Ahhhh, summertime. I’m one of those people whose memory is sparked by fragrance. When you slice into the first cucumber of summer the air around you fills with crisp freshness, doesn’t it? Fast forward to our family’s cucumber salad recipe. This one is from my paternal German grandmother.
Even though most people think of this salad as something kids refuse to eat, I’ve loved this salad ever since I can remember. I used to sneak into the refrigerator and grab a forkful before my mom noticed. I’m guessing it’s because there are no onions, the amount of vinegar is slight, and instead of mayo, we use sour cream. This creamy cucumber salad reminds me of visiting my grandmother, Hermine Schneider Stoffle, after church on Sundays at the family farm in Coloma, Michigan.
During the brief but spectacular summer months, Mom, Dad, eight siblings, Grandma and Grandpa, numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins, shared family meals outside. The farm’s cash crops were cherries, peaches, apples and grapes, but Grandma had a vegetable garden she loved, so there were always plenty of tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, and squash to enjoy.
While the adults cleaned up, (some things never change) the kids ran off to play games like “Red Rover” and “Statue.” Sometimes we put on elaborate plays, complete with costumes, and end the day with a sing-along, Grandpa accompanying our voices on the accordion he brought to America from Germany. Although this cucumber salad can be even better the next day, with a big family it never seemed to last.
I start with fresh English cucumbers because they have minimal seeds. If you want paper-thin slices, use a mandoline, but you can use a paring knife if you prefer a slightly thicker slice. I use a paring knife for several reasons: a little thicker slice gives the salad more crunch IMO, and I witnessed a nasty encounter my husband, Mike, had with a mandoline. Let’s just say it wasn’t pretty.
The trick to getting the crunch in this salad is to sprinkle generous amounts of salt on the cucumber slices and allow enough time (1-2 hours) for the salt to pull the water from the slices. If you skip this step, you’ll have a watery salad. After draining, coat with a mixture of sour cream, cider vinegar, fresh dill, salt and pepper. Put in fridge a few hours or even overnight for best results.
This recipe is as traditional as it gets, and it just so happens to be very low in carbs! I’ll bet you’ll love this as much as my 97-year-old Dad and I do!
Creamy German Cucumber Salad (Gurkensalat)
- ½ cup sour cream
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp fresh minced dill
- Salt and ground pepper to taste
- 1½ pounds sliced cucumber
- 1 tbsp salt
- Whisk the sour cream, vinegar, dill, and salt and pepper to taste in a small bowl and put in fridge.
- While the dressing is marinating, peel and slice the cucumbers. English cucumbers work best due to their minimal seeds.
- Place the cucumber slices in a colander and sprinkle evenly with 1 tbsp of salt. Mix with hands to coat. Place the colander in the sink to allow the slices to drain, or place over a large bowl. Allow 1-2 hours for the salt to draw out the water in the cucumbers. The longer you wait, the less watery your dressing. Stir gently every 15 minutes or so.
- Press down on the cucumbers to remove any extra liquid. Use layers of paper towels and pat them dry.
- Place the cucumber slices in a serving bowl and mix in the dressing. Top with freshly ground pepper and sprinkle with paprika.
- Place in the fridge and wait 2 hours. Overnight is even better!