Personally, we feel that cucumbers are one of the most underrated fruits today (or vegetable – a discussion for another time). Point being, that they are much more versatile than people believe them to be.
Cucumbers are mainly used fresh in salads and to make water more refreshing and flavorful, but have you ever realized how often they are used in other recipes. Cucumbers are popular in soups, smoothies, sandwiches, to make salad dressings, or to make spreads or dips such as raita or tzatziki.
But unfortunately, because they consist of mostly water, their shelf life is very short. So what is the solution? Surely it cannot be freezing? If you’ve ever had a very cold fridge that accidentally froze part of the cucumber, you know that it is basically spoiled afterward. It becomes soggy and black and just unappetizing.
But, here’s where the trick to freezing cucumbers come in; it is very possible to freeze cucumbers, as long as you don’t use them in the same way you would fresh cucumbers.
The structure of cucumbers changes completely when frozen, and once thawed you will have to think of more creative ways to use them.
How To Freeze Cucumbers
Fresh is always better than frozen, but if you’re somewhere in the world where cucumbers aren’t readily available throughout the year, frozen will just have to do.
When cucumbers get frozen, their texture changes from crunchy to soggy, and their taste reduced considerably. Luckily, after some experimenting and much research, we’ve found the best way to preserve cucumbers; by pickling them.
Like we’ve mentioned, cucumbers structure changes completely when frozen. A pickling liquid (salty or acidic liquid) will help you retain the crunch and although you lose the fresh flavor, you get a beautiful and versatile acidic one instead.
Just as with traditional pickling, there are a few methods you can use to pickle your cucumbers, each just as effective as the last.
4 Freezing Methods
Method 1: Wet curing, then pickling
Start by slicing unpeeled cucumber into thin slices or ribbons. Add these cucumber pieces into a large bowl filled with cold water.
You can flavor the water with any other spices or vegetables you’d like. We love using dill, star anise, and fennel in our pickling liquids. Also consider using some shallots, ginger, and maybe even garlic. Next, season the liquid with some salt.
Allow the liquid to sit for 2 hours so all the flavors infuse and the salt helps cure the cucumber pieces (draws out moisture).
In a saucepan, make a pickling liquid by combining sugar and vinegar. Usually, white wine vinegar works best because of its semisweet, yet neutral flavor. Here you can also add spices and herbs. Allow the mixture to simmer until all the sugar has dissolved. Allow the pickling liquid to cool completely to room temperature.
Next, drain the cucumbers and other vegetables or spices from the saltwater and place them into the pickling liquid. You can place the mixture into a stain and odor-free plastic container, leaving about ½ inch of space at the top.
Freeze the mixture and allow to thaw in the fridge 4 hours before serving.
Method 2: Dry curing, then pickling
This method is very similar to the above. The only difference is the curing process. The previous method used a wet curing liquid (salt in water) whereas this method uses dry curing (only salt).
Combine the cucumber slices and salt in a large bowl and allow it to cure for about 2 hours. Drain the excess liquid and set aside.
Prepare the pickling liquid as per previous instructions and place the mixture into a freezer-safe container to freeze.
Method 3: Pickling
This method has much less steps but is still just as effective. Again, slice your cucumbers or cerate ribbons and place them directly into a freezer-safe container. Set aside.
Combine some water, vinegar, salt, and additional flavorings like spices or herbs, and bring them to a boil in a saucepan. Mix until the sugar has completely dissolved.
Pour the liquid over the cucumbers and allow everything to cool at room temperature. Again, leave some space at the top of the container before sealing and placing it in the freezer.
Method 4: Cucumber ice cubes
This is a method that only works if you want to use the cucumbers in sauces or to flavor water.
Simply blend fresh cucumber pieces to make a juice or puree. Then, place this in a freezer-safe container or ice cube tray and allow it to freeze.
How To Thaw Frozen Cucumbers or Slices
Thawing cucumbers is very easy and it also doesn’t take a long time. The best way is to allow the cucumbers and their liquids to thaw in the refrigerator.
If you are in a bit of a hurry, you can place them at room temperature to thaw quicker. It should take only a couple of hours.
Once thawed, squeeze out any excess liquid so they’re ready for use.
How To Use Frozen Cucumbers
Because frozen cucumbers have a completely different texture than fresh ones, you will have to think of more creative ways to use them.
These cucumbers can be used as-is (excess liquid squeezed out of course) in soups, smoothies, and anything where the mixture is blended. Because the consistency doesn’t matter for these types of dishes, soggy cucumber isn’t a problem.
Now, think outside the box of possibilities. You can make delicious and refreshing cucumber popsicles or a sorbet or ice cream.
The puree method will work best for these types of recipes as the blending work has basically already been done for you.
You can also use these pickled frozen cucumbers for dips. They actually work quite nicely. To make tzatziki, we always prefer to use pickled cucumbers anyway and these are no different. They add more dimension to your dish.
As long as you always take into consideration the texture and slightly salty and acidic flavor, you can use cucumbers in virtually any way, in any dish – just not fresh.