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The crispness and freshness of pickling gherkins affects the quality of the finished pickles. Choose seeds to grow gherkins or cucumbers that are specifically recommended for pickling. Pickling gherkins should be sliced correctly and the jars prepared to remove bacteria. The choice of pickling solution also affects the taste and texture of the pickled gherkins.
When growing gherkins for pickling, select seeds marked as West Indian burr gherkins. True gherkins differ from cucumbers in that the plants have toothy edged leaves and prickly fruit. Small cucumbers however, are often used for pickling and the process is performed in the same way. Choose seeds labeled “pickling cucumbers” for a better quality result. Whether cucumbers or real gherkins are used, the end product still goes by the name of "pickled gherkins" or simply "pickles."
Visit a cucumber or gherkin farm to pick your own to obtain the best gherkins. Choose gherkins that are dark green in color, with warty lumps all over the flesh. Discard gherkins that have yellow flesh or do not have warts, as these will create mushy results when pickling gherkins. When the gherkins are sliced, there should be no seeds visible. Signs of seeds indicate that the fruit is too ripe for pickling.
Pickle the gherkins as soon as possible after they are picked. Crispier and fresher gherkins produce a better result. The best gherkins are about 4 inches (10.16 cm) long, an indicator that they are ready to use and not overripe.
Cut the gherkins into four pieces lengthwise so that more gherkins can fit into the jar without packing it too tight. Remove the ends of the gherkins because this helps to retain their crisp texture. Test your jars with pickling solution before you begin pickling gherkins. Fill them with solution the night before to see if there are any adverse reactions, for example, rust appearing on the lid. Ensure the jars you choose are sealable to create an airtight environment for pickling.
Sterilize the jars before filling them with gherkins and picking solution, to kill unwanted bacteria. Use brine as a pickling solution as this allows the bacteria naturally presents in the cucumbers to ferment. A vinegar and brine mixture can also be used if a sour taste is preferred. Leave a 1 inch (about 2.5 cm) space above the solution in the jar to allow for expansion.
Ensure the gherkins are thoroughly submerged in pickling solution to prevent spoilage. Leave the pickling gherkins for as long as possible to ferment, preferably for at least two weeks, to allow flavors to infuse. Keep the jars in a cool, dark place.
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