But who cares?
I’m making cucumber wine.
In my garden plot I have three cucumber vines that can’t be persuaded to climb a trellis but are nonetheless producing like crazy.
I’ve made them into pickles and I’ve munched on them whole while I water, but they just keep coming!
I had never tried or, to be honest, heard of cucumber wine, but I thought it must exist. I thought that every food must, at some point, have been thrown into a bucket with yeast and sugar. It seems the list may be finite, though, and cucumbers are right at the bottom of it, because my internet searches have brought me exactly one recipe. It can be found in a few different places, but it’s always exactly the same, copied and pasted over and over. And I’m here to carry on the tradition!
Of course, once I’d set my mind on using “all these cucumbers,” I discovered that I had only four, and that they weighed about half of what I needed for my recipe. My mission to use up extra produce suddenly required a trip to the grocery store. Oh well. The light green pickling cucumbers came from my garden. The dark green traditional ones came from a farm somewhere in Rhode Island, if the produce department is to be believed. One of them is missing an end because my boyfriend took a bite out of it. So it goes.
The recipe called for two lemons and two oranges, cut into slices. I imagine this is because cucumbers on their own don’t have a lot of body to them. Also, even though I’m looking for a cucumber flavor, a fruity base might be what it takes to tip this thing from pickle juice into wine territory. I’m a little apprehensive about how the orange flavor will mesh, but since this is my first try I’ll put all my faith into that one mysterious person who devised this recipe and follow it to the letter. Maybe the oranges will add some complexity that lemons alone can’t.
I sliced the citrus and roughly chopped the cucumbers. I added seven cups of sugar and yeast nutrient, then I poured a gallon of boiling water over it all. It smelled like a spa treatment.
Up until now I’ve always used sodium metabisulfite to sanitize the must before adding yeast, but now I’m experimenting with using just boiling water. I have no political or health reasons (I had no idea I was supposed to hate sulfites until I came across recipes that proudly omit them). I’m just curious to see if it works.
Once the must cooled (it took hours!) I added pectic enzyme to help break things down. After 24 hours I pitched the yeast and let it do its thing. It made a beautiful froth and all but disintegrated the cucumbers. The skins and seeds were still floating around, but the meat disappeared, making for a slimy goop that I could pick up in my hand and had a heck of a time filtering.
But filter it I did. The finished product is an interesting color: green from some angles, yellow from others. Does it taste like cucumbers? Yes! Does it taste good? Not particularly. Does it smell like pickles? Not as much as I expected, but that’s not a no. Is it so full of citrus that it burned every little cut in my hands as I cleaned the equipment? Oh yes. Taste-wise, the citrus is a little overwhelming, too. Between the lemon and the alcohol, it’s like an astringent medicine that happens to taste like cucumber. I’m hoping it settles down over time.
Even if it doesn’t, it’s a good conversation piece. And it’s not more pickles.