Sometimes life just seems to get ahead of us all. Maybe it’s due to vacation, kids at summer camp, or a summer cold that puts you in bed for a few days. It seems like some days you just wake up and everything in the produce bin or the garden has gone a little soft. But rather than throw out those valuable veggies and fruits, why not put them to use?
Here are a few ideas to reuse less-than-perfect fruits and veggies. While most of us know about using overripe bananas in banana nut bread or mushy grapes to make grape juice (or wine if you’re so inclined) there are a few lesser known (yet still great) recipes out there to help you make use of your past-prime produce. Here are two of my favorite.
Overripe Cucumbers Can Be Salvaged Too
One year, we went on a short vacation only to return three days later to find out that all our cucumbers had not only grown ripe, but had grown to gargantuan size. Surely, they weren’t fit for eating at over two feet in length, right?
Heartsick over the seeming waste, I figured I would attempt to find a use for the overripe cukes. The recipe I found is now a family favorite – Candied Cucumbers.
Calling specifically for overripe cucumbers, this recipe takes several days of prep work, but results in a beautiful jar of dessert cucumbers that taste similar to cinnamon apple slices. (They really taste nothing at all like a cucumber!) *Warning: These are NOT for diabetics or those who have sworn off sugar!
Here’s how it’s done.
Overripe Cucumbers (whatever quantity you have on hand)
1 cup pickling lime
4 cups vinegar
1 bottle red food coloring
1 Tbsp. alum
12 cups sugar
1- 12-ounce package Red Hot Candies
8 to 12 cinnamon sticks (may need additional sticks if canning more than 12 jars at a time)
- Peel the skins off the cukes, core out the seeds, and slice them into ½ to ¼ inch slices, creating bald white rings.
- Place the cucumber rings in a solution of 1 gallon of water mixed with 1 cup pickling lime and store in the fridge for 24 hours.
- Drain off the soaking solution and rinse the rings well with cool tap water. Cover the rings with enough ice water to immerse them, and place them in the fridge for at least three hours to soak.
- In a stockpot, combine 2 cups vinegar, 1 bottle of red food coloring, and 1 tablespoon of alum. Add enough water to completely cover the cucumber rings. Add the drained rings, stir well, and simmer for two hours.
- Pour off the liquid in the stockpot and remove from heat.
- In a saucepan, combine 2 cups water, 2 cups vinegar, 12 (*yes twelve) cups of sugar, one 12 ounce package of Red Hot candies, and 8-12 cinnamon sticks. Stir continuously until the mixture comes to a full rolling boil.
- Pour the Red Hot mixture over cucumber rings, return the rings to the fridge, and let sit for 24 hours.
- Drain the Red Hot mixture from cucumber rings and place the liquid back in the stockpot. Bring to a full boil.
- Arrange stacked cucumber rings in sterilized canning jars, and place one cinnamon stick in the center of each stack of rings.
10. Pour the boiling liquid in each jar to cover the rings. Lid and seal the jars with a hot water bath for 15 minutes.
Just one slice per person is adequate for dessert since these rings are so sweet and flavorful. Your dinner guests won’t believe they are eating cucumbers! Place a ribbon on the jars and they make visually appealing gifts for all occasions, as well.
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour (or wheat flour if you prefer)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon white sugar
½ cup shredded Cheddar cheese (may substitute Mozarella, but decrease milk to 2 Tablespoons)
4 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
3 Tablespoons milk
2 eggs, beaten
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 ¾ teaspoons minced garlic
2 cups overripe tomatoes, boiled and drained
½ cup sliced black olives (optional)
½ cup sliced pepperoni, crumbled bacon, sausage, or ground beef (optional)
¼ cup diced mushrooms (optional)
¼ cup diced onions and green peppers (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease loaf pan.
- Combine liquids (milk, eggs, oil) and garlic in one bowl. Stir well.
- Combine flour, baking powder, cheeses, thyme, salt, sugar, Italian seasoning in another bowl and mix together.
- Combine liquid mixture and dry mixture. Stir until moistened.
- Fold in tomatoes, olives, meat, and veggies.
- Pour mixture into loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees on center rack of over for an hour.
This pizza bread is fun to experiment with (if you like to cook). You can add different varieties of tomatoes for varying tastes, add in your favorite Italian spices, or add a touch more sugar to spic things up. Add in your favorite pizza toppings like drained spinach, ham, pineapple, or anchovies to change up the recipe or find your favorite combination.
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