Old-Time Cucumbers and Onions Recipe

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Tuesday, August 15, 1911: Went to Watsontown this afternoon to get some nick-knacks to take to the picnic. Makes me to mad Carrie isn’t going after all our planning. I have a presentiment that perhaps no one will be there except its originator, but the morrow alone can tell.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

What could nick-knacks for a picnic have been? . . . Crepe paper? . . . paper nut cups? Neither of these items seems exactly like a nick-knack or right for a picnic, and they may not have even existed a hundred years ago.

Why isn’t Grandma’s friend Carrie Stout going to come? Carrie had been involved in the planning since the very beginning. Did Grandma and Carrie have a disagreement? Was Carrie grounded for some reason?

I wonder if Grandma had begun to makes foods for the picnic. An excellent old-time food for a picnic in August is Cucumbers and Onions.

Cucumbers and Onions

1 cup apple cider vinegar

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)

2 cups cucumbers, peeled and thinly sliced

1 cup onion, sliced

Stir together the vinegar, sugar, and water in a large bowl. Add cucumber and onion; gently stir to coat vegetables with liquid. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours before serving.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

This is one of my favorite old recipes. I frequently make Cucumbers and Onions during the late summer and early fall.   The vinegar, sugar, and water are in a 1:1:1 proportion—and, depending upon how many cucumbers and onions I have, I will vary the amount of syrup that I mix up. The liquid should almost cover the vegetables. (Many old recipes are based on easy to remember proportions and were never written down.)

It is okay if there is a layer or so of the sliced cucumbers and onions above the liquid because after a few hours the amount of liquid will increase as some of the liquid comes out of the vegetables.

10 Responses

  1. [...] The previous day, Grandma went to town to buy nick-knacks for the picnic which suggests that she may have had a theme or at least did a little decorating. Or maybe the picnic was held on the porch. (Photo source: Ladies Home Journal, July 1911). Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. [...]

  2. How delightful!
    Thanks for including the link to your blog on the New York Times’ comments section today (re: Tamara Adler).

  3. Thanks for including this on the NY Times comment section. That’s how I found it as well.

  4. Thanks for stopping by. It’s always wonderful to hear when people enjoy this blog.

  5. Lol, yes, finally a useful link included in the NYT comments section. Sounds like a fascinating blog, I can’t wait to read it!

  6. Found your blog through your comment on NYT. In Barbados, this pickle is called “souse” and the onion and cucumbers are eaten with pigs’ feet.

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