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Zapped pickles: Quick and easy

Recipe: Microwave method for last cucumber (or zucchini) of summer

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Making pickles in the microwave is a snap.


These homemade pickles are ready in a snap. The secret? They're zapped! It's a wonderful way to use up the last cucumber or zucchini of summer.

The microwave speeds up the pickling process, allowing the other ingredients to penetrate the vegetables. Instead of several days or weeks, these pickles are ready overnight.

I admit that I was shocked by the idea of microwaving pickles. I tend to think of cucumber pickles as work, submerging dill-size cukes in ice while boiling the jars.

This bread-and-butter method proved super easy. These pickles will keep in the refrigerator at least a month. But they never last that long; they're all gone quickly, too.

Zapped bread and butter pickles
Makes about 1 pint

Ingredients:
1 large (8-to 10-inch) cucumber, washed and sliced
1 medium white or yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon kosher (non-iodized) salt
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon pickling spice
Instructions:
Scrub cucumber well and slice crosswise about 1/8-inch thick with skin on. Peel and slice onion.
In a large microwave-safe bowl, mix salt, sugar, vinegar and pickling spice. Add cucumber and onion slices. Mix well. Cover with plastic wrap, vented on one side.
Microwave on HIGH for 7 to 8 minutes, stirring twice. Cucumbers should be tender and onions soft and translucent.

Sterilize a pint jar (the dishwasher works fine). Transfer the pickle mixture into the jar and seal tightly. Chill in the refrigerator overnight before serving.

Note: For less sweet pickles, reduce sugar to 1/2 cup. Zucchini may be substituted for cucumber.
(Photo by Debbie Arrington)



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Dig In: Garden Checklist for week of April 7

The warm wave coming this week will shift weeds into overdrive. Get to work!

* Weed, weed, weed! Whack them before they flower.

* Mulch around plants to conserve moisture and control weeds.

* Smell orange blossoms? Feed citrus trees with a low dose of balanced fertilizer (such as 10-10-10) during bloom to help set fruit. Keep an eye out for ants.

* Apply slow-release fertilizer to the lawn.

* Thoroughly clean debris from the bottom of outdoor ponds or fountains.

* Spring brings a flush of rapid growth, and that means your garden is really hungry. Feed shrubs and trees with a slow-release fertilizer. Or mulch with a 1-inch layer of compost.

* Azaleas and camellias looking a little yellow? If leaves are turning yellow between the veins, give them a boost with chelated iron.

* Trim dead flowers but not leaves from spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils and tulips. Those leaves gather energy to create next year's flowers. Also, give the bulbs a fertilizer boost after bloom.

* Pinch chrysanthemums back to 12 inches for fall flowers. Cut old stems to the ground.

* From seed, plant beans, beets, cantaloupes, carrots, corn, cucumbers, melons, radishes and squash. Plant onion sets.

* In the flower garden, plant seeds for asters, cosmos, celosia, marigolds, salvia, sunflowers and zinnias. Transplant petunias, zinnias, geraniums and other summer bloomers.

* Plant perennials and dahlia tubers for summer bloom. April is about the last chance to plant summer bulbs, such as gladiolus and tuberous begonias.

* Transplant lettuce and cabbage seedlings.

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