My Russian dill pickles recipe makes homemade gherkins or pickled cucumbers just like my Russian grandparents used to make. While my papa and baboushka used the more traditional water bath canning method of pickling, this recipe is for easy refrigerator pickles. Faster to prepare, they taste super delicious, but won’t last nearly as long and must be kept in the fridge.
Our Russian dill pickles recipe will make you my take on the addictive homemade pickled cucumbers or gherkins that my Russian grandparents used to make using the water bath canning process for shelf-stable pickles, which can be stored anywhere over a long period, resulting in intense flavours. I’m using the quick and easy refrigerator pickles method, which must be kept in the fridge and don’t last as long, but they’re still incredibly delicious.
Baboushka would serve dishes of dill pickles with every meal, and for Sunday family feasts whole jars of the things would go on the dining table, alongside baba’s pink beetroot potato salad; crock pots full of hot boiled Russian dumplings, pelmeni and vareniki, coated in melted butter; the savoury mince filled hand-pies called piroshki, kept warm under tea-towels; baked stuffed cabbage rolls, swimming in a rich tomato sauce; and juicy Russian kotleti.
I do the same. I also include finely-diced dill pickles in my Russian devilled eggs and potato salad, also known as the Olivier salad or ensalada Rusa. I sprinkle them on top of blini with smoked salmon, sour cream and dill and buckwheat kasha with soft-boiled eggs, bacon, mushrooms, and caramelised onions. There’s a layer of pickled cucumbers in my mini mimosa salads, which I present in individual glasses. And gherkins feature in my hearty traditional Russian beef stew and Russian barley and pickle soup called rassolnik, in which the pickles and their brine are a key ingredient.
Papa would munch on homemade gherkins for breakfast with the boiled eggs he’d collected that morning from the hen-house, and crunchy radishes and sweet ripe tomatoes plucked from his backyard vegetable garden. He’d wash it all down with a shot of the homemade vodka he made with potatoes under the house, of course – which is why at the end of every breakfast papa’s cheeks glowed and his eyes sparkled.
Papa and baboushka’s dill pickles, or gherkins as we called them in Australia, were so good that I reckon had my Russian grandparents lived this long, and lived through this pandemic, they could have made a small fortune selling their cucumber pickles online. My gherkins come pretty close!
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Russian Dill Pickles Recipe for Homemade Gherkins Just Like My Grandparents Made
I’ll never forget the aroma, texture and taste of baba and papa’s dill pickles. After opening a colossal glass jar of the things, there was the perfume of fresh dill that is Russia in a whiff, the sweet and sour aromas of the brine, then the crunch and the juiciness and the ever-so-delightful tanginess of the pickled cucumbers that papa grew in his backyard veggie garden.
But I have to confess: my Russian gherkins recipe won’t make you the exact pickled cucumbers that my baba and papa made to preserve their cucumber harvests – which were so abundant, there seemed to be a never-ending supply of dill pickles. Giant glass jars of gherkins crammed shelves in pantry cupboards, were lined up with shoes at the bottom of bedroom wardrobes, and were stored beneath the house with papa’s homemade vodka.
For that intensity of flavour, you would have to use the longer-term bathing or canning process. But my Russian dill pickles recipe, using the easier and faster refrigerator pickles method, comes pretty close in flavour the longer you leave your pickled cucumbers to soak up the flavour of the vinegar, fresh dill, bay leaves, mustard seeds, and pepper corns.
Give them a try. Pickles taste great with and in so many dishes, not only Russian food. You can serve gherkins with beer battered fish and chips. Terence uses them in his homemade tartare sauce, which is the best I’ve ever tasted. They’re fantastic sliced in a whole array of burgers, and we love them alongside Morgan McClone’s Belles Hot Chicken Southern style fried chicken.
If you make my pickle cucumbers and enjoy them, do try our homemade pickled jalapeños recipe, Mexican quick pickled onions recipe, or quick pickled red cabbage recipe. Just a few tips to making this Russian dill pickles recipe.
