It was one of those mid-winter conversations, tucked up in the apartment in the Alps, outside it was bitterly cold and with snow as far as the eye could see. Friends round for drinks and dinner, snacking on Cornichon, Cheeses and Meats. Conversation moved onto the “can you grow and make these?” and the plan was born.
Cornichon are what most people know as gherkins or pickling cucumbers (except if you are French!). Specifically grown for pickling and picked when young and small. And where better to buy my seeds than in France itself. I’m growing two varieties – Petit Vert Blanc and Fin De Meaux.
I’m also growing far more than I originally planned as I grew a number on from seedlings for a friend who when presented with the gaily said “Oh I’ve already planted mine” Don’t you just love friends !
I treated the Cornichon the same as my Cucumbers (all part of the Squash family); they are grown up a trellis/fence outside in the ground with no protection, it gives them support, the vines have something to cling to, and hopefully I can see the fruit when they are ready for picking. But there are always monsteresque escapees.
The last few weeks has seen me scurrying for recipes, I had the Cornichon, but no recipes to turn to. The internet, as ever proved my fried and foe. As you will no doubt know there are countless recipes for pickles. I came across expression I’d never heard before “Dill Pickles”, “Bread and Butter Pickles” “Refrigerator Pickles” “Sour Pickles” and on the Pickles went. But what I was struggling to find were recipes for the traditional Cornichon.
Bingo, or maybe I should shout House! when I eventually came across this site Food With Legs where I learnt about Tannins and using Grape Leaves to help keep the crunchiness. And by sheer coincidenceBarbara over at Just a Smidgen was blogging about that very same thing – the chrunchiness. Anyway this site gave me some leads for recipes, and the one I eventually plumped for came from French Gardening which gave me a recipe and some advice “The cornichons will still be good–just not as crisp–without the grape leaves.”
But you know the real serendipity is that this is the first year I can truly say I have vine leaves on my plot as my Grape Vine seems to (AT LONG LAST) be growing. there’s not a grape in sight, but leaves YES !
I pretty much followed the recipe except that I didn’t have any fresh Tarragon, but I did add Dill. Next time I’ll try Tarragon and see which I prefer. So for the full Cornichon Recipe use the link here, You can slice them into rounds or lengthways, or pickle them whole if they are small enough by carefully trimming the flower end off the tip of the Cornichon., the choice is yours! I also won’t go into canning techniques, there are far better educated people out there, besides I don’t want to kill you.
I’ve also been trying my hand at other recipes, with variations on the theme like adding celery seeds, a few chilli flakes or some smashed garlic. Next up on the Dillying and Dallying recipes will be John From The Bartolini Kitchens Bread and Butter Pickles and Smidge’s version. You see I have PLENTY of Cornichon growing!