—by Monica Rojas
Cornichon (pronounced kor-nee'-sho(n) is a French word literally translating to “little horn.” The assumed first use of the word was in 1928. They are a crisp, tart gherkin cucumber usually flavored with tarragon. In England they are simply called gherkins. These small pickles, usually only a couple of inches long, originate from French cuisine, though they can now be found all over the world. Though you can grow them here, seeds are hard to get, and the gherkins must be watched and picked quickly before they mature, otherwise their nubs grow into spikes.
Normally soaked in a brine of white wine vinegar, salt, pearl onions, and tarragon, gherkins make little pickles that are sweet and tangy. They can be used in a variety of ways. Most commonly they are used as an appetizer for guests, usually paired with cheese. A very popular combination is cornichons and raclette cheese, a pungent cheese from Switzerland. Other uses for them are chopped up in deviled egg mixtures, and sliced and put in sandwiches. They are also used to garnish many meat dishes, pork being one of the most common.
Here’s a recipe for making pickled cornichons, but you can also buy them at Hampden Park Co-op.
cornichon pickling cucumbers
white wine vinegar
sterilized pint canning jars, bands, and lids
Pick or purchase cornichon pickling cucumbers about two inches long and the width of a child’s finger. Rinse them lightly, then rub the skins dry. A kitchen towel works best.
Sterilize jars according to the manufacturer’s directions. Put as many of the little cornichon cucumbers as you can into your jars along with 15 to 20 pearl onions, part of a hot pepper, a few peppercorns, fresh tarragon, and one tablespoon of kosher salt.
Fill the jars with white wine vinegar. Store in a cool, dark place. Your cornichons will be ready in about one week and will last for several months in the fridge. Perfect with a sandwich or cheese in a hot summer day’s picnic dinner.
[Monica Rojas likes to eat food, knit hats, and see people try new things.]
Martha Stewart’s Crème Fraîche Deviled Eggs
4 hard-boiled eggs
3 tablespoons crème fraîche (French sour cream)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
4 cornichons, minced (about 1tablespoon)
Peel hard-boiled eggs and cut them lengthwise. Carefully remove yolks and place in a bowl. Set whites aside. Mash yolks with a fork.
Add crème fraîche, mustard, and cornichons to yolks and mix. Season with salt and pepper.
Fill the eight reserved egg-white halves with the filling and serve.
Charcutière Sauce Recipe
(An accompaniment for grilled pork and other meat dishes.)
1 quart demi-glaze*
½ cup chopped onions
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup white wine
2 teaspoons dry mustard
½ teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
¼ cup chopped cornichons
In a small bowl, combine the sugar and lemon juice, and stir until the sugar is dissolved.
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter and cook the onions until soft and translucent, but don’t let them turn brown.
Add the wine, heat until the liquid boils, lower the heat a bit and continue simmering until the liquid has reduced by two-thirds.
Add the demi-glaze, then lower heat to a simmer and reduce for about 10 minutes.
Strain through a mesh strainer; add the mustard and the sugar-lemon mixture. Garnish with chopped cornichons and serve right away.
Makes about one quart of Charcutière Sauce.
*for a recipe for demi-glaze, go to http://culinaryarts.about.com/od/sauces/r/demiglaze.htm.