Pickled Dill Cucumbers and Pickled Cucumber Salad


Pantry-filling season has started for good. This weekend was cucumber pickling time. Cucumbers pickled in vinegared brine are easy, relatively quick and the seasoning possibilities are endless. After several years and at least a dozen different experiments (including such exotic versions like curry powder or Sichuan pepper and more basic, with bay leaves or allspice), I have decided to stick to my oldest recipe, with dill playing the most important role. I also prefer them slightly more acid than most people, but dill and garlic are the ones which give the typical traditional flavours of Polish pickled cucumbers. This time I was extremely lucky to have fresh horseradish, but it can be omitted.

Short, hard, prickly cucumbers, also called “gherkins”, are the only ones that can be pickled whole, but they might be difficult or impossible to find in some countries, so if you feel like pickling, but have access only to other smooth skinned, softer varieties, try this fabulous Moomins’ Pickled Cucumber Salad (which can be prepared with gherkins too):

Moomins' Pickled Cucumber Salad
Moomins’ Pickled Cucumber Salad

I have actually made both preserves this weekend, the second one with long smooth cucumbers. Click here to check this pickled salad recipe (I have already written about it last year). I have found the recipe in a charming book called Moomins Coookbook. An Introduction to Finnish Cuisine. The original recipe called for short gherkins but I discovered that any cucumber can be used instead with equally good results. The salad is sweeter and milder than whole pickled cucumbers.

If you feel like making short-term Japanese pickles, you might like this quick and easy Kyuuri no Kyuuchan (Cucumber Pickled with Soy Sauce and Ginger):

Kyuuri no Kyuuchan
Kyuuri no Kyuuchan

TIPS: Horseradish is not necessary, but if you can get it, it will improve the taste of dill pickles.Both preserves, the pickled whole cucumbers and the salad, can be made as short-term pickles and kept in the fridge without being processed, but I think it’s worth trying traditional long-term preserves.

My favourite dill parts here are long, thick old branches, flower crowns and/or seeds, but – unless you live in a country where many people prepare pickles with dill – you need to grow your own dill and wait until it flowers. If you have access to young fresh dill only, you can use it too (fresh or dried).

The seasonings’ amounts below are just an example of what you can put into one liter jars. Of course you can change them as you wish, but don’t put too much mustard seeds, peppercorns, horseradish or garlic cloves: they might make the taste too harsh or too bitter. It’s difficult to say how much dill you can put… the younger the dill the less aromatic. I have always used thick “old” dill branches, stalks, flower crowns and seeds, approximately one long branch (20 cm/about 8 in) and one crown per jar.

You can add more sugar to the brine if you prefer sweet pickles, but don’t dilute the vinegar (a certain acidity or/and sugar level is obligatory to preserve food).

Preparation: about 1 hour

Ingredients (yields at least 5 x 1 litre jars, but everything depends on the jars’ size, shape, the cucumbers’ size, etc.): 

2 kg (4 lbs) short, hard pickling cucumbers (“gherkins”)

10 flat tablespoons sugar

2,5 heaped tablespoons salt

2 litres (about 8 cups) vinegar (I have used 4,5% white wine vinegar; if your vinegar is more acid, use more water accordingly)

500 ml (about 2 cups) water

yellow mustard seeds

garlic cloves (peeled)

dill branches, stalks, “crowns” (flowering dill) or seeds, preferably dried (if you have only young fresh dill, it will be ok too but a bit less strong in aroma)


(fresh horseradish, peeled and cut into small pieces, about 1/2 garlic clove size)

Prepare clean, sterilised, dry jars (washing in the dish washer at 70°C is enough), checking if the lids don’t have any trace of rust.

In each empty jar place 1/2 teaspoon of mustard seeds, 3-4 peppercorns, some dill, 2 garlic cloves and, if you have, two-three horseradish pieces).

Wash the cucumbers well and dry them.

Put them into the jars not higher than 3/4 of the jars’ height.

Combine the vinegar, the water, the sugar and the salt. Bring to a boil, stirring from time to time, and let it simmer for 5 minutes.

