I recently surprised my good friend, the Bread Oracle at Zeb Bakes, with a packet of authentic asier pickling spices direct from Føtex supermarket in Denmark. Asier are (yes, it’s a plural; the singular is asie) Danish pickles that are both sweet and tart with a slight bit of spicy heat, and when done correctly are crunchy. It’s difficult to get asier perfectly right when you’re living outside Denmark because you need a specific type of cucumber that grows to a marrow’s mammoth size and has a small core of seeds. The closest cucumber we’ve found that mimics it in the UK is a standard pickling gherkin cucumber that has ridges of tiny white spiky spins on a deep, dense green skin. Lacking that particular variety, you could always buy the shrink-wrapped telegraph pole sort that the EU dictates should be straight as a walking stick, be blemish-free and measure a specific length. Oddly our local supermarket chops most of the whole cucumbers in half, so what’s the point of mandating the length of something when it’s destined to be reduced by half?
Whoa- back to asier. Alternatively, you could take a cheap flight to Denmark, buy a few jars of asier, and return home the same day and probably in time to flick a few slices into a diamond-cut glass dish to serve as an aside with a late supper. Just don’t hope to carry them onboard the plane because the jars exceed 100ml of liquid. Pfft. As if anyone would consider blowing up a jar of precious asier.
Goodness, my train of thought today reminds me of a drunk I watched last month who tottered sideways across a country lane like a line dancer, and then plunged headlong into a ditch. But that’s a story for another day…
So I surprised the Oracle with some spices, but in my stupidity didn’t give her a recipe or tell her what to do with the darned things. Sort of like giving a child a tricycle for Christmas that has three flat tyres. So here’s the recipe. Now all she needs are the cucumbers. I’ll leave that detail for her to sort out. Oh, and the vinegar and the salt and the dill blossom head …
Asier (Danish-Style Cucumber Pickles) Method 1
12 large Cucumbers
1/2 cup Salt
l/2 teaspoon Pepper
1 teaspoon Celery Seed
1/2 teaspoon Turmeric
2 tablespoons grated horseradish
3 cups Vinegar
3 cups Sugar
1 teaspoon ground Ginger
l/2 teaspoon Alum
1 teaspoon dry Mustard powdered
Peel the cucumber, slice each lengthwise, scraping out the seeds and soft membrane, and then cut into 3/4 inch thick slices. Sprinkle with salt and let stand overnight. Drain and wipe dry with a cloth.
Mix all the other ingredients in a pan and bring to a full rolling boil. Drop in the cucumber slices and bring to a boil again. Only allow it to come up to a boil as the pickles over-cook quickly and will be soft. Seal in sterilised jars while hot.
Asier (Danish-Style Pickles) Method 2
2 very large pickling cucumbers about 2 kg total
1/2 cup course sea salt, approximately
500g small shallots, peeled and blanched whole
1 dill blossom head
3/4 litre white vinegar
500g granulated sugar (or to taste, adjust to preference)
1 heaping tablespoon of pickling spice
2 tablespoons grated horseradish (optional)
Wash the cucumbers, and then peel them. Slice lengthwise, and remove all the seeds using a spoon. Scrape away all traces of the membrane until you reach the firm flesh. If any of the soft membrane is left behind, it will cause the cucumbers to go very soft and discolour. Set a single layer of the prepared cucumbers in a large roasting tin in which all of the slices will fit. After you complete the first layer, thoroughly sprinkle the slices with salt, and then add a second layer repeating with another thorough sprinkling of salt. Repeat until all the cucumber slices are layered and salted. Cover with a tea towel, and allow to sit overnight.
Drain the brine from the cucumbers, and then dry thoroughly. Sterilise a very large glass jar (remove rubber seal!) that will hold all of your asier in a preheated oven at 220c for 10-minutes. Remove the jar from the oven, and while still hot loosely set the cucumber slices and then shallots into a large glass jar, topping with the dill blossom head.
Combine sugar, vinegar and pickling spices in a pan, and bring to a rolling boil, and then immediately pour over the cucumber slices. Do not seal. Just cover with a tea towel and secure it with a string or an elastic band. Allow to sit undisturbed for 2 days.
After 2 days, drain the pickling solution back into a pan and quickly bring it back up to a rolling boil for 5-minutes. In a separate pan, sterilise the rubber seal by boiling it in water for 5-minutes, and then set aside to dry. Now quickly pour the liquid back over the cucumber slices and the shallots. Fit the rubber seal to the jar and clasp it tightly to seal. Allow to cool undisturbed whilst sitting at room temperature.
After cooled, store in a dark, cool corner of the cupboard for at least one month before eating.
1. The cucumber slices shrink by approximately 35%.
2. Be sure that when you boil the vinegar for the second time that it’s a good full, rolling boil to kill any bacteria.
3. White wine vinegar works well also, but DO NOT use malt vinegar
Printable PDF file of this recipe (opens new window). When the file opens, right-click on the text and select ‘Print’.