Poles love their pickles. No surprise that as a kid, I joyfully accompanied my grandma in preserving… everything. Baby cucumbers, tomatoes, broad beans, beetroots, cauliflower, bell peppers, onions, you name it. Both grandparents were gherkins’ fiends. When going to the market, they selected the smallest cucumbers. Local products of irregular shape, size, and rough skin. Not very pretty, but damn good. The traditional recipe for brine called for vinegar, horseradish root, white mustard seeds, bay leaf, garlic, fennel, black pepper and black currant leaves. The formula remained unchanged for years until one day, my grandpa brought a recipe from his friend who came back from the US. That day changed my life. The recipe diverged from our traditional approach to gherkins. It replaced the above spices with Dijon mustard. I am quite sure that back then, in the late 90-ties, I had no idea what Dijon mustard was. And I am pretty sure that we used our local creamy mustard that is nothing like its French counterpart. Still, these “American” gherkins, like we used to call them, became my obsession for years.
Today, as the global pandemic granted us more time than we could have ever imagined, I unearthed my grandma’s old recipes. Making these gherkins, which became popular in Polish homes and (as I learnt) have nothing in common with their American counterparts, still feels like a treat to me.
Alleged American Gherkins
- 1 kg small cucumbers.
- 1 l. water
- 1 cup vinegar
- 2 tbsps. salt
- 2 tbsps. Dijon mustard
- 1 ½ cup sugar (you can use less)
- Spice mix for each jar:
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 black peppercorns
- Sterilise your jars using hot water.
- Wash the cucumbers and cut them lengthwise.
- In a pot, combine ingredients for brine and bring them to the boil.
- In the meantime, add the spice mix to each jar, and arrange sliced cucumbers as in the above pictures. Do not pack them too tightly.
- Pour hot brine into your jars ensuring that the level of the brine is above all parts of the cucumbers.
- Close the lids and turn the jars upside down. Do it carefully not to burn yourself in case there is a leakage (hot brine may leak if they jar is not properly sealed). Keep the jars upside down for a few minutes.
- In the meantime, bring a big pot of water to the boil. The level of water should reach half the height of your jars. Once boiling, turn down the fire and arrange the jars in the pot. This time – lids facing up. Let it simmer for about five minutes.
- Carefully, remove the jars from the pot and slowly turn upside down, checking for any leakages. Leave it on a counter upside down and let it cool.
- Gherkins are ready for consumption in three to four days. They can be stored in a cool, dark place for about six to 12 months.