I dillied and dallied, dallied and dillied Pickles

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!

And you do know the song My Old Man Said Follow The Van don’t you? An old music hall style song. a real Cockney number. And as I was searching for links to the song, guess who came to the rescue !!


  • Ah, I had high hopes for growing and pickling cornichons this year too, but the vines all succumbed to cucumber beetles before I had a chance to harvest a single one. You’ve inspired me to try again next year.

  • Beautiful Post. What if I can’t find Cornichon here in HK are there other cucumbers I can use instead? We usually can only get the Japanese pickles and then I make fresh pickles with rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, sugar, salt and pepper and sometimes a little chilies. However I miss my dills!

    • You can use small cucumbers instead BAM, I don’t know if you can get the small “snacking ” kind, I call them Mediterranean as they are not the huge, watery and oh so straight ones that are often sold in the shops here. the small ones have a lot of flavour. But I love fresh pickles, especially with thos ekind of seasoning. And now I’m wondering what Japanese Pickles are ?

  • Lovely pickles I’m sure though I’m not a pickle fan. But, I DO remember that song. For some reason I can picture Julie Andrews singing it in one of her old musicals. I may be wrong but it’s a fun song in any case, whoever it was singing it.

    • I’m dreadful at films and remembering who was in what, so unfortunately I’m no use on this one!! I just know the tune, and somehow it popped into my head when I was making the pickles 🙂

    • For some reason members of the squash family (think courgettes especially here) have the ability to hide from view and by the time you find them they have grown to huge proportions. How you miss them in the first place is a total mystery, no matter how often you check the plant, and then check again, somehow there is always one that grows to be a monster !!
      And so I invented a word but I managed to spell it incorrectly – Mosteresque – I missed an S. 🙂

  • I love these pickles! Thanks for referencing my post. Hey, I didn’t see or read about using salt before hand. Did you do that step? Such lovely pickles.. you’ll have fun devouring them!! xx Smidge

    • It’s a pleasur eto mention them, as it was your blog that made me definitely consider using the Grape leaves! Oh and it looked a great recipe too!
      Aahh, about the salt, I may have taken that from another recipe, but with these ones I did and a huge amount of liquid came out. Maybe I should try some without salting first. The consensus seems to be to salt – do you have any clues on this?

      • Now that I think about it, if you’re slicing them, they probably should be in salt?? Haha.. but I did spears and neither of my recipes recommended it… ce la vie, you’re turned out lovely!! And crunchy!!

        • 🙂 And just to road test another way I’m going to lightly trim the flowering end and put a few in a jar whole 🙂
          But thanks so much, I’m learning, learning, learning !!

  • How varied the world is! I love dill pickles, don’t much care for bread and butter pickles, and cannot stand sweet pickles. I’d never heard of cornichons until now. So many ways to pickle a cucumber!

    • As you say there certainly are numerous way to pickle a cucumber, in fact I had no idea until I starte dto search for recipes! . The even better part (I hope) will be the taste tests 🙂

  • It looks great, and hopefully was fun (we enjoy making pickles- at least the first few batches).

    Great line about the “monstrous escapees”…there are always a few and we can’t believe we didn’t see them earlier!

    • It’s crazy isn’t, no matter how many times and how carefully you look there is always ONE. It’s like the elephant in the room in terms of courgettes and cucumbers 🙂

  • I am a pickle fan. But I never thought about making my own. I bought a jar of home-canned garlic dills the other day … awesome (and all gone already).

    • Lots of garlic sounds delicious, and how lovely that you can buy home-made, that’s just wonderful! I don’t make jam, well I haven’t for years as I rely on friends or purchases made at church fairs and the like – and they are always delicious

  • I’ve yet to try any type of pickles. And my family is rather fussy, they prefer the store bought brand of “Bread N Butter” pickles. I am searching for a recipe to try that does not include any chili peppers. Please share if you find! Can’t wait to hear how your pickles taste in the cold, dreary winter!

    • Hi Deb, this batch didn’t include chill, and you can omit the mustard seeds (I added those) as well. It’s my first proper attempt at pickling, I’ve made many a chutney but we don’t eat those much and so end up being given away, which is great but this way I focus on making something we like and get to share !

  • I’m so jealous, Claire. Here you are dilly-dallying and I’m still stuck jamming with peaches. I just bought more for another batch. THE crunchiness factor is why I do not preserve my bread & butter pickles but keep them in the refrigerator. If you’re successful, I just may change my pickling ways.
    Thanks for mentioning my blog, Claire. If you do make them, I hope you enjoy my pickles.

    • I’ll trade you a jar or three of the pickles for a jar of your home made peach jam John !!
      I’m hoping the vine leaves do the trick, from what I’ve read they seem to. Time of course will tell, and if I do get it right then you will probably hear the cheers from where you are 🙂

  • What GORGEOUS cornichons!!!! I scrolled back 3x strictly to see the pictures!

    • Cornichon porn 🙂 Ooops that’s probably naughty and I’ll get some weird search engine requests now !! But thanks, it’s the first time I’ve grown them so I hope it’s not beginners luck !!

  • Beautiful looking cornichons…I can’t wait until you try yours compared to what you can buy in those tiny little jars. I’m sure that they will be much better.

    • Oh I know those jars Karen! In fact we saved our jars from France and brought them back with us, they have the plastic handles in them so you can fish the cornichon out more easily. In fact I can’t quite believe we brought empty jars back from France !!

  • I love cornichons, and would just love a taste of yours! I’m sure they will be such a tasty surprise! You really do make the most of your produce options. You’ll be eating well long after the plants are on their way to the compost pile! 🙂

  • Last year I had a bumper crop of cucumbers. This year it looks like there’ll be enough for salads! Homemade pickles I love.

    • hi Lulu, last year we had a poor crop of cucumbers, the prvious year had been good, and I really couldn’t fathom out why the two years were so different! I bet you have some great farmers markets around you when you are in Maine though !

      • The growing season is short, but when it’s here, the farmers market teem with fresh and wonderful goodies.

  • Gorgeous photos and informative post! I have always wanted to try pickling cucumbers but each year it gets away from me. This is inspiring!

    • Thank you, we all have years like that don’t we! I think I’ve hand my “I WILL DO IT” hat on this year! Who know’s what will happen next year 🙂

  • Lots of cukes, but no pickles in my pantry this year….I wasn’t terribly impressed with the variety I planted. Despite sharing the name of the ones from last summer (which were brought back from France by my Hubby) they weren’t the same cucumber. They were too big, even when the blossom was still attached…
    Glad you found a recipe that worked!

    • I remember you telling me about the seeds from France, I wonder if it was a different grower? have you ever tried Seeds of Kokopelli? They have a huge range of heirloom seeds from across Europe and do fabulous work at promoting them along with organic principals and education.
      wish you were round the corner so I could pop some in for you !

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