle a little of my watercress hazelnut pesto on the side of each plate and flutter with hand-pulled fresh basil leaves just when ready to serve.

    Pair with a large bulbous wine glass of my Lemonade Hendricks Gin over extra large ice cubes that take longer to melt. Maybe make ice cubes using grapefruit fresh squeezed juice to support the citrus in the sauce pairing.

    Want lemon gin dessert? Why not!
    Freeze my homemade lemonade gin with a half cup of fresh pink grapefruit juice, or blood orange juice and a tablespoon or two of your refrigerated jar of heavy sugar syrup (if you are using the fig goat cheese and you have figs marinating in Asbach Uralt cognac, stir in instead of the sugar syrup, a few spoons of the figgy jus from your marinating refrigerated jar), in a rimmed sheet pan and using a fork as it starts to freeze, scramble the mix.

    Let refreeze several times after each dust up. Serve in your favourite martini glass. A great palate cleanser also. You might want to spritz the granita just when serving, with Bacardi Martini Fiero.

    Compliments of:
    © Spirits in My Kitchen: Lady Ralston – Canadian Cooking with Bouquets and Aromas – Good Food Made Better Adding Spirits

  2. The following cucumber column add-on was too long for the Recipes for Realtors(r) current column and likely will fill a whole chapter in my new manuscript. But thinking so many of our regular recipe readers have Covid-related time on their hands, this add-on cucumber info might provide at least ‘something refreshing to read’ as one of REM’s recipe column readers who doesn’t cook, said.

    Cucumber – Hendricks Gin Homemade Lemonade and Watercress

    Imagine taking your plain and simple, easy to make old-fashioned ordinary lemonade up a notch to make it not quite so ordinary.

    Peel and seed and make a brunoise from two cucumbers. Dress with a mix of granulated sugar, sea salt and white wine vinegar. Grind fresh peppercorns.

    Toss the cucumbers which will have expressed their natural juices and just when ready to eat, spritz the bowl with an ounce of ice cold Hendricks Gin.

    Scoop the cucumber mix onto each plate of shredded watercress and add crushed candied roasted hazelnuts from your pantry jar. You might consider topping with a drizzle of my Watercress Pesto and or homemade candied citrus rinds from your pantry sugar jar.

    https://www.remonline.com/gourmet-cooking-for-real-estate-professionals-pesto/

    Top with tiny fresh pulled mint leaves.

    Serve with fresh homemade not so old-fashioned lemonade-stand lemonade made with crushed ice (crush in heavy duty blender) and heavy sugar syrup from your refrigerated jar.

    Usually I make with six large ripe juicy lemons juiced (smell the lemons at the produce department in the supermarket to determine freshness), the fine zest of one half lemon, and a cup of ice cubes and a half cup of sugar syrup. Whiz the mix in a heavy duty blender.

    Serve over ice in your most bulbous wine glass so you can experience the nose blend of the marriage of the fresh squeezed lemon and the palate pleasing gin, a treat for your olfactory senses. Although defying gin specialist thinking, try freezing full-strength grapefruit juice large ice cubes and add plenty to the gin lemonade wine glass when serving. Larger ice cubes take longer to melt, helping avoid dilution.

    Add a sprinkle of Amagansett Atlantic Ocean hand-cultured sea salt just when ready to serve. You might like to rim each large bulbous gin wine glass with a mixture of the finishing salt after dipping the glass rim edge in sugar syrup. Put the sugar syrup on a large flat plate to make rimming easier.

    A very handsome drink indeed with the cucumber salad on the watercress hazelnut plates. This is served sometimes in private plane flights as it is so easily prepared, or in first class. A welcome refreshing way to indulge.
    ===

    Although of course it doesn’t mention my extra-special fresh lemonade gin, here’s an interesting “Gin-read:”

    How To Drink Gin: The Right Garnish, Glass & Cocktails | Maxwell Scott

    https://www.maxwellscottbags.com/journal/how-to-drink-gin/

    ===

    Paper Thin Cucumber Crostini with Quark

    Smear poached stored in oil mild garlic cloves on your favourite grilled, buttered with unsalted butter, crostini bread.

    Mound each bread slice with Quark. Top load with paper-thin rounds of fresh cucumber, cut on your mandolin, or a hill of paper-thin spiralized cucumber. Salt with a flutter of Amagansett sea salt for a finishing salt crunch, and generous fresh ground black pepper.

