The tiny cucumbers needed to make cornichons are difficult to find raw. To fulfill my homemade pickle desires, I did what any self-respecting homestead would do: grow my own.
I started with Parisian Pickling Cucumber seeds from Seed Savers Exchange. Last year the plants grew a little and produced just enough cucumbers for a single jar of cornichons before rust withered the plant away.
This year, I planted six seeds from the same packet our sunniest compost rich raised bed. The plants are ten feet long, trellising on anything that stands still, and covered with hundreds of yellow flowers.
Each flower matures into a bitty cucumber overnight. Given another 24 hours, the cucumber is perfect for cornichon making. If left un-picked, the cucumber grows to 8-inch long relish-making size in another 24 hours. This rapid development seems magical, as is the camouflaging effect of all those green leaves hiding the cucumbers.
I pick off the correctly sized cucumbers daily and store them in the fridge. When I have 8 to 10 collected, Lil and I wash and pickle them with this simple recipe. Pickling is great for young cooks because they can stuff the jars and count the spices. If all goes well, we will have a stash of jars in the larder before winter.
I created this recipe based on several versions I found in cookbooks. It is tart but not too tart and rich with spices. Many recipes call for salting the cucumbers overnight and rinsing them to ensure a crisp pickle. Because these babies are so tiny, I skip this step and they are plenty crunchy for me. If you have access to fresh grape leaves, tossing in one per jar is reported to help the texture of pickles.
for each half pint jar
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 cup white vinegar
1/3 cup water
5-8 whole 2-4 inch cucumbers, washed thoroughly with spines rubbed off
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 small bay leaf
1/2 tablespoon pepper corns
2 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
1 fresh grape leaf, washed, optional
1. Heat salt, vinegar, and water in a pot over medium heat until boiling.
2. Pack cucumbers into a sterilized jar with peeled garlic clove. Sprinkle spices over cucumbers.
3. Pour boiling vinegar brine into the jar, leaving 1/4 inch head space.
4. Wipe rim and place new lid on the jar. Finger tighten a ring on the jar and place in a hot water bath.
5. Boil in hot water for 15 minutes. Remove from water bath and allow to cool to room temperature.