Summer Is Pickling Time
Summer is in full swing: dog days make you feel mellow and lazy. Probably you are not dreaming about standing in a hot kitchen and pickling. But this is the season for it and towards the middle of July the first produce will be offered on the markets.
I love pickles and always watched my mother in summer when she was pickling cornichons (this is what we call gherkins in our parts of Switzerland).
She did not want any help, for hours she was toiling away, washing and brushing the dirt off the gherkins, jabbing small holes in them with a toothpick and preparing a heavily salted water concoction in which they rested over night.
The next day she boiled vinegar with spices, herbs and peppercorns and poured it over the gherkins. This process was repeated the next day. In the end the pickles were put in high and narrow dark green pickling jars and stored in a cool place in the basement.
Frankly, I did not like her cornichons: too salty and sour for my taste. I never told her so, I would not have dared to denigrate all the love and work that went into making them.
Some years ago I have started my own project of pickles, experimented with the brine, reduced the amount of salt, added more herbs and spices and above all discovered what miracles honey will work with it!
I always buy my gherkins on the farmer market in Lörrach and prepare them the same day. Gherkins are very delicate and turn into mush or mouldy within 24 hours. You can also find them in Turkish shops in Basel.
Farmer Market in Lörrach
Late Bloomers Honey Pickles
You will need approximately 1 L of pickling liquid for 1 kg of gherkins. If any liquid is left you can keep it in the fridge for future use.
Gherkins are a cucumber variety, I prefer them to cucumbers, as they are crunchier.
2 kg gherkins
1l vinegar (I use white wine vinegar for its taste and colour)
5 dl water
5 dl honey
2 TS sea salt
1 TS peppercorns
1 TS mustard seeds
1 TS coriander seeds
1 TS fennel seeds
2 bay leaves
2 fresh chillies
fresh dill (add 2 – 3 whole stems to the liquid, keep the rest for the jars)
add some flavour with star anis and cumin
Wash gherkins and remove any dirt with a soft brush, sort according to size
Put all other ingredients in a large non-reactive pot and bring to a boil
Taste pickling liquid and adjust seasoning if necessary
Sterilize your jars and lids
Tightly pack gherkins in jars, add dill, more chillies, garlic and small onions
Fill to the very top with the pickling liquid, screw or clamp lids on and sterilize
Late Bloomers Honey Pickles
This year I made 42 jars of honey pickles and each year I grossly underestimate the time needed, it really is a labour of love and passion. And lots of cleaning afterwards: sticky surfaces and a charcoaled cook top from the pickling liquid, I wonder how it manages to spread everywhere.
But it is worth every hour of it!