Tag Archives: cucumbers

Now That’s A Spicy Pickle

September 10, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Author Patrick McGee

Avid gardeners in the Midwest are familiar with this pickle of a problem.

Kitchen countertops are cluttered with cucumbers; family and neighbors have had their fill of cucumber salad; and the refrigerator cannot possibly hold any more garden-fresh produce. It’s a good problem to have, but a fleeting one. It’s time to pickle your leftover cucumbers.

Pickling your crop of cucumbers will preserve them. Anyone can go to the grocery store and buy a jar of dill pickles, so make yours different. Make them spicy.

The key is to add spice to the brine, which consists of water, vinegar, salt, and seasonings. For example, garlic, peppercorns, and dill can all spice up an otherwise plain salt water.

So can hot peppers. This is the perfect opportunity to use those Carolina reapers your friends and family don’t want to eat. Ghost peppers, scorpion peppers, habaneros, or even plain old jalapeños are solid options. The infusion of the peppers into the pickle brine can make them hotter than hell, depending on how much you use.

Don’t forget to wash your hands before touching your eyes—or worse. Your tongue isn’t the only body part that can feel the spicy heat. Some people wear gloves. Use soap and lots of water to wash hot peppers from your hands. Be warned. Even a thorough washing with suds and water may not wash away all the heat.

The cucumbers are best pickled when young. Slicing off the flower end prevents cucumbers from becoming rubbery. Overdeveloped cucumbers are often woody, wide, and turning golden yellow. They do not make ideal pickles. The seeds are hard and pithy. Ideal cucumbers are crisp, break with a snap, and do not have prevalent seeds.

A few quart-sized mason jars with canning lids are ideal for storing your pickles and are visually pleasing. They also make handy drinking glasses when your pickles are no more.

When your pickles are made, you can leave them in the refrigerator or can them. I prefer to can them so I can pull out a spicy batch on some unsuspecting guests who claim they can eat fire. Make sure there is plenty to drink because it will be needed.


Scale up according to batch size. Four cups of vinegar is usually suitable for 12 pint jars containing 3-4 cucumbers sliced length-wise with ends trimmed to fit the jar. Smaller cucumbers can be canned whole.


  • ½ to 1 cup vinegar (depending on overall acidity)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon peppercorns
  • Salt to taste (usually about 1 tablespoon)
  • Grape or oak leaves (optional, for crispness)
  • Cucumbers
  • Canning jars and lids
  • Sliced hot peppers


  1. Boil the water, vinegar, and salt to make a brine. The acidity is especially important when processing with a water-bath canner (which makes storage outside of the refrigerator possible).
  2. Steep peppercorns in brine.
  3. Sterilize canning jars and lids by submerging them in boiling water.
  4. Pack canning jars with a few leaves (if using), then carefully place cucumbers, garlic, and hot peppers into jars in a visually appealing way.
  5. Pour in hot brine.
  6. Finish processing by either canning or allowing to cool and storing in the refrigerator.
  7. The pickles are ready to eat within a few days, but they do improve with time.

This article appears in the September/October 2017 edition of OmahaHome.

Maker of Chefs, Feeder of Children

October 13, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

In a culture where top chefs enjoy celebrity status, Omaha Salvation Army Kroc Center executive chef Kevin Newlin manages to stay humble and grounded. In fact, Newlin was confused as to why anyone would want to write a profile about him.

Don’t be fooled by his modesty. Newlin has trained some of Omaha’s top chefs during his tenure at Metropolitan Community College, and he is doing crucially important culinary work for the community. His Kroc Center programs have introduced countless kids to fresh foods that they might not otherwise eat.

“Sometimes kids will see blueberries or cucumbers or mushrooms, and they seriously will not know what it is because they’ve never seen it fresh before,” says Newlin. One of his favorite tricks is to first give kids cucumber slices, and then a couple days later give them pickles and explain the correlation. “To see the looks on their faces when they realize the pickle used to be a cucumber is fascinating, and it’s really something that drives me in my career where I am right now,” he says.

The summer feeding program offered by the Kroc Center (funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture) has grown exponentially. “We served just under 10,000 fresh, hot meals from May 23 to Aug. 12,” says Newlin. He’s responsible for rallying the food donations that help make this program possible, and he also plans and prepares the meals. “The kids get fresh food every day. We try to use fresh food as much as possible, but we’re restricted by budget.”

“Sometimes kids will see blueberries or cucumbers or mushrooms, and they seriously will not know what it is because they’ve never seen it fresh before,” says Newlin.

In September, Newlin was responsible for coordinating the celebrated Omaha chefs who participated in the fourth annual Kroc Center’s BaconFest, a local scholarship fundraiser.

His attraction to the Kroc Center was largely due to his desire to spend more time with his children. “I’ve been here since the beginning,” says Newlin, noting that before he accepted the role at the Kroc Center he was chief of operations at Metropolitan Community College’s Culinary Arts Program. His love for teaching compelled him to retain his position as an adjunct professor with MCC until last year. “I miss it because I miss the teaching aspect,” he says, adding that he also misses working with some of the people there.

His love for food is the reason why he also works at The Grey Plume three nights a week. “Cooking, for me, is a lifelong process,” he says. “Nobody knows it all and you’re never done learning, and if you think you are, then you probably don’t have food in your soul.”

Newlin says he noticed that his role at the Kroc Center has changed his own perspective when it comes to helping the community. “Since I came here, I notice that my willingness to help people has increased. I’ve always volunteered, but it’s more now.” Whether he’s conducting a cooking class for kids or running the Kroc Center Program designed to help people learn the skills necessary to obtain a Douglas County food handlers card, Newlin is busy helping others.

“I love to feed people,” says Newlin with a shrug, trying to sum up everything he does in simple terms. He isn’t looking for praise. He simply wants to share his love for food with others.

Visit omahakroc.org for more information.