Now that readers have gone through an exhaustive review of quarterbacks in title games, it's back to weirdo foods. This week's one is, once again, a tad weak. A cornichon admittedly isn't that far out. But, it was new to me, so here it is.
Essentially, a cornichon is a French variant on the pickle. Most obviously, these are much smaller than a typical pickle, at least the American version. Instead of being around 3-5 inch spears (or sometimes larger), or being round cuts of about 1-2 inches in diameter, cornichons are maybe 1-2 inches long, with a diameter of about a half inch. They're made from a different species of cucumber than typical pickles, and are then even harvested earlier, before they're fully mature. This is thought to give them more of a tartness. Also, the cornichon cucumber has many tiny bumps or nubs on it. One website I consulted said if the cucumber is allowed to grow more that these tiny bumps turn into spikes. (Which sounds really cool to me--I'd like to see a spiky cucumber or pickle, but evidently I'm in the minority about this.) Once they're picked, the mini-cukes are, well, pickled in vinegar, like their larger cousins. However, the special added ingredient for cornichons is an herb, tarragon. This in turn is the main ingredient in Bearnaise Sauce, and is the main flavoring in soft drinks enjoyed in Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Russia, and the Ukraine. Furthermore, tarragon is unfortunately a known carcinogen.......if you consume 100 to 1000 times what a typical person consumes. So I guess you're fine as long as you don't eat only tarragon for every meal, and in tremendous, competitive eating-style amounts.
Once made the cornichon is usually eaten as a snack, often to accompany cheese, cured meats, and pate. In England cornichons are called, "gherkins," and sometimes gherkin is kind of used interchangeably with "pickle."
My cornichons were actually made in Germany, by a company named Hengstenberg. So maybe cornichon purists, if they exist (and part of me wants them to), might claim I didn't have "real" cornichons. But these sufficed to me. They looked, as advertised, like small pickles, with odd, warty growths on them. And they tasted.......like a regular pickle. Maybe a tad sweeter than an average dill pickle, but I doubt I could have told them apart in a blind taste test. I guess my palate isn't nuanced enough to detect the precious tarragon. I was slightly disappointed that the cornichon wasn't dramatically different. But, since I like regular pickels, my take on them is a compliment. However, since they were imported, they were a bit pricey. The small jar I bought (about 10 ounces, I think) was close to $5, while a 16 ounce jar of regular dill pickles (depending on the type, but in general) is about $2 cheaper, at least. So I would buy them again for their taste, but probably only every once in a while because of their cost.