Pickled Gherkins

An incredibly useful thing to have up your sleeve.  After many failures in the restaurant at pickling gherkins, I was shown the way by Anna Rottman, a friend of my wife’s from New Zealand.

Finally!  It feels like forever since I last updated, but tonight it is going to happen.  The best part is that this recipe requires the most dangerous ingredient I’ve ever used in the kitchen.  Forget knives, forget fire.

First though, we needed some tiny cucumbers.  My wife and I hit the farmer’s market along with our trusty Corgi to wrangle up a few.  Victorious, we returned home and I got busy right after walking in the door.

A quick scrubbing and the cucumbers were ready to be salted.  I combined all of the little gourds with a hefty amount of coarse sea salt and left them to sit for three hours, every so often tossing them to redistribute the salt.

Once the proper amount of time had elapsed I shook all of the salt off and covered the cucumbers with boiling water for about five minutes and then drained.

While the cucumbers sat in their bath, my wife was boiling more water to sterilize the jars needed for the pickling process.

Meanwhile I was running around the kitchen grabbing the rest of the needed ingredients, including this blend of pickling spices…

… and this bottle of pure Acetic acid.  I’m sure that you took notice of the various warnings on the front of the bottle, but let me show you just a sample of what terrifying cautions lie on the other side.

Inhalation of concentrated vapors may cause serious damage to the lining of the nose, throat, and lungs.

Swallowing can cause severe injury leading to death.

Ingestion of as little as 1.0 ml has resulted in a perforation of the esophagus.

I hit the high points, but I’m sure you get the gist of the rest of the warnings.  As intimated above, this recipe is hands down the most dangerous one in the book.  I think it’s the most dangerous recipe in any of my cook books, not including the one that talks about fugu preparation.

The small amount of acid I needed was diluted with A LOT of water in a stainless steel pot, along with A LOT of sugar.  The whole thing was brought up to a boil until the sugar had completely melted away.

The cucumbers were stuffed into the sterilized jars along with some hefty pinches of pickling spices.  Make special note of exactly how full the jars are.

With a care that I didn’t know was possible, I filled each jar to the brim with the acid and sugar mixture, and then sealing them.  We set the jars in a cool, dark place for a month, hoping that the acid had lost enough potency to not eat through the glass.

I know it’s a little tough to see, but after one month, the gherkins had shrunk down significantly.  I’m talking a 75% reduction in size, which I assume is all due to the effects of the acetic acid.  It’s a bit frustrating actually, I keep wishing that I could stuff the jars with more cucumbers to take up that empty space.

And here they are in all their pickled, gherkin glory.  As I took them out of the jar, they smelled sweet and not dangerous at all.  A small bite and a few minutes of waiting confirmed that no holes were punched through my esophagus and imminent death was not right around the corner.  The gherkins were perfectly sweet and sour with a crunchy texture.  It reminded me of, well, a gherkin.  Which is exactly what I was aiming for.

One down, sixty eight to go.

22 thoughts on “Pickled Gherkins

  1. Pingback: Fresh Cucumber » Pickled Gherkins | Nose To Tail At Home

  2. I know we rarely get to live on the edge while cooking, but you could have substituted the diluted acetic acid with distilled white vinegar. I’d have to do some math to figure out the dilution.

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  4. Made lots of pickles, but never with Acetic acid! Wonder why he asks for that as opposed to vinegar. Possibly he does not want the vinegar taste??

  5. Come on guys. Spirit vinegar is simply 5-6% acetic acid so if you MUST use up that odd bottle of glacial acetic acid sitting around just dilute 1:20.
    Why anyone would want to use pure acetic acid God only knows.
    Malt (or fermented) vinegar is about the same concentration but with caramel etc giving it the brown colour.

  6. Enassar, the good Dr. is right. I’ll admit to the fact that I hammed it up A LOT, but this was one of the few times I could really showcase a little “danger”. Can you blame me? ;)

    Dr. John, thanks for the ratio and information. I’m all about learning, and you taught me something today.

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  8. WHY, Does Anybody NOT Put What We Want To KNOW
    Ie, WHAT Darned Spices Do We Use,
    Why Does Nobody Tell What The Spices are, AND What amount to use,
    Give the Spices, What To Use, & How Much, THATS WHAT WE WANT TO KNOW

  9. George, that’s not what my site is about. I’m not at liberty to give you the recipe because it’s not mine. This website is about my efforts working through a cookbook of a restaurant I greatly admire. If you’d like the recipe, I suggest you pick up a copy of Fergus Henderson’s first cookbook, “The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail eating”. It’s well worth it.

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  11. Can anyone help me explain this dilemma… Last year I home grew small cucumbers for pickling and over several months produced about a dozen big jars – trouble was they turned out awful!
    I used the salt soak method – and tried several permutations of recipe with several different types of ‘pickling vinegar’ availble from the supermarket. I used a small amount of dill, peppercorns and chilli to add some character to the flavour but the result was that that tasted like they’d been pickled in battery acid! I mean I can stand really hot food.. but these were just inedible.
    Has anyone experienced anything like this and am I doing anything fundementally wrong – I’m just trying to produce the big pickled ‘walleys’ like you get in the fish ‘n’ chip shop.

    • Sounds like your jars werent sealed? If you want just plain dilled cucumbers, here is a simple recipe

      12 cups water
      4 cups 5%vinegar (just ordinary household stuff)
      1 cup PICKLING SALT ( NOT table or sea salt)
      1 cup of sugar
      Bring it all to a boil.

      Start with clean jars, I just use old pickle jars, or sealers, wash your cucumbers and stuff the jars tight( I stand them up like soldiers)..don’t just toss them in, with some dill fronds or heads gone to seed, and some garlic,pickled garlic works too.
      If using sealers boil the lids. Now put the lids on , put the jar under a hot tap and heat it up, so the jar won’t crack.Now take the lids off and quickly pour boiling brine over the cucumbers to about an inch from the top. Put the lid on and quickly tighten it really hard. Now put it aside, And DON’T touch the lid. It will suck down. You can speed that up by putting it in the fridge. Voila ! Easier than it sounds….

  12. After a wasted attempt last year to grow the blighters, out of a seed packet on ‘ribbon’ from a low-cost German supermarket chain, I know that they can taste awful because they get TOO BIG. Remember that gherkins need to be harvested immature, tiny…. if you want the huge monsters in fish and chip shops get buying the right seeds.

  13. I come from Hungary, one of the homes of Dill Cucumber. Note, not pickled as it has nought to do with vinegar. The ingredients I use are simply gherkins, lots of garlic, dill and cooking salt in hot water. Then, one of the main ingredients : SUNSHINE. Put the jars out into the sun and the gherkins will be ready to eat in 3-4 days

    • Would love more details and advise for a newbie, want tiny sweet gerkins. Do I grow kirbys but pik them tiny.? Want sweet crunchy tiny and canned type plz help,

  14. In New Zealand we just use white vinegar, always have. I don’t know where she got that recipe from, but it isn’t here. I’ve never even seen that acid stuff you mentioned as being part of a Kiwi recipe.

    The recipe I’ve had for the past 20 years and use is

    750mls white vinegar
    small tbsp pickling spice (in mesh bag)
    4 cups sugar
    2 tsp salt
    Boil all together with pickling spice in a bag,

    Gherkins (I use sliced and chopped cucumbers too)
    cover with boiling water, leave to cool and drain x 4.

    Pack into jars, cover with boiled vinegar solution, cap and store in the dark.

    Mixture can be reboiled after 4 days if desired but it’s optional.

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