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Pickled cornichons

During the summer months at The Cook's Atelier, we cook, entertain, and enjoy teaching our cooking classes. You will find us fermenting heirloom tomato seeds for next year's garden, canning, pickling and enjoying the never-ending task of making jam. The markets are in full swing and are bursting at the seams with the flavors of summer and it is difficult to control the urge to purchase one of everything. On our list for the market are ingredients for duck rillettes; one of the classics of French charcuterie, sweet tiny Gariguette strawberries for this week's jam, and a crate of organic peaches to make pickled peaches for my upcoming cooking class on charcuterie.

At the summer market, we are always on the lookout for Madame Petit's table. Madame Petit is one of our favorite market vendors at the Saturday market in Beaune and the best place for fresh eggs. Each week she brings a basket filled with eggs from the hens she keeps in her yard. You have to arrive early though, so you don't miss out, as they are usually gone by 9 am. In addition to her fresh eggs, she always has a few little baskets filled with things from her garden. You never know quite what to expect. Depending on the season, you might find blackberries, haricot verts, walnuts or a fresh rabbit from Monsieur Petit's morning hunt. One of our favorites are her tiny cornichons (for making little French pickles). She is always quick to spot our enthusiasm and saves some for us. She even scribbled down her recipe for pickled cornichons for us the first time we purchased them. .

Summer is ideal with its light dinners alfresco and chilled rosé. We make sure to carve out time to preserve these favors of summer by stocking our larder so we can be sure to savor summer during the cold winter months. Cornichons make the list every year.

Pickled Cornichons
Inspired by Madame Petit
Makes 2 quarts

2 pounds cornichons
1 cup coarse sea salt
several sprigs of fresh thyme and tarragon
6 garlic cloves, peeled
bay leaf, one per jar
whole peppercorns, a pinch per jar
2 quarts distilled white vinegar, preferably organic
1/2-inch slice of lemon, preferably organic, one per jar

Wash the cornichons in several changes of cold water while rubbing them to remove the dirt from the garden and the prickly part of their skin. Place them in a large colander and sprinkle them liberally with the course sea salt. Toss to distribute the salt evenly and let them stand in the colander, in the sink or over a bowl, for two hours to drain. The salt will help remove the moisture from the cornichons and allow them to soak up the brine.

Dry the cornichons with a clean, dry kitchen towel, leaving some of the salt. Transfer to clean jars. Arrange the cornichons, thyme, tarragon, garlic, bay leaf and whole peppercorns in each jar. Heat the vinegar and pour it over the cornichons making sure to cover them completely. Let cool completely, uncovered. Place a lemon on top of each jar and give it a shake or two. Refrigerate at least 10 days. You can give them a taste within the first few days, but keep in mind they will be quite tart at first but mellow as they absorb the brine. The cornichons will stay fresh for up to a month. Keep refrigerated.

Serve these lemon-scented, tart little pickles with homemade sausages and cheese or as an accompaniment to a slice of country-style pâté.