Sweet & Sour Gherkins Recipe for Canning

Sweet and sour gherkin recipe, canning with Pearl Luna Cap jars

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.

  1. Add 5 litres of luke­warm water to the 500g of fine sea salt to a large non metal­lic bowl or food-safe plas­tic bucket.
  2. Stir well until all the salt has dissolved.
  3. Once the water has cooled add the cucumbers.
  4. Allow to stand overnight, or for around 12 hours.
  5. Remove the gherkins and rinse under cold water.

Packing and Canning the Gherkins

Fol­low stan­dard meth­ods for water bath can­ning apart from the addi­tion­al steps below. If you are new to can­ning I high­ly rec­om­mend read­ing the USDA Com­plete Guide to Home Can­ning. It can be down­loaded for free from the Nation­al Cen­ter for Home Food Preser­va­tion web­site.

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.

  1. Half fill your water bath can­ner with water, heat to around 60oC.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Pour the hot vine­gar solu­tion into the jars and remove any bubbles.
  5. Fix your ster­ilised lids to the jars and place them in the canner.
  6. Add addi­tion­al hot water from a ket­tle until the jars are cov­ered by at least 2cm.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

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