Put aside the brine and after about 10 – 15 minutes fill the jars with it, very slowly (if you are afraid they might break, wait until the brine is no longer hot; personally I have never broken a single jar this way) up to about 2 cm/about 2/3 inch from the jar’s edge.

Do not worry if you see that the cucumbers stick a bit out of the brine. If you have respected the above instructions (cucumbers packed only up to 3/4 of the jar’s height and brine stops 2 cm below the jar’s edge), the cucumbers will have space at the bottom of the jar and they will gradually fall down after being processed.

Close tightly the jars and put them aside until they are cool (I usually leave them overnight).

/At this point you can (after the jars have cooled down)  either keep them in the fridge for a couple of weeks or process as described below and store in your pantry for at least a year. The below method is the way me and lots of people I know have been processing pickles, but choose any method you know and prefer./

Place the cool jars into a big pan, bottom lined with an old kitchen towel folded in two (this will prevent the jars from breaking), cover up with hot – but not boiling – water to the level just below the lid. Bring to a boil and keep on a very low heat, in simmering water, for around 20 minutes.

Stick on self-adhesive labels, write the name of the pickles and don’t forget to mark the date. If you  experiment with different vinegar or sugar amounts or seasonings, mark the different versions on the label. This way you will know what suits your taste buds best for next year!


34 Replies to “Pickled Dill Cucumbers and Pickled Cucumber Salad”

  1. Have to smile on this late winter night: remember being a tiny tot with a big white apron tied around me, standing on a kitchen step filling up dozens and dozens of jars for the season: well, until it came to the hot brine . . . !!! Lovely simple variation to make next when I get the right cucumbers: so much more ‘real’ than what one buys in the shop 🙂 !

    1. Thank you so much, Eha. I’m glad pickled cucumbers also bring back your childhood memories.

  2. Small unpickled cucumbers are probably little hard to find here but small pickled cucumbers are really easy to find. Many supermarkets also have them unpacked – where you decide how much to take.
    The last cucumber I bought weighed 550 grams – I will need a really really large container to pickle this whole:)

    1. This is unfortunately the result of mass production, supermarkets’ domination, the constant search for convenience, etc.. It’s more and more difficult to get certain fruits and vegetables and yet they do exist in every supermarket, but already transformed.
      On the other hand, maybe they can be found at Swedish markets? I find them here only at the farmers’ market.
      Moomins’ salad is a solution for any type of cucumber.

  3. I love the refreshing flavor of the pickles…you just reminded me that I have not make pickles for a while…
    Great pictures Sissi…
    Thanks for the recipe and have a fabulous week ahead 😀

    1. Thanks a lot, Juliana. Pickling is an obligatory stage in my kitchen every summer and autumn.

  4. Oh Sissi is in her pickling mode! Goodie Goodie! These are some great looking pickles. I love it that you use the dill stalks and not just the seeds. I can certainly see how horseradish would enhance the flavor; but then I love horseradish. 🙂 Great jar of pickles!

    1. Thank you so much, MJ. (I was worried the photos would be awful… It’s not easy to photograph pickles…). Actually dill stalks have much more aroma than seeds (in my opinion). They don’t look very attractive in the jar and fetching cucumbers might be a bit messy, but it’s worth it.
      It’s the first time I have managed to have fresh horseradish at the same time I pickle cucumbers, so I’m curious if the difference will be big…

    1. Hi, Nipponnin. I’m so happy to learn you are also a Moomins’ fan! You should try making the Moomins’ salad 😉 Kyuuri no kyuuchan is one of my favourite short-term pickles too.

  5. Sissi, I’m so thrilled to find this awesome recipe for the pickle cucumbers. I copied and printed it out and planning to make it real soon. We have Gherkins cucumbers all year round, so it will be easy for me to obtain it; the only ingredient I will not be able to get is the fresh horseradish…would have to wait till December for that, when Hanukkah is here! How about bottled horseradish?…same thing just shredded and is readily available.

