How to Make Pickled Gherkins


Start to Finish: 15 minutes active, 3 to 4 weeks inactive
Servings: 12
Difficulty: Beginner

"Gherkin" refer to both an often-pickled close relation of the cucumber and just about any small or immature cucumber you find in the U.K., where the term is colloquial rather than taxonomic. The following recipe, adapted from the University of Minnesota Extension, pickles all varieties of cucumbers and the true gherkin variety in 3 to 4 weeks.


  • 1/2 cup pickling salt
  • 1/4 cup 5 percent distilled vinegar
  • 8 cups filtered "soft" water (low in minerals and chlorine)
  • 4 pounds gherkins or 1- to 3-inch-long cucumbers
  • 2 tablespoons dill seeds or 4 or 5 heads fresh dill weed
  • 2 or 3 garlic cloves, peeled 
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds

Special Equipment

  • 1 1-gallon food-grade container
  • 1 plate, just large enough to fit in the container
  • Heavy-duty freezer bag filled with 3 quarts of water and 4 1/2 tablespoons of salt


Mix the salt, vinegar and water until the salt dissolves. Set the pickling solution aside.

Wash the cucumbers under cool water. Trim 1/16 inch (about the thickness of a quarter) from the blossom end of the cucumbers and trim all but 1/4 inch of the stems.

Add about half the spices -- dill, garlic, peppercorns and coriander -- to the container. Add the cucumbers and remaining spices.

Pour the pickling solution over the cucumbers. Set the plate on top of the cucumbers.

Cover the container with 5 or 6 layers of cheesecloth. The cheesecloth should hang over the edges by several inches.

Set the freezer bag of water on top of the cheesecloth and plate to weigh it down. As an alternative to the freezer bag, you can use 2 or 3 clean, 1-quart glass jars filled with water to weight the plate down.

Set the gherkins in a room where the temperature hovers around 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Check the gherkins 3 or 4 times a week for surface scum and mold and, if found, skim it off replace the cheesecloth.


    • Add spices and aromatics as desired when pickling gherkins. Fennel seeds, allspice and cumin seeds are a few thoughtful additions or substitutions that work in this recipe. Use about 2 tablespoons of fresh spices and 1 tablespoon of dried spices for every 4 pounds of cucumbers. 
    • You can ferment the gherkins in a room with a temperature between 55 and 65 F, but fermentation will take 5 to 6 weeks. 
    • Scrub the fermentation container in [hot, sudsy water]( before you start.


  • Do not change the quantity of water, salt, cucumbers and vinegar in this recipe -- these ingredients are required in exact proportions to prevent bacterial growth. You can, though, substitute your choice of herbs and spices for those called for in the recipe.

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