The pickling cucumber belongs to the gourd family. It is related to the cucumber that is mainly eaten in the form of pickles and as a condiment. The French prefer small, crunchy, and slightly peppery pickles. The Slavs prefer them to be larger, and in a sweet and sour pickling mixture flavored with dill, (hence the name « dill pickles »), among them the famous Russian-style malossol pickles.
Fresh pickling cucumbers (gherkin) can be found in markets during the summer. If you want to make French-style pickles (cornichons) yourself at home, choose very small, very green, and hard cucumbers with highly visible bumps. They should be made on the day of purchase so that they remain crunchy.
The cucumbers are placed in a clean cloth, sprinkled with kosher (coarse) salt, and rubbed. Wrapped in the same cloth, the raw cucumbers are refrigerated overnight to release their residual water. The next day, they are rinsed under running water and drained.
Pickling cucumbers are not cooked. They are placed in jars with different herbs, spices, and aromatics (dill, coriander seeds, garlic, etc.) then covered with hot vinegar with a spoonful of sugar added. The jars are sealed immediately.
Pickled cucumbers can be added to sandwiches and eaten with cold cuts (cooked meats), and are an essential ingredient in gribiche sauce. They add crunch to potato salads.
Once sealed in a jar, the pickles are left in a cool and dry place for one month before use. Once open, the jar should be stored in the refrigerator. It can keep up to six months.
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