Senfgurken (German Mustard Pickles)

 

Are you ready for pickles with no skin and no seeds? You can even do this to the big salad cucumbers you normally would never use for pickles, and come away with something amazing!

I love this recipe for a lot of reasons. One is that, although it is not fermented, the trade-off is that it can be ready in as little as 24 hours. Ferments take upwards of a week. (But note that if you take out most or all of the sugar, replace the vinegar with water, and add an extra 1/2 TBSP salt to the recipe below, you can absolutely use this as a delicious ferment recipe.)

Another plus is that it will work on any type of cuke, and is especially good for the big salad slicer cukes that normally are terrible for pickles.

I am big into vegetable gardening. I’ve had it happen plenty of times that a cuke can be camouflaged and then overlooked until it’s seemingly too big to eat, especially for pickle making. They can even be at the point where they are turning yellow. Other times, we intentionally allow them to ripen this much, as this is a key step in saving seed correctly to regrow them the next year.

In the past, you likely tossed cukes like this. With this recipe, those days are over. You won’t believe how the flesh stays crispy even going through this process.

What’s more, these Berlin specialty pickles are absolutely delicious.

So let’s get going!

This recipe is for a quart jar of pickles. For a half gallon, just double the quantities of everything. The shelf life of vinegar pickles is usually at least a couple months, potentially much longer.

You will need:

  • Peeler
  • Knife & cutting board
  • Measuring cups & spoons
  • Quart or half gallon jar
  • Medium saucepan
  • Stirring spoon
  • Mortar & pestle to coarsely grind the spices (optional)
  • Canning funnel (recommended)
The wonderful spice blend, sugar, water, vinegar, dill, onions, and some large garden cukes, including the “White Wonder” variety

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 lbs. large, salad slicer, or overripe cucumbers (for smaller variety cukes, just peel, removed the seeds, and cut into chunks)
  • 1 small onion, peeled and thin-sliced (~125 g after peeled)
  • 4-5 sprigs fresh dill

For the brine:

  • 1 cup filtered or distilled water
  • 1 cup white wine vinegar (or just white vinegar)
  • 3/4 cup sugar (round down to 1/2 of 1/4 cup or less if sugar is a concern; or omit but note the change in flavor profile)
  • 1 TBSP salt
  • 1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds (substitute with 1.5 tsp yellow mustard if black not available)
  • 4-5 juniper berries
  • 1/4 tsp whole coriander seeds
  • 1/4 tsp whole black peppercorns
  • 1/4 tsp whole allspice berries
  • 1/4 tsp powdered ginger
  • 2-3 cloves
  • 1 bay leaf, crushed
  • pinch of caraway seeds (about 1/8 tsp)

Notes on brine:

You can omit any of the spices except the mustard seeds, which is at the heart of the flavor of these pickles. You can also add other items, like garlic or hot pepper slices, if you like.

If you don’t want to bother dealing with spices at the top of your pickles (as shown in the title picture), and you prefer them at the bottom of the jar, place them in before any of the onion or cucumbers. In this case, the hot brine will just be water, vinegar, sugar, and salt. I prefer to boil the spices in the brine for increased flavor, and then pushing down most of the spices the first time I open the jar. I scoop out and discard the dill when I’m ready to start eating these. After that, if you shake up the jar, most of the seeds will then go to the bottom.

Directions:

1.) Peel and slice the onion; peel the cucumbers.

2.) Cut the cucumbers in half length-wise. Scoop out all the seeds and soft inner flesh of the cucumbers.

3.) To make more manageable size pieces for the jar, cut the strips of cucumber in half vertically again, resulting in a spear. (Then cut these spears in half horizontally to fit if using a quart jar; you don’t need to do this when using a tall half gallon jar.)

Cut slices again across the middle to fit them in a quart jar

4.) Alternate layers of cucumbers and onions until the jar is filled. Then top the jar with the dill.

5.) Place all the spices in the mortar & pestle and coarsely grind. In the saucepan, combine water, vinegar, sugar, salt, and add the spices. Turn heat to high and stir until the salt and sugar has dissolved. Turn down heat and allow to simmer, covered, for a few more minutes.

6.) When ready to pour in the hot brine, place the canning funnel (if you have one) on the packed jar. Give the brine one good stir and pour the spice-filled brine into the jar. There may be a small amount of excess brine remaining. Seal the jar lid tightly.

7.) Allow to stand at room temperature for an hour or so, then place in the refrigerator. Wait at least 24 hours before eating. Wait several days to a week for a stronger, more mustardy flavor (recommended if you can hold out).

8.) When you first open the jar, remove the dill (you might lose some spices too but it’s fine).

That’s it! Let me know what you think. If you make these – especially with any twists in the recipe – please show us on our Insane Facebook group.

8 Comments

  1. Kirsten Liegmann

    I just want to tell you: I am over the moon. I grew up with Senfgurken in Germany, and, since moving to the US, it was one of the things I always looked forward to having when I went back to visit my dad. I followed your recipe exactly, AAAAAAND they taste exactly like the ones I got at home. I am sooooo happy! And now I got my husband and a girlfriend addicted to them as well :-). Thank you so much for this recipe!!!

     
    • Wow! That’s such an amazing thing to hear. I really appreciate it and am so happy you liked them. I have a new senfgurken recipe coming which I LOVE, it will be going in a cookbook I’m writing. Hopefully out in 5-6 months.

       
  2. Very well done recipe, taste just like in Germany! I’m intentionally letting my cucumbers grow big and yellow for making this in large quantities for my family. Thank you!

     
  3. Kirsten Liegmann

    Daniel, Do you know how long these last if unopened and do they have to go into the fridge? I’m running out of room :-I

     
    • The recipe given was as a refrigerator “quick pickle.” Since the instructions didn’t include a formal canning procedure, as is they should go into the fridge to avoid spoilage. However, this recipe can be modified to use a water bath canning technique for long-term room temperature storage.

       
  4. Absolutely beautiful! I add some turmeric for colour, they taste like I remember them growing up, had not eaten them in 40 years (since emigrating to Australia). Thank you so much for putting this recipe on the Web!!!

     

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*