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I know in no time they'll be fully grown and night after night we will have a dish of them sitting on our dinner table, marinated in apple cider vinegar, salt, and pepper. Cucumbers are one of the first plants each summer to fulfill a gardener's yearning for fresh produce. They're also one of the last, producing an incredible abundance of fruit all summer. But by the time fall rolls around I find myself with a pile of yellow cucumbers, with seeds too large and tough to chew and flesh that is not as plump full of water as a young cucumber. Typically they go to the compost pile and I'm left with the guilt of feeling as though I wasted something I know I'll be longing for in a few more months.
There is a good way to put those yellow cucumbers to good use. Not only are they actually still edible, once you're finished with them you have a great homemade Christmas gift, one especially pleasing to a child.
The process of making cinnamon cucumbers takes a few days but most of that time the cucumbers are soaking in 1 of 3 different solutions. The time required for each step of preparation is actually minimal.
The first step is peeling, seeding, and slicing the cucumbers into rings. When making the cucumber rings, it is easiest to begin by cutting the cucumbers in half and removing the seeds with a melon baller or spoon.
After being soaked in a solution of lime and water, the cucumbers develop a crisp texture.
Further soaking them in a solution of vinegar, water, and food coloring turns the cucumber rings a deep shade of red.
A final soaking in the sweet, cinnamon syrup (that they also get canned with) transforms them into a treat that people usually compare to a cinnamon flavored apple! They are wonderful served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream but they are just as good eaten straight from the jar. And a jar of them makes a wonderfully colorful Christmas treat.
Cinnamon Cucumber Rings
Yields: 5 pint jars
Mix the lime with a 3 or 4 cups of water in a very large bowl and stir. Add the cucumber rings and add more water to cover the rings. This should be done in a glass or ceramic bowl as the lime can pit or etch some surfaces. Let stand for 24 hours.
Drain the cucumber rings and thoroughly rinse them to remove as much of the lime solution as possible. Cover the rings again with cold water, adding some ice to it. Let stand for about 3 hours. Drain the cucumber rings and rinse well again. All of the lime needs to be removed from the cucumbers. Alternatively, you can drain, rinse, and cover your cucumbers with fresh water every hour for a total of 3 hours of soaking time.
In a large pot, mix 1 tsp. red food coloring, 1 cup white vinegar, and 3 or 4 cups of water and stir. Add the cucumber rings and add more water to cover them. Bring the water to a simmer (not a boil) and simmer for 2 hours.
30 minutes before the end of the simmer time, make the Red Hot syrup by mixing all the ingredients, heating to a simmer, and simmering and stirring occasionally until the candies are dissolved.
Drain the cucumbers, pour the syrup over them, and let them stand over night.
The following morning, heat the cucumbers and syrup to a simmer. Pack them into hot pint size canning jars that have been sterilized leaving 1/4 inch of head space in each jar. Cap with sterilized canning lids and rings. Process the jars of cucumber rings for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath.
Instructions for the proper process for a boiling water bath can be found here on the Ball website.