These pickles are preserved in pure white wine vinegar, as they are in France. Their sour bite is wonderful with cured or roasted meats or pates. Use gherkin cucumbers or the smallest pickling cucumbers you can find.
8 cups gherkins or tiny pickling cucumbers (2 1/2 lb/1.125 kg)
1/3 cup pickling salt or kosher salt
4 1/4 cups white wine vinegar
4 fresh grape leaves (optional)
12 sprigs fresh tarragon
4 small bay leaves
4 shallots, cut in rounds
2 small cloves garlic, each cut in 4 slices
24 black peppercorns
12 whole allspice
4 whole cloves
Scrub gherkins in 2 changes of cold water, rubbing off any prickles or blemishes. Trim off blossom ends.
Pat gherkins dry; in large glass or stainless-steel bowl, toss gherkins with salt. Let stand for 4 to 6 hours, stirring often. Drain and rinse under cold water. Return to bowl; cover with cold water and soak for 8 minutes. Drain well; pat dry.
Meanwhile, in saucepan, bring vinegar to boil.
Into each of 4 hot 2-cup (500 mL) canning jars, place 1 grape leaf (if using), 3 tarragon sprigs, 1 bay leaf, one-eighth of the shallots, 1 slice garlic, 6 peppercorns, 3 allspice and 1 clove.
Pack gherkins into jars to within ¾ inch (2 cm) of rim; top with remaining shallots and garlic. Divide hot vinegar among jars to cover gherkins, leaving ½-inch (1 cm) headspace. Remove any air bubbles.
Cover with prepared discs. Screw on bands until resistance is met; increase to fingertip tight. Boil in boiling water canner for 12 minutes.
Turn off heat. Uncover and let jars stand in canner for 5 minutes. Lift up rack. With canning tongs, transfer jars to cooling rack; let cool for 24 hours.
Makes four 2-cup (500 mL) jars.
Tip: The grape leaves are a traditional addition to help the pickles stay crisp; either cultivated or wild grape leaves are fine to use. We cut off the blossom ends of the cucumbers, which contain a softening enzyme, so the grape leaves are not absolutely necessary.
Excerpted from Canadian Living: The Complete Preserving Book by The Canadian Living Test Kitchen Copyright © 2012 by Transcontinental Books. Photograph Copyright © 2012 by Edward Pond. Excerpted by permission of Random House of Canada Limited on behalf of Transcontinental. All rights reserved.