Cucurbitaceae or Pumpkin Family;
Also known as cornichon (little horns) (Fr), or pickles (Canada and USA)
The name Gherkin can refer to any of these three
- A variety of field cucumber (Cucumis sativus), usually smaller in size, and is cultivated for pickling.
- Immature field cucumber (Cucumis sativus), harvested when still young, and used for pickling.
- A separate species,Cucumis anguria, also known as West Indian Gherkin or West Indian Gourd..
West Indian Gherkin
C. anguria is a slender annual vine, native to Africa, but widely cultivated, especially in the in the West Indies (the Caribbean and Bahamas). The fruits resemble cucumbers, are harvested when immature (at1½-3 inches (4-8cm)) and used for pickling. The immature fruits have a bumpy skin. The fruits can also be eaten raw or cooked as a vegetable.
Pickling of Gherkins
The fruits are washed, brushed, left to sweat and then plunged in a bath of brine.
They are then rinsed to get rid of the salt. After that they are washed, blanched and immersed in spirit vinegar.
When ready, they are drained and packaged in flavoured vinegar. The vinegar can be flavoured with tarragon, pepper, dill, thyme, bay leaves, nasturtium buds or small onions.
source: (Larrouse Gastronomique).
Culinary Use of Gherkins
Gherkins are mainly pickled and used as a condiment or accompaniment to many different kinds of dishes. They can be used alongside hamburgers, cold platters, fries or in salads.
Well known recipes include Gherkins a la russe (Russian); Gherkins a la polonaise (Polish) and Gherkins a l’allemande (German).
In France and elsewhere gherkins are principally used as an accompaniment for cold meat, pâtés, terrines, charcutèrie and boiled dishes like: brisket, pastrami, salt beef and ‘poulet au pot’). (Larrouse Gastronomique)
Gherkins are also used as an ingredient in sauces like: piquante, charcutèrie, hachèe, ravigote, grebiche, and reform.
They can also be used in salads or in ‘assiette anglaise” (mixed cold meats).