Pickle Your Smashed Cucumbers For A Burst Of Tangy Flavor

A smashed cucumber salad dressed in a spicy, vinegary, and soy dressing is everything all at once; a punchy powerhouse of complex flavor that's yet deliciously refreshing, cool, and light. So why reserve these smashed cukes for salad alone? It's about time you started pickling your smashed cucumbers for a burst of tangy flavor.

Smashing cucumbers before spiking them with seasonings like salt and dried chili is a classic Chinese culinary technique. It's popular because the act of smashing the cukes with the back of a cleaver loosens their flesh by damaging their cell walls, which opens them up and makes them more receptive to soaking up any sauces or liquids (like pickling vinegar) that they're introduced to. The craggy, uneven surfaces of smashed cukes are perfect for pickling because they provide heaps of textural interest to a simple solution of vinegar, sugar, and salt. Unlike pickle chips where every slice is uniform and consistently sized, every bite of smashed cucumber is different; some areas of the cukes are yielding, soft, and watery, whereas others are crunchy, crisp, and refreshing.

Persian or Lebanese cucumbers work well for pickling because they don't contain as much water as garden cucumbers that have bigger seeds. The lower concentration of water helps the cukes to retain some of their crispness when they're pickled. These varieties are also a good overall size for smashing, unlike smaller pickles, like cornichons, which are better for pickling whole due to their diminutive size.

Smash your cukes with a cleaver or rolling pin

Smashing cucumbers takes seconds with the right tools and is quicker than slicing them into thin discs. Simply hold the flat plane of a knife against the cucumbers, while they're on a chopping board, and press down on it firmly with some force, in the same way as you'd put pressure on garlic cloves to loosen their peel. On removing your knife you should find that the cucumber has splintered into irregular shards, chunks, and pieces. Any larger segments can be cut to size with your knife. Alternatively, place your cukes in a sealed bag and smash them with a rolling pin or mallet. The benefit of this technique is that you can retain the juice released by the cucumbers in the bag and pour it into your jar along with your vinegar and pickling spices.

The beauty of pickling smashed cucumbers is that you won't need to alter the ratios of your classic dill pickle liquor to accommodate the irregular shape of the cukes. Simply stick to the same recipe to produce lip-smacking cucumbers with an exciting texture. However, you may want to select a roomier pickling jar than you'd normally use to submerge any chunkier cucumber shards in the tangy pickling liquid.