Sunday, August 25, 2013


It's canning season.  I'm not putting up as much as I have in the past but the canners have still preserved a variety of things for the winter months.

I've already put up green beans, a whole slew of strawberry items, and some peach jam that I found in the freezer when our fridge went kaput.  I've got enough pickles left over from previous summer canning binges to last at least another year.  Still on the docket for this fall are dilly beans, sauerkraut, preserved grape leaves, applesauce, tomatoes, and cornichons.

Cornichons are French pickles traditionally made with tarragon instead of dill.  Maybe you're seen the above jar at the grocery store.  They run about $8 a pint, if you can even find them.

Pâté, cheese plates, raclette, and fondu would each be incomplete, naked even, without cornichons.  My French host mother once made a delicious dish of skate with cornichons in a brown butter sauce.  (Here's Dorie Greenspan's version.  You could use any delicate white fish in lieu of skate... trout, perhaps?)

Unsatisfied with the cornichons recipes I was finding on, I put my French degree to work and turned to  I found this:
Pour 1 bocal d'un litre : essuyer les cornichons, les mettre dans le bocal avec 1 verre de vin blanc sec, quelques grains de poivre, de coriandre, 1 clou de girofle, 1 brin d'estragon, 3 morceaux de sucre. Compléter avec du vinaigre d'alcool.
The ingredients listed are vinegar, white wine, peppercorns, coriander, cloves, tarragon, and sugar.  That sounds more like it! 

It's a pretty drive to and in the Puyallup Valley.
Finding the two principle ingredients was a bit of a wild goose chase.  I drove out to Duris Cucumber Farm in Puyallup last Saturday late in the afternoon.  I have tender memories of driving to Duris with my mom and grandma when I was a young child.  There was always a skunk that had met an untimely end along the busy road that leads to Duris, and I will forever associate that odor with Puyallup's rural roads.  Sadly - ?? - you rarely encounter that skunk stench any more due to development.
Puyallup, WA
I could smell this field of dill before I saw it!
Duris had every size cuke imaginable...
...except the size I'd wanted.

I went back first thing this morning to assure that I had my pick of the harvest.  Duris is the only place in the South Sound that I know of which sells graded pickling cucumbers.  You can see the grading process here.

Tarragon was somewhat easier.  I pestered my boss for some.  He wasn't sure if he had any, then I went on vacation for a few days.  A quick facebook plea garnered a response from a friend who runs a community garden, telling me I was welcome to some of theirs.  The tricky part there was to find it.
Kaelen "helped" me look for the tarragon.

It took me a while to find it tucked away.  Can you spot it?
Ingredients in hand, I went home to put the kiddo down for a nap and get going on my cornichons. 

Here's my recipe, this time in English and with measurements and directions.

Cornichons - makes 3 pints
50 extra small cucumbers, scrubbed
2 cups + 2 cups white vinegar
1/8 cup + 1/3 cup pickling salt
2 1/4 tsp white sugar
3 tsp light mustard seeds
1.5 tsp dark mustard seeds
1.5 tsp peppercorns
6 whole cloves
3 bay leaves
3 sprigs tarragon

1 cup white wine
3 1-pint jars
OPTIONAL: pearl onions, peeled (I used cippolini because that's what I could find.)

Into each pint jar, put 3/4 tsp sugar, 1 tsp light mustard seeds, 1/2 tsp dark mustard seeds, 1/2 tsp peppercorns, 2 cloves, 1 bay leaf, and 1 tarragon sprig.  Set aside.

Place the cucumbers in a large bowl.  Bring 2 cups vinegar and 1/8 cup pickling salt to a boil.  Mix until the salt is dissolved, then pour over the cucumbers.  Allow to sit for 2-8 hours, then rinse the cucumbers and discard the brine.  (This step helps ensure a crunchy pickle.)

Bring the remaining 2 cups vinegar, white wine, and 1/3 cup salt to a boil.  Stir until salt dissolves.

Divide the cucumbers evenly between the 3 pint jars, leaving 1/2" headspace if canning.  Toss in the onions if you're doing them.  Top off the jars with the fresh vinegar-wine brine.  Process like gherkins to make shelf stable or store them in the fridge.

Store the pickles in a cool, dark place for 3-4 weeks before digging in.


  1. I'll have to try that, since I always have lots of tarragon. Easy to grow here. Patrica Wells has a Sauce Remoulade with mayo mixed with diced cornichons, herbs, cayenne and capers. She serves it with small chunks of fried fish & an italian parsley salad. It's from her "salad as a meal" cookbook I think. I never realized there was tarragon in there. I don't know if I could find that small of cukes here, but I guess I could use bigger.

  2. Dear Jenn,
    My name is Liz Barringer, and I'm delighted to have discovered your blog. I have spent a couple of hours happily reading backwards to Jan. 2012. Initially, I was interested in your homemade peanut butter post. (Someone pinned it) Now, I'm a fan. I hope you find the energy and the time to continue writing. You have inspired me. I love your posts, and shared a few on my FB wall for my own reference, and to share with my friends too.
    Your Son is adorable, and a very lucky little boy to have you as parents. Hope you have a great week! :)