Although being extremely popular in the UK we don’t really have a tradition of making pickled gherkins at home. Conversely across countries like Germany and Poland, small cucumbers for home preserving can be found in the shops throughout the summer. In years gone by the only option here in the UK was to grow them yourself. A large area of my own vegetable garden is still reserved for just that, but the arrival of eastern European grocery shops in British towns has made them readily available to buy in season. Now there is absolutely no excuse not to pickle your own cucumbers using our delicious gherkins recipe.
Sweet & Sour Gherkins Recipe Ingredients
To make a 6 x 1 litre jars of our sweet and sour pickled gherkins canning recipe you will need:
- 4.5kg fresh gherkin cucumbers. Around 750g per jar.
- 500g fine sea salt.
- 0.8 litres white spirit vinegar.
- 450g sugar.
- 6 tsp white mustard seed. 1 tsp per jar.
- 6 tsp coriander seed. 1 tsp per jar.
- 11/2 tsp black pepper corns. 1/4 tsp per jar.
- 6 fresh chilli peppers (optional). 1 pepper per jar.
- 12 fresh garlic gloves. 2 cloves per jar.
- Lots of fresh dill. Leaves, stalks and flower heads. Don’t be shy.
It is hard to estimate the weight of cucumbers you will need. It will depend on the size of the gherkins, the types of jar used and your packing technique. If using 1 litre Kilner or 1 litre Pearl canning jars I recommend around 750g per jar. It is a good idea to keep an extra sterilised 500ml jar at hand to give you options if there are too many, or too few, cucumbers to exactly fit your 6 larger jars.
Sweet & Sour Gherkins Recipe Method
The aim is to produce a finished gherkin that has a crisp texture. This can be achieved without the addition of any food additives by using two simple steps in processing the cucumbers prior to canning them.
Preparing the Gherkins
- Give the cucumbers a good scrub in cold water and remove the flowers from the blossom ends.
- Discard any sad looking cucumbers.
- Cut away any bruised or damaged areas.
- Cut off any remaining stalks.
- With a sharp knife remove around 1–2mm of the tip of the cucumber at the blossom end. The blossom end contains microbes that produce pectonase, by getting rid of them we avoid the pectinase breaking down pectin in the cucumbers and causing softness.
Brining the Gherkins in Salt
Our next step is to brine the cucumbers in a salt solution. In this case we will use a 10% brine. This will draw water from the gherkins by osmosis, adding to the crispness of the finished product.
- Add 5 litres of lukewarm water to the 500g of fine sea salt to a large non metallic bowl or food-safe plastic bucket.
- Stir well until all the salt has dissolved.
- Once the water has cooled add the cucumbers.
- Allow to stand overnight, or for around 12 hours.
- Remove the gherkins and rinse under cold water.
Packing and Canning the Gherkins
Interestingly, this canning recipe involves preserving the jars of gherkins in a water bath held at a temperature below 100oC. In this case we will maintain a temperature between 82oC and 85oC. This requires the use of a thermometer and is actually much easier than it might sound. The process can be described as a low temperature pasteurisation which is necessary to maintain a crisp texture in the gherkins. At temperatures above 85oC the pectin content of the cucumbers starts to break down causing softness.
- Half fill your water bath canner with water, heat to around 60oC.
- Mix the 800ml of vinegar with 1.2 litres of water water in a pan and put on a medium heat. Add the sugar and stir until fully dissolved. Heat and hold the brine at a temperature of around 85oC.
- Pack the gherkins tightly into your sterilised jar adding the spices, garlic and dill as you go. If necessary cut some of the gherkins shorter to fit.
- Pour the hot vinegar solution into the jars and remove any bubbles.
- Fix your sterilised lids to the jars and place them in the canner.
- Add additional hot water from a kettle until the jars are covered by at least 2cm.
- On a high heat raise the temperature of the canner to 82oC then adjust the heat to maintain a temperature range of 82–85oC for 30 minutes. You will need to keep a close eye on your thermometer, if you overheat simply add a little cold water to cool things down.
- After the 30 minutes remove from the heat and leave the jars to rest in the canner for 5 minutes before removing and setting them aside to cool.
Storing and Serving the Gherkins
After around 3 weeks the gherkins will be ready to eat. Over time in their jars the gherkins will slowly loose their crisp texture, in my experience they are best consumed within an 18 month period. Once open keep the jars in your fridge and consume within 2 to 3 weeks.