Homemade German Mustard Pickles (Senfgurken)

Gherkins, dill, salt and mustard grains
Getty Images/Westend61
Prep: 35 mins
Cook: 5 mins
Refrigerate: 24 hrs
Total: 24 hrs 40 mins
Servings: 50 servings
Yield: 2 to 3 quarts

This recipe for homemade German pickles (senfgurken) with mustard, dill, and other herbs and spices yields the Berlin specialty called spreewälder gurken. Unlike the classic dill pickles found in American grocery stores, these pickles pack peeled chunks of cucumber in a sweet-and-tangy brine. Removing the peel allows the brine to more quickly penetrate the cucumbers, resulting in an intensely flavored pickle.

Use pickling cucumbers to can these for longer storage or English cucumbers to make refrigerator pickles that keep for a couple of weeks. Canned pickles become quite soft over time, but they keep for up to a year stored in a cool, dark area if processed in a hot water bath. Otherwise, they can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a few weeks.

This recipe makes good use of a farmers market haul or the bounty from your backyard garden. And you need not limit yourself to cucumbers; you can pickle zucchini, carrots, beans, asparagus, and snap or snow pea pods in the same brine.


  • 4 1/2 pounds pickling cucumbers, or English cucumbers

  • 1 yellow onion, sliced

  • 4 sprigs fresh dill

  • 2 cups white wine vinegar

  • 2 cups water

  • 2 1/2 cups sugar

  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard seed

  • 6 juniper berries

  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds

  • 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns

  • 1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds

  • 1/4 teaspoon dill seed

  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice berries

  • 1 bay leaf, crumbled

  • 4 cloves garlic

  • 1/8 teaspoon confectioners' ginger

  • 2 tablespoons salt

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Peel the cucumbers, cut them in half lengthwise, scrape out the seeds, and cut them into 1/2-inch chunks.

  3. Layer the cucumber chunks in 2 to 3 sterilized quart canning jars with the sliced onion and fresh dill sprigs.

  4. In a large nonreactive (no aluminum) saucepan, bring the white-wine vinegar, water, sugar, and remaining herbs and spices to a boil. Cook for 3 minutes or until the sugar and salt dissolve.

  5. Pour the hot brine over the cucumbers to within 1/4 inch of the jar rim. Screw the caps on tightly and allow the jars to cool completely. Store them in the refrigerator for up to a few weeks. Or process them in a hot water bath according to your equipment's instructions and they can be stored in a cool dark area for up to one year.


  • Take the time to sterilize your canning jars even for refrigerator pickles you plan to consume within a short time. You can make the process easy by running clean jars and lids through a hot dishwasher cycle without soap or other items, or you can boil the empty jars and lids in a large canning pot for 15 minutes. The USDA recommends the water bath method before canning produce for long-term storage.
  • For a more rustic presentation and increasingly stronger flavor over time, retain the herbs and spices in the brine when you pour it into the jars. For a slightly more refined pickle and more stable flavor, strain the brine before adding it to the jars.
  • Enjoy the pickles after 24 hours or let the flavors further develop for a more robust taste.