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Quick Pickled Gherkins

I was happy to see plump, prickly gherkins on the Springtail Farm stall in Bridport market a few Saturdays ago. They reminded me of the jars of pickles which my grandmother made every year that were kept on the dark shelves of our cellar in Poland. This recipe is based on the pickling juice she used to make. You can eat the gherkins after two or three days, which is why it’s a quick pickle, though the flavour improves over time. Once they’re gone, just re-use the juice to make more (it can be used up to three times before you need to start again and make fresh).

Makes 4 medium jars (I used one very large preserves jar)

  • 1.2kg/2.6lbs gherkins or small cucumbers, washed
  • 2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 4 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2–3 medium banana shallots, sliced
  • 500g/17oz rice vinegar
  • 500g/17oz apple cider vinegar
  • 500g/17oz water
  • 170g/6oz sugar (I like using soft brown sugar)
  • 1½ tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • Peeled garlic cloves, one per jar
  • Dill, one stalk per jar
  • Fennel, one stalk per jar

Start by slicing the cucumbers into rounds of around ½–1 cm/¼ inch. Place in a clean bowl, sprinkle with the salt and mix all together with your hands, making sure the cucumber is well covered with salt. Set aside for 30–45 minutes, then drain any juices and transfer back to the clean bowl. Add the mustard seeds and sliced shallots and mix once again. Leave to one side.

Now sterilize the jars and lids (which should be vinegar-proof, so make sure they have a coating on the inside of the lid). Wash everything in hot soapy water, rinse thoroughly, then place upside-down on the oven rack and leave them for 15 minutes at 170°C/350°F/gas mark 3. The jars should still be hot when you fill them, so time it to have them waiting when you’re ready to fill with the pickles.

Meanwhile add the vinegars and water to a medium-sized pot and bring to the boil. Adjust the heat to a simmer, add the turmeric and peppercorns, and cook for 5 minutes.

Lift the jars out of the oven using a cloth or oven gloves and place them carefully on the worktop (I use a tray to catch any escaping liquid while I’m filling them).  Divide the sliced cucumbers equally between each jar, add the garlic clove, fennel and dill stalks and then ladle over the pickling liqueur. Tighten the lid on each jar and set aside to cool.

Leave the jars for at least 48 hours before using, then once opened keep in the fridge. I eat these pickles with just about anything – in sandwiches, salads, or to serve along with a cheeseboard.