Dill-pickled cucumbers are really easy and fun to make at home. Here in the UK they are also known as Gherkins, or Wallies.
“Originally the term “wally” was a London slang corruption of the word “olive”. When Eastern European immigrants arrived in the late 19th Century they carried a liking for pickled cucumbers which, like olives, were sold from wooden barrels and also began to be referred to as wallies (mostly in the east-end of London).” – kgb answers
They make a great accompaniment to fish and chips, hot salt beef sandwiches, and burgers. The sweet and sour crunch provides an idea foil to fatty or oily dishes. They are also great beer-battered and deep-fried. One of my favourite Brighton pubs, the Brighton Beer Dispensary serves this, calling them Beerkins – perfect with a pint of frothy ale.
By making them yourself, you can experiment with differing flavour ratios and additions to suit your own tastes. For example; adjusting the balance of salt and sugar, more or less dill, and adding other herbs and spices. You can choose to pickle them whole or slicing them first to cram as many as you can into your jar.
Recipes do vary. Some use a cold pickle solution, which preserves the colour and crunch of the cucumbers best, but results in a shorter shelf life. Alternatively, hot pickling and processing means the cucumbers will keep longer, but they turn yellowy brown, and lose their bite. The following recipe is a compromise of the two.
Skill level: Easy
Equipment required: Heat-proof, airtight jar(s)
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: n/a Ready to eat in 2 days
1kg cucumbers (The small knobbly type are best – my local Polish deli often have them in stock)
500ml distilled malt vinegar
75g pure salt (rock or sea)
75g white caster sugar
10-12 stalks of fresh dill
4 peeled garlic cloves – optional
1 teaspoon chilli flakes – optional
1 teaspoon mustard seeds – optional
1 teaspoon dill seeds (if you can find them in the shops) – optional
Celery salt – optional
Fennel seeds – optional
Black peppercorns – optional
Step 1: Wash your cucumbers in cool water to remove any mud or nastiness, and slice them length-ways if you wish.
Step 2: Mix together the vinegar, water, sugar, salt(s), garlic, chilli flakes, seeds and peppercorns in a large saucepan and place on the stove to heat.
Step 3: Sterilise your jar(s) with boiling water. I use a single 2 litre round bottomed Kilner jar for my dill-pickled cucumbers.
Step 4: Pack your jars full with the cucumbers. If using a large jar like mine, this is made easier by laying the jar on its side as you poke them in. As you add the cucumbers, also insert the stalks of dill in between.
Step 5: Once your pickling solution has boiled, pour directly into your jars ensuring that the cucumbers are completely submerged. Seal, and leave to pickle for at least two days before serving.