Tips to Making This Russian Dill Pickles Recipe for Homemade Gherkins
I only have a few tips to making our Russian dill pickles recipe. Although my recipe makes quick pickles or refrigerator pickles and you don’t need to sterilise your jars, you should still make sure that the jars and your hands are super-clean, and wash your hands frequently if you’re handling anything other than the ingredients. If you don’t, you could risk spoiling your pickles.
I’ve created this recipe so that you get three different types of pickles which will pickle at different times. The whole pickles will take longer to absorb the flavours so open those last, whereas the slices and spears will soak up the flavours faster. You’ll be able to eat your smaller jar of sliced pickles first, as early as a few days, although the longer you leave them the better they’ll taste, then you can eat the spears, and lastly the whole cucumber pickles.
When it comes to your pickling jars, we love these vintage mason jars but I also use these clip-top Kilner jars, and we also repurpose jars for recycling for pickling. I love to make a mix of pickles in different sized jars so we can gift some jars and keep others for our own use. We eat a lot of pickles.
As for vinegar, I like to use a distilled white vinegar for these pickles. Some people prefer to use cider vinegar which I use for Mexican pickles, and that’s fine, too. You can also try a combination of the two.
We recommend using sea salt but you could also use Kosher salt. Just don’t use fine grained table salt or iodised salt as this typically contains potassium iodide, dextrose and chemicals, such as calcium silicate and sodium silicoaluminate, which will give you a cloudy brine and a ‘muddy’ look, while the potassium iodide can cause the pickles to darken in colour.
Russian Dill Pickles Recipe
- 2 ½ tbsp caster sugar
- 2 ½ tbsp sea salt
- 300 ml boiling water
- 10 garlic cloves peeled
- 2 tbsp black peppercorns
- 2 tbsp yellow mustard seeds
- 100 g fresh dill
- 1 kg small pickling cucumbers cleaned
- 700 ml distilled vinegar
- Prepare three sterilised jars: a 1 litre / 33 oz jar for the whole cucumbers, a 750 ml / 25 oz jar for the cucumber spears, and a 180 ml / 6 oz jar for the cucumber slices (or thereabouts: essentially you want a large, medium and small jar)
- Put 1 tablespoon of caster sugar in the 1 litre jar, ¾ of a tablespoon of caster sugar in the 750 ml jar, and one teaspoon of caster sugar in the 180 ml jar; then do the same with the sea salt, using the same measurements for each jar.
- Pour approximately 150 ml of boiling water into the 1 litre jar, around 125 ml of boiling water into the 750 ml jar, and about 30 ml of boiling water into the 180 ml jar, stir each vigorously, starting with the largest jar to the smallest jar, until the sugar and salt have dissolved.
- Distribute half the garlic cloves between the jars, two in each of the large jars, and one in the small jar, then use roughly the same ratio to distribute one tablespoon of black peppercorns and a tablespoon of mustard seeds between the three jars, and lastly, break up the fresh dill into large sprigs, and distribute half the dill between all three jars.
- Starting with the largest jar, fill it with whole cucumbers until it’s jam-packed and you can’t squeeze another cucumber into the jar, and the cucumbers can’t move. Then move onto the second largest jar: slice enough whole cucumbers to fit the jar into four lengths or ‘spears’ per cucumber, then transfer the lengths to the jar, squeezing them in until you can’t fit anymore into the jar. Lastly, slice the remaining cucumbers into rounds and lay them in the jar.
- Distribute the remaining garlic cloves, black peppercorns and mustard seeds between the three jars, using roughly the same ratio as before, and slide the remaining fresh dill sprigs down the side of the jars, saving some dill for the top of each jar.
- Pour distilled vinegar into each jar so that the cucumbers are completely covered, then seal the jars and refrigerator. When the cucumbers and dill have changed colour from bring green to a khaki colour, they’ll be ready to eat, however, they’ll taste better the longer you leave them. We recommend a minimum of a week before opening them, and after opening they should be good for a month or so. Enjoy!
Please do let us know in the comments below if you make our Russian dill pickles recipe, as we’d love to know how they turn out for you. We’d also appreciate it if you can take a second to leave a rating.