The Recipe

Julius Boehm (1897 - 1981) was famous in Western Washington for any number of reasons: he was a pioneer in the skiing and mountain climbing community, he founded an outstanding chocolate factory - Boehms Candies Inc., he was also a great guy. Julius climbed Mt. Rainier many times, the last time when he was 80!

Julius was on a trip to the Alps when he heard about the Anschluss - the annexation of Austria by Germany in 1938. Since he didn't like the National Socialists, he went to the top of the ridge, the border between Austria and Switzerland and skied down the other side. He came to the US in 1940 and brought his love of the mountains, chocolate and food to the Seattle area.

The following recipe is based upon Julius Boehm's recipe as recalled by his friend and fellow Austrian-American, Prof. Peter Rohn. Peter was my professor at the U. of Washington and is a very good friend. - George

George: As requested, from fading memory and without testing. May need some adjustments after experimentation. - Peter

Julius lost this recipe when he fled on skis across the Austrian-Swiss border right after the German Army invaded Austria in 1938. Years later, in Seattle, he reconstructed it from memory and shared it with me.

Julius Boehm

Take one large cucumber for each person. Peel it, cut it lengthwise in two, and take out all the seeds and mush that's inside so that only the firm flesh is left. Now slice it thinly (about 2 mm or 1/16th inch) and put it in a bowl at least twice as big as the mound of cuke pieces. Salt and stir thoroughly. Use about 2 or 3 times as much salt as you would normally use for the same amount of cukes. Cover the bowl with a towel and let it stand at room temperature for an hour. The cukes will "sweat" and will be soaking wet. Use as many paper towels as necessary to squeeze the liquid out of the cukes. Much of the salt will also go with the wet towels.

The cukes should now look greener than they were before, and look and feel limp. Test them by taking one more new paper towel and squeeze a handful of cuke pieces extra hard. If they still yield enough liquid to soak the paper towel, repeat the squeezing process for all cukes until the towels remain dry or at most slightly damp no matter how hard you squeeze. Now taste a piece of cuke. Each piece should be slick outside but crunchy inside. Since most of the salt went out with the wet towels, the cukes should now be just right in saltiness. If not, add salt to taste. If they are still too salty, keep squeezing.

Now the cukes are ready for dressing. Don't use any commercial stuff. Just add olive oil and stir well to coat all the cukes. When the cukes are coated, add lemon juice and/or vinegar to taste and (optional) balance the acidity with sugar. You may add a dash of caraway seeds, paprika, freshly ground pepper, garlic, chopped parsley and/or other spices. Uncle Julius used all of the above but insisted that it was his personal preference rather than the original recipe from Vienna. Also, Uncle Julius refrigerated the salad before serving but admitted that this was a compromise with American tastes rather than the Viennese tradition. - Peter

The "Gurkensalat" recipe in the Hess cookbook (one of the standards of Viennese cuisine) is quite similar but adds that one should avoid squeezing the sliced cucumbers "as was customary".

I suspect that the salting and seed removal steps were originally done when the quality of cucumbers was not as good and they were often bitter or too mature. I tend to use younger cucumbers (seeds and all) and drain them in a colander. - George

Photo of Julius Boehm reprinted by permission of Boehms Candies Inc. It shows Julius examining the Olympic torch he once carried for the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany.