For as long as I can remember, cucumber salad has been a part of every Studt family (on my paternal side) summertime potluck and gathering.
I don’t know if any of my cousins, aunts, or uncles think of it as a tradition but I’ve always considered the side dish a family tradition whenever my dad’s family gets together. Maybe it’s just a family favorite or a common South Dakota dish and I just didn’t know it but the cucumber salad connects me with my Studt family roots.
For years my grandma Della used cucumbers she grew in her garden to make this simple salad. Now that she’s older, she doesn’t do as much gardening and has family members who provide her with cucumbers, tomatoes, corn, and other homegrown produce. Whenever I get cucumbers I think about the salad that’s always been a part of our ever-growing large family potlucks.
My dad was the second oldest of seven kids raised on a farm in Presho, South Dakota. Over the years, our family gatherings have gotten bigger and bigger to the point that we’ve outgrown the space of relatives’ homes, so we have to have our get-togethers in someone’s shop, garage, or rent a place where everyone can gather and eat comfortably and kids have room to run around. Regardless of how big our family’s gotten, cucumber salad is always part of the food we share together.
This salad is super simple, easy to make and cost-effective; an ideal dish for a large family, potlucks, when you need a fast side dish or just need to use up extra cucumber from the garden. It always makes me think of my grandma and summertime; eating summertime meals on my grandparents’ farm as a kid, and our big family reunions with my cousins’ families.
Homegrown Cucumber Salad
3-4 cucumbers, peeled and sliced ¼” thick
1 small-medium size white onion, sliced ¼” thick and halved
White vinegar—enough to cover 2/3 of the cucumbers and onions
Salt and pepper to taste (I use fresh ground pepper and sometimes use garlic salt)
Other ingredients that I’ve seen in similar recipes include adding 1-3 Tbs. dill, sugar (either a couple of tablespoons or as much as ¾ c. sugar), and 1 c. white vinegar + ½ c. water.
I’ve never actually asked my grandma or any of my dad’s sisters (he has five sisters and one brother) for the exact ingredients but I go by the flavors and ingredients I know are in the salad when I make it and it seems to taste exactly the same as though I’m eating it surrounded with all of my Studt relatives. It has a tangy taste that always makes me think of the big family gatherings I love to be a part of in Lyman County.