    Spritz with Hendricks Gin just when ready to munch to wake up the cucumber. A fresh, cool appetizer or late night snack.

    Pairs well with a gin and tonic, or soda, your preference, over ice. Maybe rim the glass with the natural hand-cultured Atlantic Ocean sea salt. It comes in various flavours.

    On the plate, serve a side mound of deep-fried crispy paper-thin sliced beets and or other paper thin root vegetables. (See REM ‘comments’ at the link.) And, again flutter with the sea salt.

    If you are making paper-thin potato crisps (or fries), soak the potatoes in pure ordinary regular white vinegar overnight. Pat them dry and deep-fry, for that extra special crispy crunch.

    https://www.remonline.com/recipes-realtors-beet-tops-roasted-red-garden-beets/

    ===

    “Cucumbers – Ghee, Onions (maybe our REM Asian readers will enjoy this…)”

    Sweat chopped Vidalia onions or Spanish onions in Ghee. Add salt, lots of fresh ground pepper and a sprinkle of cinnamon, two mashed poached garlic cloves from your Mazola Corn oil refrigerated storage jar; according to how much curry you enjoy, add a tablespoon of store-bought curry powder. I prefer Club House brand. I find the turmeric in it a little sweeter than some others. Add a pinch of powdered ground cloves and just a little nutmeg and a little dusting of sweet paprika powder. If you enjoy heat, scatter cayenne pepper over the finished plate.

    Grate the zest of a small lime and stir into the onion mix. Squeeze the juice of a small lime over the onion mix. Stir into the onion mix two English cucumbers, spiralized. Or you could use zucchini. You want the paper-thin cucumber to retain its crunch so toss to coat with the onion mix and almost immediately remove the sauté pan from the heat. Spritz with Bacardi Lime Rum to give the pan a jolt of freshness.

    Present a ring of cooked instant Basmati rice on a large round platter and tip the cucumber mix into the centre of the ring, serving family style. You might like to sprinkle with cashew nuts or pistachios.

    You might like to offer a side serving of my very special guacamole topped with full fat cold sour cream or your favourite yoghurt. You might like to offer a bowl of my Gin Tzatziki.

    A Greek Salad with the cucumbers spritzed with Hendricks Gin might be enjoyed as a refreshing side dish.

    My friend from Sri Lanka who enjoyed my deep-fried battered still crunchy broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms and sole filets, would enjoy adding this group to the curry rice cucumber, presenting the deep-fried veggies family style on a large separate platter. They truly are extra special, made using my light, almost sweet Chinese batter.

    https://www.remonline.com/recipes-for-realtors-deep-fried-vegetable-salad/

    You might like to offer my Grapefruit Beurre Blanc as a fresh cool dipping sauce.

    None of this is complicated, just a little time-consuming but so worth it if you love to spend time in your kitchen. A little cultural-crossover selection of the best of several suggestions.

    ===

    It’s been years since I had gin (a half glass over ice lasted all evening), and remembering it as so refreshing especially in this kind of current meltdown summer weather that aggravates the Covid restriction atmosphere. Gin was literally one of the very first drinks I was introduced to at age 21, as a dinner guest at a then (early 1960s) restaurant called the Dutchman with recent immigrants from Holland, on the south side of Lakeshore in Port Credit. A nice trip down memory lane from days gone by.

    A gin and tonic pairs well with cucumber.

    ===

    I came across this article, below, when doing some gin research, and some of our REM readers might be enlightened by the health-related information noted.

    = = =

    “4 Reasons Drinking Gin Is Actually Good for Your Health – This is some research we can get behind. Cheers!”

    Read in Eating Well: https://apple.news/A8nJuP0JcRNWElBhQYYSIcA

    ===

    “My Greek Salad Wake-up Call:”

    If you make Greek Salad you will know there’s lots of cucumber in it. Spritz the patted dry cucumber small wedges with a little Hendricks Gin just before tossing the cucumber into the salad bowl when ready to serve. WOW! ENJOY!

    ===

    © Spirits in My Kitchen: Lady Ralston – Canadian Cooking with Bouquets and Aromas – Good Food Made Better Adding Spirits

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