Classic French Cornichon Pickles

Cornichons
Cornichons.

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  • 20 mins
  • Prep: 5 mins,
  • Cook: 15 mins
  • Yield: Serves 12 to 16
Ratings (21)

Pickles are not a huge part of French cooking, but cornichons certainly have their role alongside pâtés and terrines, raclettes and meats, and cheese and charcuterie plates. French cornichons are tiny pickles—about the size of your pinky finger—and have a bumpy exterior. The taste is tart and the texture is crunchy, perfect served on appetizer platters, with smoked meat and fish, and added to deviled eggs or a sandwich.

In England these small pickles are called gherkins; the cornichon is actually made from a few different types of the gherkin plant. Although finding the right kind of cucumber here in the U.S. may be challenging, the recipe itself is simple to make. Just keep in mind the cornichons will need to sit after canning for 3 to 4 weeks.

What You'll Need

  • 2 pounds fin de meaux cucumbers (2-inches long is best), or pickling cucumbers cut into 1/2-inch spears
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt, divided
  • 2 cups white distilled vinegar
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped white onion
  • 1 clove garlic (peeled and halved)
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons black peppercorns
  • 2 cloves
  • 2 bay leaves

How to Make It

  1. In a large bowl, toss the cucumbers in 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of the salt. Arrange the cucumbers in a single layer on paper towels or clean kitchen towels to allow the salt to draw the moisture out of the cucumbers. Let sit for 90 minutes. Rinse the cucumbers thoroughly.
  2. In a medium non-reactive saucepan, heat the vinegar, 2 cups water, and the remaining salt to a boil over medium-high heat.
  3. Sterilize two 1-pint jars, along with their lids and rings, and keep them hot until ready to fill with the pickling mixture.
  1. Divide the onion, garlic, chopped dill, peppercorns, cloves, and bay leaves between the 2 sterilized jars.
  2. Pack the cucumbers into the jars, leaving 1/2-inch of headspace. Fill the jars with the hot vinegar mixture, leaving 1/4-inch headspace from the top of the jars.
  3. Tap the jars to remove any air bubbles, cap the jars, and process them for 10 minutes in a boiling-water canner. Cool the jars and store them in a cool, dark place for at least 3 to 4 weeks before opening.

Tips and Variations

One of the more popular varieties of cucumbers used for cornichons are the fin de meaux cucumbers, but a type called Parisienne Cornichon de Bourbonne Cucumbers is also commonly used. If you are having trouble finding the French varieties, but are determined to make authentic cornichons, you can buy the seeds and grow them yourself. Obviously, you will have to have quite a bit of patience as this method will take much longer than the 3- to 4-week canning time!

If you do not have a canner, then place the jars into a large pot of water, bring to the boil for 10 minutes, switch off the heat, and then carefully remove the jars from the water. 

Recipes Using Cornichons

Cornichons have their place in sauces such as tartar sauce, remoulade sauce, and charcutiere sauce, a French finishing sauce often used with meat dishes. But you will also find this little pickle featured in certain regional dishes like Southern-style deviled eggs, and making an unexpected but welcome appearance in a steak salad recipe.

Cornichons also are a part of German cuisine and appear in two German specialties: German pasta salad is a typical party dish featuring bologna, cheese, and eggs with a creamy dressing, and in German beef rouladen, thin slices of beef are rolled around a mixture of cornichon, mustard, onion, and bacon.

Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
Calories 29
Total Fat 0 g
Saturated Fat 0 g
Unsaturated Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium 3,542 mg
Carbohydrates 6 g
Dietary Fiber 1 g
Protein 1 g
(The nutrition information on our recipes is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. Individual results may vary.)