One of the biggest successes grown on this year’s allotment has to be my magnificent gherkin plant, happily meandered through the undergrowth, chucking out fine nobbly specimens like there’s no tomorrow. Odds were stacked against its survival, no thanks to a recent Muntjac deer invasion (the extensive casualty list included sweet peas, broad beans, sorrel, beetroot and apples), but fortunately, the gherkin’s belly dwelling properties helped shield it from greedy doe-eyes.
In fact I’d completely forgotten about the plant, only remembering it’s existence when catching my toe on a particularly monstrous specimen that was lurking in the overgrown, unkempt borders of the allotment. Gherkins are ideally picked when they reach 3-4 inches. This one looked about 3kg.
Now gherkins divide opinion. Some people hate them, some people can’t stand them. I’m a fan, but judging by the amount of discarded* gherkin slices that adorn the pavements near city centre burger joints on a Saturday night, I’m in the minority.
There shall be no such undignified end for my gherkins – my warty princes are vinegar bound…
Five steps to pickling paradise.
1. Prep your veg
First thing to do is wash your wallys** and pat them dry. If you like your gherkins nice and crunchy, cover them with salt and leave them overnight to sweat, preferably in a place where the cat can’t lick them.
2. Make the pickling vinegar
You can buy bottles of pickling vinegar in the shops, but where’s the fun in that? I bought a gallon of malt vinegar from the shops. You can also use distilled vinegar if you wish, but we prefer the gloomy*** aesthetic that brown malt affords. Also, it was cheaper. You can also go posh and use cider vinegar if you like. We’ve never (intentionally) made cider vinegar, despite the vast gallons of cider we have sloshing around in our brewing shed. This would be far too wasteful of our precious apple booze.
To spice up your vinegar prior to pickling you’ll need to add a few adjuncts to the vinegar. We used the following:
2 tbsp black peppercorns
2 Bay leaves
2 Garlic cloves
Various odds and ends of dried chillies, found in the back of the cupboard.
Depending on how this batch turns out, we might add a few more chillies next time. And peppercorns. And might miss out the garlic.
Cook up your concoction by pouring the vinegar into a pan, lob your chosen spices into a muslin bag, dunk it in the vinegar and simmer for ten minutes. Give it the occasional, token stir before removing the bag and setting the pan aside to cool.
WARNING! This step will stink out your kitchen and your family will hate you for it.
3. Prepare your vessel
You’ll want to sterilise your chosen jar**** to prevent any spoiling bacteria messing around with your pickles. You can do this by using some VWP steriliser, or alternatively, bung it in a dishwasher and crank the temperature up to the max.
4. Assemble the cast
Lob in your gherkins into the jar and fill to the brim with your now cooled, hand crafted, artisan pickling vinegar, making sure all gherkins are covered. Seal the lid and place the jar somewhere cool and away from direct sunlight. Somewhere where Dracula might like to take a nap.
We’re leaving this jar for three months before cracking it open and tucking into the contents. December 6th shall be the date of the grand opening, and if they turn out horrible, this post will self destruct and we’ll pretend never to have written it.
Other Great Things to do with gherkins
Light one up
See here. If you fancy giving this experiment a go, make sure you read the ‘extreme danger of death’ disclaimer first.
Climb inside one and drink booze
Accessing the posh bar atop the London Gherkin will cost you a cool £1000 a year membership. Unless you work in the building, in which case it’s free entry. Drinks are expensive, mind. And I can’t see any beers on the menu.
Make a knobbly cocktail
The gherkin can provide salty bite to fancy cocktails. You’ll more commonly find them circling the rim of a Bloody Mary, but here’s a decent recipe, right here. Let’s just ignore the fact that it looks like a miniature, overflowing toilet bowl though, shall we
* Pavement jellyfish, floating in their own filthy juices atop a hot tarmac sea.
** A slang term for the gherkin. Most commonly used by cockneys.
*** Affording fleeting glimpses of the warty green shapes that lurk in the murk.
**** Mine once contained posh pork scratchings. A regular 1litre Kilner Jar is ideal.
If it’s pickled onions you’re after, then we have that covered too: how to pickle onions