Anyone who knows me in real life knows I have a bit of a gherkin habit. I am more than slightly obsessed by these nobbly bobbly warty little cucumbers spiked with a mouth puckering hit of vinegar and hopefully a lingering hit of dill. My idea of a treat is a jar of Krakus Pickled Dill Cucumbers and a fork in front of the TV of an evening. I suffer envy as green as a gherkin at the fact all sandwiches and burgers come with a pickle in the USA while we lag behind here. In extreme cases (ie: a hangover), I have been known to go to McDonalds and buy a double cheeseburger just for the gherkins, rather than the burger. It was therefore inevitable that I would have to try growing my own this year…
I got some Gherkin National seeds off Ebay since this is supposed to be an easy to grow variety that is perfect for pickling and planted five of the ten seeds in one of my raised beds in about mid May. I probably should have sprouted them indoors where it was warmer and less challenging for them as only one plant came up. It became quite tall quite quickly and drank up huge amounts of water but seemed to do very little in the way of producing fruit until one day last week when I looked at it again and discovered one little spiny gherkin nestled in under the leaves! I harvested it with intense pride and wondered how feasible it was to pickle one cucumber?
Luckily though I brought it back over to Ireland with me to show off to my mum (and anyone else around) and discovered that she had picked some other smallish cucumbers at a friend’s house (along with the marrow) and it was a bit more worthwhile trying my hand at pickling a job lot of cukes. Being fairly new to this pickling malarkey and somewhat impatient to try the fruits of my labour while I was still in Belfast, I eschewed more traditional recipes that take around a month to mature and went for an overnight recipe I had picked up from a fellow commenter on an American website I read.
To make your own quick pickles, you can follow this recipe. Even with the cup measurements, it is very easy!
2 cups sugar
1 cup vinegar
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon celery salt
1 teaspoon dill seed
8 cups cucumbers, sliced but not peeled. (This is approx. 4 large cucumbers, in my experience)
1 cup onion, sliced
1. Stir sugar in the vinegar until dissolved. Add salt, celery salt, and dill seed, mixing together.
2. Pour over cucumbers and onions.
3. Stir and push under liquid
4. Let stand for 24 hours, covered at room temperature
5. Put in jars and refrigerate.
6. No need to can, just keep in refrigerator. They will keep indefinitely.
NOTE: Even though it seems like you don’t have enough liquid at first, in several hours you will have enough liquid to cover the cucumbers!
In keeping with the pioneer spirit of making this most American of side dishes, I went off recipe a bit. My mum didn’t have any fennel or dill seeds in the house, so I used caraway and coriander seed instead for a similar flavour. There was no type of vinegar specified, so I used 2/3 cider vinegar and 1/3 malt vinegar to stop the pickles being too sharp. I also used a few shallots rather than an onion. They would also take crushed garlic or chili peppers very well if you fancy that.
It took about five minutes to chop, measure and stir everything together in a large plastic mixing bowl. I then covered them with a teatowel and a plate and literally forgot about them for two days while I was preoccupied with other things. When I came across them again they had released lots of liquid and were very well covered. The cucumbers looked more the texture of pickles than something served in an English sandwich and I was very pleased with the excellent looking results for such minimal efforts.
I bottled the majority of them in the leftover sterilised jars from the quince jelly and served those that were left over with a rather good steak sandwich using minute steak from The Well Hung Meat Company. And even if I do say so myself, the pickles were spectacular. Firm and juicy with an excellent crunch, they are quite a sweet pickle and the hint of caraway worked beautifully with the sugar. Accompanied by rare steak and black pepper they were perfect. Sweet, but sour at the same time and absolutely packed with flavour without the overpowering vinegariness that some commercial gherkins have. We loved them and have served them three or four times since with cold meats and cheese.
These are the easiest thing in the world to do and if you happen to have a few jars knocking about and access to some small homegrown cucumbers, preferably the warty knobbly less watery ones than you see in a supermarket, then you’d be a fool not to whip a batch of these up! Apparently they keep very well, but I doubt the rest are even going to see the weekend with me around. See you all at Gherkins Anonymous!