Every couple of years I make sure to grow between eight to twelve plants of gherkin cucumbers and pickle enough gherkins for about three years worth of eating. They are one of the easiest vegetable plants to grow and they produce prolifically. It takes some commitment to be around during January and early February. This is when they produce their main crop. During this time you check your plants every day and collect the fruit that you deem large enough for pickling. I start collecting the little cucumbers when they are approx 10-12 cms long and keep them in a plastic bag stored in the fridge. When I have collected about 50 cucumbers I make the first brine solution. The cucumbers will stay in the brine for up to 7 days and I gently stir them at least three times a day. While this lot is in the brine I’m storing the daily pick in the fridge until I again have 50 or so, and keep repeating the process until the plants ease off production.
YOU WILL NEED;
plain salt (iodised salt will cause your pickles to ferment)
Vinegar (white or apple cider…. I used half and half)
Pickling spice, fresh ginger, fresh garlic cloves, fresh dill or fennel seed/flower heads
Jars, seals and screwbands ( you can also use regular jars and metal pop down lids)
Cover clean gherkins in a brine solution. Brine ratio is 2 Tbs plain salt to 1 litre of water. Soak for about 7 days and stir 3 times daily.
Your gherkins may look a little worse for wear after 7 day but this is perfectly normal. Gently drain off the solution and rinse the gherkins clean.
To work out quantities for the pickling you will need 1 litre of vinegar for approx 2 kgs of gherkins, and between 1-2 cups sugar per 1 litre of vinegar. With the sugar it depends on your taste preference.
Measure vinegar and sugar adding a few tablespoons of pickling spice to the preserving pan and gently bring to the boil.
While the vinegar mix is coming to the boil thoroughly wash your jars in hot soapy water. Rinse them well and place them in the sink in very hot clean water.
Prepare the extra spices that will be added to each jar along with the gherkins. Peel the garlic cloves and slice the ginger.
Prepare your work area . Beside the stove I have a warmed (with boiling water) frypan in which I will place and fill my jars one at a time. Have spices, herbs, lids and seals ready alongside.
When the vinegar has come to the boil add enough gherkins to the vinegar to fill one jar and let it come back to the simmer just long enough (about 2-3 minutes) to warm through your gherkins. Take your first jar and dry it with a clean tea towel. Put in a sprinkling of pickling spice and the dill herb, then tightly pack as many gherkins as you can vertically into the jar. Push your ginger and garlic cloves down the sides and horizontally lay two or three more gherkins across the top of the others. Now set down the jar into the frying pan and pour in to just overflowing the simmering vinegar mix. Make sure there is no debris along the top edge lip of the jar. Position the seal on top and carefully fasten on the screw band. Continue filling the jars in the same way until you have used all the gherkins. Leave the screw bands on overnight and give the jar a good wipe before storing in your pantry.
You can tell if the seal is airtight when there is an indentation in the centre. If there is a seal that hasn’t popped down you can store it in the fridge to use first. Gherkins are delicious on hamburgers, meat and cheese sandwiches, or just eaten straight out of the jar. Enjoy!