The cornichon – a pickled gherkin – is often the only green thing accompanying some French food classics.
Order a planche of cheese and charcuterie (assorted hams) and it will normally come together with small, firm, crunchy cornichons.
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Tart in taste, the cornichon is at the heart of several French salads, but it also goes well with paté, egg salad, tartare – anything heavy, really.
It's essential to raclette, a hearty French dish consisting of melting cheese and pouring it over potatoes and hams. The cornichon has traditionally been the only vegetable (apart from the potatoes) allowed for a raclette, its vinegary taste and crunchy texture perfectly breaking up the greasy cheese.
An employee stacks cornichon jars at a factory of the French-Swiss company Reitzel, in Connerre northzestern France. The company tried to revive the cornichon business in France. Photo. AFP
Despite its key place in French cuisine and its status as a household item – jars of cornichons are found in any French supermarket and most French fridges – most cornichons are produced abroad.
In fact, 80 percent of the 60 million jars of cornichons consumed in France every year come from India, while most of the remaining 20 percent are shipped in from Eastern Europe.
This article is part of The Local France's 2020 virtual advent calendar – every day until Christmas we will be presenting you with a person or object that has a particular significance to life in France.