How to pickle your own gherkins

New Yorkers aren’t the only ones known for their pickles. In Germany, you’ll find supermarket shelves lined with plenty varieties of gherkins to chose from – Dillgurken, Senfgurken, Saure Gurken, Salzgurken, Gewürzgurken… At this time of year, you’ll also find farmers markets selling piles of freshly harvested little cucumbers, for you to take home and pickles yourselves whichever way you like. I’d never seen these at a market before coming to Berlin, but it’s not surprising since the Spreewald region in Brandenburg, just 100 km south-east of Berlin, is known for its cucumber fields. In fact, ‘Spreewälder Gurken’ is a trademarked name and a protected geographical indication (PGI) in the EU since 1999.

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Since I’m always up for a food challenge, and home made tastes so much better than store bought, I came away from the farmers market last year with 1kg of little cucumbers, waiting to be turned in to jars of gherkins. I’m very happy with how they turned out, so since it’s that time of year again and I’ve just made a new batch, I thought I’d share my recipe with you.

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Ingredients

  • 3 large-ish clean jars
  • 1 kg small cucumbers/gherkins
  • 6 Tbsp mustard seeds
  • 18 pepper corns
  • 6 allspice seeds
  • fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 500ml vinegar
  • 2.5 litres water
  • 1 small handful of salt
  • 250g sugar

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Directions

  • Sterilise your jars! Boil your the jars and lids for 10 minutes in a large pan of water, then leave to dry upside down on some kitchen paper.
  • Thoroughly scrub the gherkins, then cut them either in to thick slices or sticks (I decided to do a variety of both) and fill them in to the jars. You can cram them in quite tightly.
  • Add 2 Tbsp mustard seeds, 6 pepper corns, 2 allspice seeds and some finely chopped fresh dill to each jar.
  • Bring the vinegar, water, salt and sugar to boil in a saucepan and pour the hot liquid in to the jars with the gherkins and spices, making sure to fill them right to the top.
  • Tightly screw on the lids, turn the jars upside down and leave to cool.
  • I found these taste best if left for a week before eating, to give time for the flavours to infuse.

The unopened jars should keep for a several months if you keep them in a cool, dark place, like a store cupboard (ours have never lasted that longer than a few months). Once opened, keep in the fridge and consume within a couple of weeks.

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