Every year we make our own homemade dill pickles, but what I really crave is those tiny baby gherkin. The French call them cornichons, but it all amounts to the same thing. Miniature sour flavor bombs popped into your mouth to offset the richness of the rest of a charcuterie plate.
I can never find any cucumbers small enough to make those itsy bitsy charcuterie board gherkins, so I decided to plant a big patch of cucumbers and grow my own. Now it’s time to reap the reward with homemade gherkins!
Besides the size of the pickle, tiny gherkins are made a bit differently than a traditional kosher dill. First off, they’re not flavored with dill. Second, they’re made with a much higher vinegar ratio than a standard pickle.
Most pickle brines mix 1 part water with 1 part vinegar (5% acidity) to make a moderate brine that’s just acidic enough to preserve the cucumbers. The tiny baby cucumbers used to make cornichons aren’t meant to be eaten in the same way as a gigantic pickle, and those little beauties can be tiny little sour flavor bombs.
All that extra vinegar means they’re much sourer than the average pickle, but it also means that they preserve well and that they make wonderful quick refrigerator pickles.
I’ve written this gherkin recipe for canning, but feel free to pop that jar into the refrigerator instead of water bath canning. With the high vinegar ratio, these cornichons should last in the back of the refrigerator for 6 months.
Start by picking the tiniest cucumbers you can find in the garden. Some recipes say aim for cucumbers about the size of your little finger, but those are the ones I use to make my regular crips dill pickles. Anything larger just gets soggy in the jar. These are special, chose barely formed baby cucumbers about 1 to 1.5 inches long.
I have a dozen cucumber plants in the garden, and in peak season I can harvest about 1 cup of gherkin sized cucumbers few days. It’s hard to harvest enough baby pickles all at once to make a full canner batch of gherkins, but it’s worth making them in tiny batches and simply water bath canning them in a small saucepan.
Soak the baby cucumbers in a saltwater brine made with 1 part salt and 8 parts water (by volume). That works out to 1 tablespoon of salt to 1/2 cup of water. Make enough to fully submerge the baby gherkins.
Let them soak for at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight. This helps draw moisture out of the cucumbers and keeps them crisp during pickling.
Drain the brined gherkins, and pack them into canning jars. I’m using quarter pint jars, and more than a dozen of these tiny pickles still fit in each one. A very basic seasoning uses peppercorns, allspice and a bit of onion in each jar. I added 5 peppercorns and 2 allspice berries to each quarter pint jar. Feel free to try a bit of tarragon, bay leaves, cloves, garlic or whatever else excites you.
Make a brine with 1 tablespoon of canning salt (non-iodized) to 1 cup of vinegar. White vinegar works well, and is neutral, but I prefer the extra flavor of cider vinegar. Bring it to a boil on the stove and pour it over the gherkins and spices in canning jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.
Save the extra brine for pickles the next batch of baby cucumbers you’ll bring in from the garden in a few days. It’ll last on the counter indefinitely given that it’s just vinegar and salt.
Cap the pickle jars and store in the refrigerator or process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes.
They’ll be reasonably tasty after 24 hours, but it’s best to wait at least 2 weeks for the flavors to fully penetrate the gherkins.
Use the tiniest cucumbers you can find for these perfectly crunchy sour gherkins.
- 2 tbsp canning salt
- 1 cup water
- baby cucumbers
Canning Spices and Brine
- peppercorns 3-5 per quarter pint jar
- allspice berries 1-2 per quarter pint jar
- 1 cup vinegar white or cider
- 1 tbsp canning salt
Make a brine with 1 part salt and 8 parts water, or 2 tablespoons of salt to each cup of water. Soak the tiny cucumbers for a few hours or overnight.
Drain the baby cucumbers and pack them into canning jars with spices. I've used 5 peppercorns and 2 allspice berries to each quarter pint canning jar.
Make a brine with 1 tbsp of canning salt to every cup of vinegar and bring to a boil. Each quarter pint jar only needs a few tablespoons of brine, but extra brine can be saved for the next batch.
Pour the brine over the pickles, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Seal with 2 part canning lids and store in the refrigerator or process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes.