Gherkins Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything


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Nutritional Information (per 100g):

  • 305kcal
  • 10g Protein
  • 70g Carbohydrate
  • 15g Fibre
  • 5g Fat

A Little Bit of History

The gherkin is commonly found in slices littering an area of roughly one square mile around any fast food restaurant. However, this is not their natural state. In fact it isn't their natural state to be in fast food restaurants at all. The pickled gherkin is a pickled cucumber, and not a gherkin. There is no such thing as an un-pickled gherkin. But, nevertheless, if you take a young cucumber and preserve it in a jar of vinegar it becomes a gherkin.

Gherkins are believed to have been the first ever pickle and were enjoyed 4500 years ago in Mesopotamia. Cleopatra was a fan of pickles, as she believed that they would enhance her beauty. Roman legionnaires and Napoleon's troops all enjoyed their pickles too, and during the Second World War 40% of all pickles produced in the US were earmarked for the Armed Forces - it would seem that the humble gherkin is a serious aid to warfare.

The Perfect Gherkin

The perfect gherkin should have a length to diameter ratio of 3:1 with the perfect length being between two to four inches; this way you can store more in a typical canning jar. The perfect gherkin should also exhibit seven warts per square inch if you are serving them in North America (Europeans prefer them wartless). When pickling a cucumber to make a gherkin you should prick them once or twice so that the flavours penetrate better. You can even experiment by adding garlic or whole chillies to get different flavours.

A Recipe

If you would like to try your hand at making gherkins, why not try this recipe:

Home Style Brine Recipe

Utensils Needed

  • Large non-metallic mixing bowl
  • 12 quart pot
  • 1 litre mason jars - as many as fit in your pot
  • 1 litre measuring cup and measuring spoon


  • Salt - lots (see below)
  • Garlic - 4 cloves (peeled and chopped)
  • Dill - 2 tablespoons (chopped)
  • Optional: hot banana peppers - 1/4 cupful (sliced)
  • White distilled vinegar (6% Acid) - enough to fill all your jars
  • Fresh Pickling Cucumbers - as many as will fit in your jars

Make sure that the salt doesn't have iodine in it as an anti-caking agent as this will turn your gherkins a funny colour


  1. Mix the garlic, dill and vinegar together in the bowl (add the hot banana peppers at this point if you want to).

  2. Add salt to the mixture - continue adding until no more salt will dissolve.

  3. Pack cucumbers tightly into the jars (whole or sliced).

  4. Pour the brine mixture into the jars until they are full to 1/4 inch from the brim.

  5. Close the caps tightly and place the jars upright into the pot (do not stack the jars).

  6. Fill the pot with tap water to a depth of about one to two inches over the jars and bring the water to a slow boil.

  7. Continue boiling for 5 minutes then remove the pot from the heat.

  8. Begin adding cold tap water slowly so the pot overflows (Caution: adding cold water too quickly may crack the jars).

  9. Continue pouring in cold water until jars are cool enough to hold.

  10. Remove jars and store in a cool, dark place.

Your gherkins will be ready to eat the next day.

Nowadays, the most likely place to come across a gherkin is in any fast food restaurant. More specifically, they are found in the burgers. Some people claim to like them but most will just discard them almost immediately. Burger Star (a small English fast food chain), however, supply gherkins on the side with all the other relishes, which is a happy compromise.

Not just for Eating

Gherkins, along with other pickles, have a strange property. If you were to connect two electrodes to a gherkin and pass an electrical current through it, it will glow. Experiments have been performed and the results show that this is true.

However, gherkins are not going to become the new light bulb any time soon. Initial experiments with gherkins were disappointing as they only glowed in a localised area around one electrode. Other more spherical pickled items were found to be better and glowed more, probably due to their shape.

On a final note it's worth mentioning that May is International Pickle Month, so make a point in May to enjoy a gherkin!

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