How to: pickle cucumbers
When cucumbers are on, you may find you have more than enough for salads, sandwiches and crudite platters. The secret - pickles. Our favourite recipe is from Cornersmith: Recipes from the Cafe and Picklery by Alex Elliott-Howery and James Grant.
What you need
2 kg Lebanese (short) cucumbers
2 tbsp salt
1 litre white wine vinegar
1 cup caster sugar
½ tsp turmeric
2 small brown onions, thinly sliced
3 tsp brown mustard seeds
2 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp dill seeds
2 tsp chilli flakes (optional)
12–18 black peppercorns
What to do
Pickling cucumbers can be harvested when they are over 5cm in length. Slice cucumbers into coin-thick rounds. Put them in a bowl, sprinkle with salt, leave them to sit for an hour or two (or overnight) to draw out excess liquid. The bigger the cucumbers, the longer it will take. Transfer to a colander and drain thoroughly.
Meanwhile, sterilise jars.*
Make a brine by putting vinegar, sugar, turmeric and 2 cups of water into a medium saucepan over low heat. Dissolve sugar, increase heat and bring to boil. Bubble for 5 minutes.
Transfer cucumbers to a large bowl. Add onions, along with mustard, fennel and dill seeds, (and chilli flakes, if using) and mix everything together.
When jars are cool enough to handle, use small tongs to carefully pack the cucumbers into jars, adding 2 or 3 peppercorns to each jar. The jars should be full but not over-packed – the brine needs to cover every slice. If they are packed too tightly the brine won’t be able to get into every nook and cranny.
Fill jars with hot brine until cucumbers are completely covered. Remove any air bubbles by gently tapping each jar on the work surface and sliding a butter knife or chopstick around inside to release any hidden air pockets. You may need to add more brine or cucumbers after doing this. The liquid should reach about 1 cm from the top of the jar. Wipe rims of jars with a clean cloth or paper towel and seal.
Heat-process* for 10 minutes, then store in a cool, dark place.
Although these pickles will keep for up to 12 months, they start to lose their crunch after about 6 months.
*Check online for advice about how to do this safely. If you want to make just one jar of pickles to eat quickly, scale down the amounts, skip the heat processing, and store the pickles in the fridge.
Photo credit: Luisa Brimble