My grandad was the king of the pickles! He would pickle just about any vegetables he harvest from his garden and his pickled gherkins in sweet dill liquor were legendary. The shop bought ones never got closer to the homemade versions.
I think it’s mainly because a lot of pickled gherkins are done just in salty vinegar, but it’s the sugar that makes them so brilliantly flavoursome and delicious!
I’ve been trying to recreate my grandad’s recipe for a while and whilst I always end up with a great batch of pickled gherkins, it’s always ever so slightly different than the original taste. Or maybe trying to remember how something tasted when you were 14 was never going to work anyway.
What type of gherkins to use
Gherkins are essentially small cucumbers (they are similar vegetable family as cucumbers) collected when they are small and still firm.
How to prepare gherkins for pickling
Whether you bought your gherkins or harvested them from your garden, you’ll first need to clean them (with a hot water and with a brush if needed) and cut any gherkin blossom or fruit. You need to check them over, one by one, and disregard any that are bruised, have a signs of animal eating it or any other blemishes.
What’s cold pickling method
Cold pickling method can be used for pretty much any vegetables, not just gherkins, but it’s particularly useful to know, especially if you are a beginner. It’s fairly fast method, that doesn’t require you to have special equipment (like a pressure cooker).
What do I need to pickle my gherkins?
Sterilised jars & lids (ideally all glass, like a masonary jars with glass lids and rubber sealing, or if you are using a metal lids, they should be lined with rubber/plastic as the vinegar can corrode any metal and your pickled gherkins might be spoiled over the time )
- Gherkins (about 500 g)
- Large plastic or glass bowl or mixing bowl to prepare your vinegar liquor
- Large plastic or glass for resting the gherkins (optional)
How long pickled gherkins are going to last?
Gherkins made by the cold pickling method should be eaten within 6 months. They will be ready to eat after about 2-4 weeks of making them, which gives you 5 months in which to eat them.
How to store pickled gherkins?
It’s best to store your pickled gherkins in the cold, dark place, like a back end of your kitchen cupboard or even fridge.
How to enjoy pickled gherkins?
Hm, do you really need to ask me that? I just eat them on their own!
But seriously, pickles gherkins are great accompaniment to meat, burgers, pate, ham and you can slice cucumbers to add to your sandwiches, cut up in small cubes to add to yoghurt dips or homemade soft cottage cheese. They go perfectly with my recipe for scotch eggs or sage meatloaf muffins.
How to make the right sweet & sour vinegar pickling liquid
I change my recipe all the time, so the bellow recipe is just a starting point for most of my versions of my sweet & sour gherkin pickles. Once you add your ingredients together, have a little taste.
If you find that there is not enough of kick from the vinegar or garlic or the taste is bland, change it before you pour it over your gherkins. The gherkins will take on whatever pickle flavour you submerge in, so don’t expect them to taste different than the pickling liquid!
I know that some (well most…) pickled gherkins recipes use just salt and not sugar. If you like that kind of flavour (e.g. your pickles will just taste salty), than that’s fine. But if you want your gherkins to have a bit of a bite and a juicy flavour, the sugar is essential in creating the sweetness.
Extra notes before you start making this recipe
Whilst the cold pickling method is quick and doesn’t need any elaborate boiling, there are about 3 steps you need to allow time for.
Gherkin preparation – 24 hrs
Wash your gherkins, place them in a large plastic or glass mixing bowl in a layer and add salt in between each layer of your gherkins. For 500g of gherkins, you’ll need about 200g of fine salt. Pour over water and leave for 24 hrs. You can add few cloves of garlic if you wish.
Note: Using boiling water will result in slightly softer gherkins, but they will last a little bit longer. Using cold water will help to keep the gherkins crunchy, but you’ll need to eat them a lot quicker, once they are ready.
After about 12 hrs or 24 (the longer the more salty they will be) pour the water away and rinse any excessive salt.
Pickling the gherkins – 1 hr (approx.)
Mix together your favourite pickling liquid recipe (see below), place all gherkins in jars, packing them tightly and pour over the pickling liquid. Seal the jars.
Waiting for the pickling liquor to do it’s job – 2-4 weeks
The longer you leave your cucumbers to pickle the better. The flavour develops with time, but they should be ready to eat within 2-4 weeks.
More preserving recipes
Pickled gherkins with dill and sweet & sour vinegar recipe
- 500 g small gherkins washed & cleaned
- 1 garlic bulb cloves separated, peeled and halved
- 200 g salt
- 1 ltr cold water more or less, but just enough to cover the gherkins
- 800 ml white vinegar
- 1/2 white onion, sliced coarsely
- 6 twigs of fresh dill few springs into each jar (keep them whole)
- 2 tsp mustard seeds
- 150 g white sugar or more/less to taste
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp new spice whole
- 50 ml boiling water to dissolve the sugar
- 1 tsp black peppercorns whole
Preparing your gherkins
- Wash and clean all gherkins first. Cut of any blemishes, stalks or flowers.
- Layer into a large bowl and add salt to each layer.
- Cover with cold water and leave for 12 or max 24 hrs.
- Rinse the salt away.
Preparing the pickling liquid
- Boil water and pour about 50 ml on the sugar, just enough to dissolve it. Stir before adding the rest of the ingredients.
- Add all the other ingredients (apart from dill if using whole) and mix everything together.
- If you are using dill as the whole herb, place it into the sterilised jars as you are layering your gherkings. Pack everything tightely in. If you are chopping the dill into smaller pieces, just add it to the main vinegar pickle.
- Once you have all gherkins packed in to the jars, pour the pickling vinegar over it, making sure that you distribute evenly all the ingredients between the jars.
- If you run out of the liquid, make up extra with just the vinegar, water.
- Make sure that all the gherkins are submerged in the water and that there is a about 1 cm gap between the water level and the top of the jar.
- Seal the jars and keep them somewhere in cold and dark place for a minimum of 2-3 weeks before you open them. This helps to develop the flavour (the longer – the better more intensive flavour).