    My method is almost the same w/out the horseradish, but yours is more thorough and is explained better. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you so much, Elisabeth. I am so happy to learn your recipe is the same (on the other hand this one is quite basic…). In Poland many people add fresh horseradish to cucumber pickles (also fermented cucumbers), but unfortunately here it’s difficult to find it, especially at the time the small cucumbers are finally available, so it was the first time I added it. I hope it will improve the taste, but all my previous jars didn’t contain it and were delicious too. I will tell you in a couple of months if the horseradish changes anything.
      Bottled horseradish is already transformed, so I would definitely not add it here. You can add the dried one if you can buy it.

  6. You already know how much I love pickling- cucumbers especially, completely addicted. I kind of favour the sweet pickled ones, so I tend to make the Asian quick pickles a lot more, but love that this dill pickled one alsp has an option for making it sweeter if we like. I can’t wait to try this out! Already imagining this in a sandwich with some sliced beef tongue maybe (yes may seem weird but I acutally have tongue in my freezer from making a dish for a cookbook earlier..) Yum!

    1. Hi, Shuhan. Yes, I remember your Asian sweet pickles! They looked great too. I must say that, like a squirrel, I love making stock for the winter and opening a jar of my own pickles… On the other hand such short-term pickles as kyuuri no kyuuchan are also a big passion of mine.
      I hope you can make some long-term jars too! (Some of my long-term pickles require at least several weeks to mature, so if you decide to make even short term versions, make sure you don’t eat them the following day!).
      I’m not very fond of beef tongue, but it doesn’t scare me (very few edible cuts scare me!). I had an excellent Korean style starter/appetiser made with beef tongue in a ramen bar in Tokyo. I ate half of it and only then realised it was beef tongue. The best I have ever had!

  7. This brings me back memories of grandma pickling cucumber (along with many other things) each summer. There’s nothing better in winter than to enjoy homemade pickles.
    p.s. love the addition of horseradish!

    1. Thank you so much, Robert-Gilles. I am actually experimenting a half-Japanese half-European version of long-term pickles… I will write about it soon!

  8. Hi Sissi, my wife recently made some pickled carrots and also a variety of pickled cucumber which involved grating the cucumber first… sadly all the cucumber floated on the surface and moulded after a few days since we had nothing to keep it down with. I’d love to try pickling whole cucumbers though (or, well… mini ones)… I love to eat them on their own… they’re a wonderful snack, but you know… now I think about it… never in my whole life have I seen gherkins for sale. Where did you find them?

    1. Hi, Charles. If you need any advice about pickling and preserving in general, I’m not an expert, but have a huge experience, so I hope I could help. Has your wife made fermented pickles or vinegar pickles? Salt brined ones require being submerged in the brine indeed. Otherwise they catch the wrong bacteria. The cucumbers are sold simply on farmers markets. When I used to visit my family living not far away from Paris I also made tiny cornichons because a lady sold them on one of their markets. Here only the bigger gherkins are sold, but you have to visit the market regularly. They have a short season (several weeks) and since most people don’t preserve anything, it’s not something you will find at every stall 😉 You might still find them now, in my opinion. (I still saw them a couple of days ago).

  9. I love how all different cultures have their own versions of pickled food for preservation! Dill pickles are such a classic—I never understood the people who say “hold the pickles.” Must have been divine with horseradish…

    1. Thank you so much, Irina. I think there is something magical in the way preserved food changes into something different and often surprising. Cucumbers – both big and small – are so shy and neutral when raw, but they become irresistible when pickled, in any way. Preserving is so easy and some recipes are so quick… I am always surprised to see that even people who spend long hours cooking complicated dishes never give preserves a try.

  10. Maybe it’s the Korean in me, but I LOVE LOVE pickled vegetables. I love the crunch. I love the taste. These look yummy! Now you have me craving pickles. 😀 Thanks Sissi!

    1. Thank you so much, Gomo. I’m glad you are also a fan of pickles. You won’t believe me, but I have now both the Japanese kyuuri no kyuuchan and cabbage kimchi in the fridge 😉

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