Yesterday’s recipe for cucumbers from Mrs. Beeton was as simple as a recipe can get: slice a raw vegetable, season with salt and pepper, and dress with oil and vinegar. It is served the exact same way today – although perhaps more usually along with other raw salad vegetables and greens. Actually, it seems only to be served that way, or pickled, or occasionally in a stir-fry these days. A not particularly inspiring vegetable, is it? I thought it might be interesting to see if there were other ways this good old staple used to be served in the past. Here are a few ideas for your late summer cucumber glut:-
To stew cucumbers.
Pare twelve cucumbers, and slice them as thick as a half-crown, lay them in a coarse cloth to drain, and when they are dry, flour them and fry them brown in fresh butter; then take them out with an egg-slice, lay them in a plate before the fire, and have ready one cucumber whole, cut a long piece out of the side, and scoop out all the pulp; have ready fried onions peeled and sliced, and fried brown with the sliced cucumber. Fill the whole cucumber with the fried onion, season with pepper and salt; put on the piece you cut out, and tie it round with a packthread. Fry it brown, first flouring it, then take it out of the pan and keep it hot; keep the pan on the fire, and with one hand put in a little flour, while with the other you stir it. When it is thick put in two or three spoonfuls of water, and half a pint of white or red wine, two spoonsfuls of catchup, stir it together, put in three blades of mace, four cloves, half a nutmeg, a little pepper and salt, all beat fine together; stir it into the sauce-pan, then throw in your cucumbers, give them a toss or two, then lay the whole cucumbers in the middle, the rest round, pour the sauce all over, untie the cucumbers before you lay it into the dish. Garnish the dish with fried onions, and send it to table hot. This is a pretty side-dish at a first course.
The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy (1774) by Hannah Glasse.
Cucumbers in Ragou.
Pare six large cucumbers, cut a slice out of the side of two of them, and scoop out the pulp, fill the inside with a light veal force-meat, put in the piece you cut out, and tie it round with packthread; cut the other four in two, scoop out the pulp, and cut them in square pieces; put the forced ones into a stew-pan, with a pint of good gravy, a gill of white wine, a little beaten mace, pepper and salt, a dozen of small button onions peeled, cover them close, and stew them fifteen minutes; then put in the rest of the cucumbers, with a little butter mixed with flour, a very little Cayan pepper, cover them, and stew them half an hour longer; squeeze in the juice of half a lemon, skim off the fat, take the whole cucumbers out, untie them, lay them in the middle of the dish, and pour the remainder over them.
The English Art of Cookery, According to the Present Practice (1788) by Richard Briggs.
To make Cucumber Soup.
Having cut your cucumbers, stew them in good broth and veal gravy to give them a colour; when they are done, add to them some good broth; season your soup, and serve the cucumbers up in it.
The Complete Family Cook; Being a System of Cookery. Adapted to the Tables Not Only of the Opulent, But of Persons of Moderate Fortune and Condition (1796) by S.Taylor