Cornichons are sharply vinegar-flavored pickles made with very small cucumbers (usually no larger than your pinkie or ring finger). The method of making them comes from France, where they are traditionally served with heavier hors d'ouvres such as pate, cured sausages, and cheese. The bright crunch and sour bite of the cornichons perfectly balances the rich taste and texture of those other foods.
Making cornichons is incredibly easy, with one caveat: you have to come up with small, finger-sized cucumbers. Cornichons are one of many great reasons to grow your own cucumber plants, because cucumbers that small are rarely seen in the market.
This recipe is incredibly simple, and enables the home gardener with limited gardening space to put up the cornichons as the cucumbers are available, rather than needing a big batch of them all at once.
How to Make Cornichons
- Choose cucumbers no larger than your ring finger (smaller is good). Wash them and slice a sliver off of the blossom end of each cucumber. There are enzymes at the tip of the blossom end that could result in a mushy pickle if they are not removed. If you aren't sure which end is the blossom end, slice a sliver off of both ends.
- Put a thin layer of coarse kosher or other non-iodized salt in the bottom of a bowl (iodized salt can cause the cornichons to turn off colors). Put a layer of your prepared tiny cucumbers on top. Sprinkle more salt over the layer of cucumbers until they are almost buried in it. Put another layer of cucumbers on top. Add salt. Repeat until you've used up all your baby cucumbers, finishing with a layer of salt on top.
- Put the bowl of salted cucumbers in the refrigerator 24 - 48 hours.
- Put the cucumbers in a colander or sieve and rinse the salt off of them. Transfer them to a clean glass jar (it is not necessary to sterilize the jar for this recipe).
- Pour white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar over the cucumbers, enough to cover. I prefer my cornichons made with undiluted vinegar, the way it is usually done in France. But you can dilute 3 parts vinegar with 1 part water and still end up with a respectably sharp-tasting cornichon pickle.
- It's okay if you only have a couple of baby cucumbers to salt and then put in the vinegar at first. This is a great recipe for the space-challenged gardener as you can just add what you've got from day to day. As you have more of the tiny cucumbers, salt them and then add them to the vinegar.
- Add the optional baby onions or shallots and black peppercorns if you like. Wait at least a week between adding the last cucumber to fill the jar and eating your cornichons. During that week the flavors will "marry" and mellow.
Once the jar is full of vinegar-covered baby cucumbers, it will keep in the refrigerator or another cool place for at least 6 months.
If you'd like to seal the jars for storage at room temperature, pour the vinegar out of the jar into a small pot. Bring to a boil. Pour the liquid back over the cucumbers, making sure that the cucumbers are completely immersed but there is still half an inch of head space between the food and the rims of the jars. Cover with canning lids and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.