I always thought this dish had an odd, monochromatic beauty about it when set out to "sweat a while" on Gigi's worn countertop -- a clear glass bowl of sparkly ice cubes holding submerged a bed of ivory discs that bore only the barest memory of having been green just moments before. Once bathed in the sweet vinegar brine, it becomes a shimmery sour sight that makes your mouth do that pickle-y puckery watery thing. I don't know whether to call it a salad or a relish -- it's somewhere in between, I guess -- but whatever it is, it was a hot weather staple on Gigi's table. She served it with everyday meals of fresh vegetables from the garden, big slabs of Granddaddy's organic tomatoes (oooh, how I miss them!), cornbread and iced tea.
My cousin Stephanie, who inherited far more of Grandmother's legendary cooking talents than I did, makes her own variation of this dish, which I've seen her serve chilled on a stifling hot day to happy multitudes at summer camp. Maybe I can persuade her sometime to let me append her version to this one.
Gigi Louise's Cucumbers
Put in a large glass bowl:
a couple of large cucumbers, peeled and sliced (1/4 inch thick or so)
water to cover, with 1 T salt per quart
Cover cucumbers with water/salt solution and 2 trays of ice until bowl sweats, up to an hour. Drain. (This step is vital as it makes the cucumbers crisp and crunchy.)
Mix together 1 cup each sugar and white vinegar, plus 1/2 cup water. Pour over cucumbers to cover.
Sprinkle liberally with black pepper. May stir in sliced rings of white onion if desired (we always do).
Serve cold. Stores well in a wide mouth canning jar in the refrigerator.