Cool as a cucumber

Don't be afraid to use lots of spices.
Don’t be afraid to use lots of spices.

I grew up with sweet-sour gherkins and always loved them. They go with cheese, with that whole array of German smallgoods, on their own – it’s all good.

As a grown-up I was, perversely, surprised to discover that lots of children love them … I’ve seen kids sit and demolish a jar full, no problems. I’m not sure why it was so unexpected, except that these days I expect kids to baulk at challenging tastes, and I assume that pickle/vinegar flavour to be daunting. But I clearly underestimated the power of a good pickle.

The brand I grew up with is not commonly available here any more, and I have struggled to find something I like. In the US I often found they were overwhelmed by a cinnamon flavour (that whole cinnamon thing in the US is beyond me) or too sweet.

IMG_9302So, naturally, as soon as I found I could get access to small cucumbers easily and cheaply (thank you, Costco) I started making my own. I know I should get proper gherkins, but that is much harder if you don’t have a known supplier.

The trouble is, in my typical fashion, I don’t usually keep any records of what I actually do when I make them, or even of the website/recipe that was my inspiration. The first lot was a bit ordinary, but my third batch was absolutely perfect – and I had no idea exactly what I’d done. There was that exact flavour I missed and wanted to re-create, and no clear idea of how to do it again.

I’ve tried. I am getting the hang of it, and they’re all quite delicious in their own way, but I can’t quite get it exactly like that perfect batch.

But, I figure, if I did it once, I can do it again. And I have learned my lesson: I keep a note now. Maybe this time …

Freshly packed and still bright green.
Freshly packed and still bright green.

Sweet-sour gherkins

Wash your small cucumbers or gherkins and let them dry

In a saucepan put 2 cups of vinegar. I used a mix of apple-cider, white and malt, mostly apple-cider vinegar.
Add 1 cup of water
Add 1/3 cup of sugar
Add 1 1/2 tbs of salt

Heat up enough to dissolve the sugar and salt, and let it cool.

Get your jars. They should be clean and dry. In each jar put: 1 tsp coriander seeds; 1/2 tsp of cumin, dill, mustard seed; 1/4 tsp caraway seed; couple of peppercorns and all spice, couple of fresh bay leaves, whole garlic glove cut in two.  Vary this according to the container: double it if it’s a big jar.

Pack the cucumbers tightly into the jars. Pour the liquid over so the cucumbers are well covered.

Cover and put them away for at least a couple of weeks. They should keep well for a few months, but put them in the fridge once the jar is  opened.


Corinna Hente


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