My kitchen is overflowing with vegetables – specifically vegetables of vine growing origin. I suspect that everyone else in Middle Tennessee has piles of squash and cucumbers right now too, because it is August in this fertile land and squash, in particular, seem to grow like weeds. The squash is good steamed, or in pasta, or on pizza, and I have plans to deal with some excess in the form of bread. Breathe a sigh of relief, all around, because I am not making squash into a drink. The cucumbers, on the other hand, have been clustering around the bar, and it seemed unfair to relegate them to only becoming the stir stick of my Pimms Cup.
I’d been reading about a cucumber soup that called for juicing (rather than grating), saw a recipe for cucumber granita, and then, while looking for space to put more Cucumis sativus into the fridge, I bumped into my home cured gravlax. The random inputs assembled themselves into a cool, pale green and refreshing drink, with the added benefit of not having to put the cucumbers away.
I used two Lemon cucumbers, unpeeled, from our CSA basket, with one Garden Sweet Burpless (partially peeled) thrown in for a little more color. The juicer made quick work of those and a whole lemon, rind and all. I tossed in a knob of ginger with the lemon, so coming out of the juicer I had a pale green pitcher of cool and a frothy yellow pitcher of spicy. These two went into an icy shaker and were joined by the gravlax inspired (and all important alcoholic) element of akavit. Poured into cocktail glasses, the resulting drink looked cool and refreshing and lent itself to the absolutely corny moniker of ‘the cool cucumber’ for which I make no apologies.
Even with the heat of the ginger, this was a thin drink – the watery quality of the cucumber and the briskness of the akavit made it taste a little like spiked spa water. On a hot evening following a blazing day this wasn’t a disappointment, but upon review I’d use a lime or two instead of the lemon, which was what I had when inspiration struck. I made a second batch and added a little simple syrup which, while it rounded out the flavors, also dulled the crispness of the akavit that finished the drink; I wouldn’t do that again. I don’t know how many Tennesseans drink akavit, but that cucumber, grown about 15 miles from my house, sure is local.
“the cool cucumber”
1 oz akavit
2 oz cucumber juice, strained
½ oz lemon/ginger juice, strained
Shake, strain into cold cocktail glasses, garnish with (what else?) a cucumber circle.