These Bread & Butter Cucumber Pickles are our signature pickles, the first ones we ever made, and now our bestsellers. They’re a great way to start your pickling adventures.
Small cucumbers are best for pickling, as their water content is lower: look out for bargain boxes of ‘seconds’ at farmers’ markets – often the only difference is that they’re not straight!
Feel free to experiment with spices. These are classic pickle spices, but you could use whole chillies, garlic cloves, bay leaves, turmeric and strips of lemon zest.
2 kg (4 lb 8 oz) Lebanese (short) cucumbers
2 tablespoons salt
1 litre (35 fl oz/4 cups) white wine vinegar
220 g (73⁄4 oz/1 cup) caster (superfine) sugar
1⁄2 teaspoon turmeric
2 small brown onions, thinly sliced
3 teaspoons brown mustard seeds
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 teaspoons dill seeds
2 teaspoons chilli flakes – optional
12–18 black peppercorns
- Slice the cucumbers into rounds about the thickness of a coin. Put into a bowl and sprinkle with the salt, then leave to sit for an hour or two (or overnight). This is to draw out any excess liquid; the bigger the cucumbers, the longer it will take. Transfer to a large colander and leave to drain thoroughly.
- Meanwhile, sterilise your jars.
- Make a brine by putting the vinegar, sugar, turmeric and 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) of water into a medium non-reactive saucepan over low heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar, then increase the heat and bring to the boil. Let it bubble for 5 minutes.
- Transfer the cucumbers to a large bowl. Add the onions, along with the mustard, fennel and dill seeds, and the chilli flakes, if using. Use your hands to mix everything together well.
- When the jars are cool enough to handle, use small tongs or clean hands to carefully pack the cucumbers into the jars, adding 2 or 3 peppercorns to each jar. The jars should be full but not over-packed – the brine needs to cover every slice of cucumber, and if they are packed too tightly the brine won’t be able to get into every nook and cranny.
- Carefully fill the jars with the hot brine until the cucumbers are completely covered. Remove any air bubbles by gently tapping each jar on the work surface and sliding a butter knife or chopstick around the inside to release any hidden air pockets. You may need to add more brine or cucumbers after doing this (the liquid should reach about 1 cm/1⁄2 in from the top of the jar). Wipe the rims of the jars with a clean cloth or paper towel and seal.
- Heat-process for 10 minutes, then store in a cool, dark place. Although these pickles will keep for up to 12 months, they start to lose their crunch after about 6 months.
Recipe by Alex Elliott-Howery and James Grant, taken from Cornersmith: Recipes from the cafe and picklery.