Thursday, January 13, 2011

Got some gherkins!

Having thoroughly and repeatedly perused my Edmonds book in the past ten months, I have a fair idea of what lies ahead. There are a handful of recipes that worry me in terms of finding the necessary ingredients, but one by one, I'm tracking down the elusive items and crossing each of these recipes off with a sigh of relief.

Until about a week ago, one of my biggest concerns was the recipe for sweet pickled gherkins (p233). After all, where do you buy gherkins that aren't already pickled? Have you ever seen any on sale? I hadn't. Still, I did the rounds of various supermarkets, fruit and vege stores and Asian grocers. No luck. Last Friday I finally decided to give up and look at the possibility of maybe growing my own next season (yes, I am that dedicated; I am not, however, very green-fingered, so I'm glad it didn't come to that).

They say that if you want to find something, you should stop looking. In accordance with this theory, I have been diligently not looking for a boyfriend for years. It's an apparently ineffective technique when it comes to men, but it seems to work on gherkins: on the very day I decided to give up looking, I was driving home and spotted a sign on the side of the road advertising "Gherkin Orders".

The next time I drove past, I made note of the phone number, repeating it over and over under my breath until I got to work and could write it down. One brief phone call and I'd put in my order for a kilo of fresh-picked gherkins from my friendly local gherkin-grower. The next day, I was able to pick up my order on the way home.

The Edmonds recipe is for 4kg of gherkins - far too much for me, so I worked with a quarter-recipe. First, I
rubbed the gherkins with a cloth to remove any roughness from the skin. I didn't have anything resembling the "coarse cloth or sugar sack" specified in the recipe, so I tried to do a thorough job with a piece of old towel. The gherkins then went into a non-metallic bowl (my biggest plastic one - who would ever have a big enough bowl for 4kg?) to soak in salt and water for 24 hours.

Meanwhile, I was concerning myself with finding suitable containers. I needed jars with non-metallic lids, and wound up buying a couple of large lever-top jars from The Warehouse. When the gherkins had finished their 24-hour soaking, I rinsed the jars and put them into the oven to sterilise while I prepared the rest of the ingredients.

Into a pot went some malt vinegar, brown sugar, pickling spice and cloves. (I have just this moment, looking at the recipe, realised I forgot to put in the cinnamon stick. Oh well: too late now) While this mixture was boiling away, I drained the gherkins, retrieved the jars from the oven, and poured fresh boiling water over the gherkins.

After a short interlude to allow the gherkins to heat up in the water and the jars to cool down slightly, I drained off the water and started packing the gherkins into the jars. It was soon apparent that I had nowhere near enough gherkins to fill two jars; instead I carefully packed as many as I could into just one. In the end, there were only three I couldn't fit in.

Having packed the gherkins into the jar, I poured over the hot vinegar mixture. I found it didn't quite reach the top of the jar, and the recipe specifies that the gherkins should be covered. I quickly heated up a bit more vinegar and sugar to top it up.

Meanwhile, I had an idea about the remaining gherkins. I dug an old mustard jar out of my spice drawer, and set about sterilising it. I'd made sure I had plenty of my extra vinegar mixture, so there was some left over after I topped up the large jar and sealed it. The gherkins wouldn't fit into the tiny jar whole, so I sliced them up, packed them in and poured over the leftover vinegar mixture, screwing the lid on tight. I don't know how well it'll come out, but it was better to try it than throw away my leftover gherkins.

So now I have one very large jar of whole gherkins, and one very small jar of sliced ones. I have no idea what they'll taste like - certainly different to the usual dill-pickled ones I buy at the supermarket - but I'll have to leave them for a few weeks before I have a taste. But at least I've got the gherkins out of the way: one less recipe to worry about!


  1. Man, I LOVE gherkins!! I hope they turn out well for you. Clever idea slicing them up, too. Here in Japan (you might recall) sliced cucumber pickles are really popular. The cucumbers here are very thin, and when sliced almost resemble fat gherkins.

  2. Yum keep a couple for me Robs. Oma did used to bottle the odd lot but always used white vinegar. The sliced ones should be good but could possibly be a bit softer in texture.For some reason the recipes don't often mention using dill when pickling gherkins which the bought ones often have. maybe they come under the separate heading of Dill Pickles.

  3. What did you think? It would be great to have you comment again about recipies that had to cure, like pickles and chutneys after you let them sit a while.


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