The Veg Plot

How to pickle gherkins

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.

5. Wait…
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.

Happy pickling!


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


  • You wern’t lying when you said the malt vinegar left a gloomy dark look in the jar during the pickling process! It really is a dark look – it almost reminds me of balsamic vinegar. I totally didn’t know that the UK version of cucumber / pickle was gherkin. I spent a bit of time googling what the difference between a gherkin and a pickle / cucumber was! Funny! Thank you for your recipe, I hope to try this at home in the future! I wonder what sort of different flavors come out of using malt vinegar vs a different type of vinegar like white or balsamic. Thanks again for sharing!

    • Hi Billy, thanks for getting in touch. Malt tends to turn the pickles (or gherkins. Or wallies) a slightly brownish colour and has a harsher vinegar bite. White vinegar is a lot mellower.
      Malt is all I had in the cupboard!
      Happy pickling!

  • Hi, can I slice the gherkins before pickling? If so, do I slice them after the salting process? I’d rather eat them whole straight from the jar But I was thinking of gifting some to my lovely dad who grew them for my pickling pleasure.

    • Hi Sarah. Good question! I’d salt them first before slicing. Sliced pickled gherkins will turn out quite soft and will lack the crunch you get from biting down on an unsliced specimen, but I guess that’s what you are after!
      Happy pickling!

  • Hi, just reading through your recipe. Sounds lovely, how did it turn out? Would you remove/add any other ingredients?

    • Hi Claire, I’d probably add a few more chillies for extra spice, and I’d definitely stick to smaller gherkins in future batches. You might want to used distilled vinegar – the malt vinegar is pretty biting on the palate, but I kind of like it that way!
      Happy pickling

  • Hi, how does salting them overnight make them more crunchy?

    I tried this and in the morning they come out looking like limp…er… wallys!

    • Hi Rich, the salt will draw water out of them – it should make them crunchier after the pickling process. I’m sure your wally will perk up once doused in vinegar.

  • Hi Rich, Have just made 4 jars, but as requested by family, have sweetened the vinegar with Maple Syrup to give them a slightly smoky flavour. Added chillies, star anise and bay leaves to each jar to make them look more ‘posh deli’. Hope they taste as good as they look.

  • Thanks for posting this! I’ve been trawling the internet without success to find a proper English wally recipe! All the shop bought ones are soft and unappetizing and have a nasty aftertaste so I’m attemping to make my own. Just a little question, do you cover the wallys entirely or just liberally sprinkle with salt? Thanks for sharing

  • Hi, I’ve just picked my first gherkins and came across your recipe, looks easy enough, but how did they turn out. Not sure wether to pickle in vinegar or brine?

  • Ok trawled through all recipes and found yours the most agreeable, so picked the buggers, salted them,now to go rummage for jars wish me luck regarding pickling( why did you say you’d leave out the garlic next time?)
    Regards Jane

    • Hi Jane. I just wanted to offer a garlic free option. Say, for instance, if you wanted a quick gherkin snack before going to the pub and didn’t want to inflict gherkin death breath on everyone.

  • Hi – like the look of your recipe. Just picked my first gerkin and it was really bitter – will the pickling solve this problem? Thanks

  • Hi Rich. Quick question. If I make up a batch of the pickling vinegar, can I keep it for successive jars or do I need to make it fresh each time? Anticipating I will only have enough gherkins for 1 jar at a time as I want to pick them small (aiming for 2 inches ish)….thanks!

    • Hi Heather
      I would make a fresh batch – your vinegar’s pickling powers will diminish after each pickling job.
      Good luck with the gherkins!

  • Some of My Gherkins are Large 4-5 inches and bulbous, also have prickly skin. Not sure what to do with them?
    I’ve tried slicing and their are a lot of seeds like a melon.

  • Great recipe. And great attitude too. My local chippy gave a funny look when I asked for a Wally. So first batch starting now after a half price plant is churning them out in my polytunnel. Should be ready for half term…

    • Tsk, alternative gherkin names should be on the chip-shop owners curriculum.
      I wish you well with your home grown wallies.

  • Hi Simon.. I had the same experience in the chippy when we moved to Yorkshire from London .. they looked at me as if I’d just landed from another planet ..

  • Hi Rich,
    I love the recipe and am going to have a go. My problem is I only have a couple of gherkin plants that are giving up wallys in dribs and drabs. So I do I have to pick them and put them aside somewhere until I have enough for a full kilner jar or can I add them to my jar as and when I pick them?
    Yours in Wally Cunfusion

      • Many thanks for yer prompt reply Rich! First jar has been banged shut and put in the pantry!! We’ll find out how well it went in about 4-6 months, however long I can keep my hands off me wallies!

  • I bl***y love gherkins, but I have never grown them. What variety/species would you recommend for pickling, please?

    • Restina is the variety I find most prolific (sometimes embarrassingly prolific! ) reliable, best flavour, longest cropping. Good for both pickling and lacto fermenting.

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