Over the last few years pickling has seen a real rise in popularity and we have come a long way from the harsh, generic, nose watering spirit or malt vinegar based pickled vegetables we find on supermarket shelves that would come out at Christmas with the cold turkey on Boxing Day!
Pickling is a relatively simple process and a great way of preserving a multitude of fruit and vegetables particularly if you grow your own and get a glut and can’t use it all at once. Once you have the basic principle you can create many different recipes by including various herbs and spices such as dill, thyme, star anise, coriander, peppercorns, mustard seeds etc. as well as different vinegars to complement whatever you choose to pickle, from delicate Asian vegetables with rice wine vinegar to robust pickled onions with beer. As a general rule I tend not to use malt vinegar as I (personally) find it too harsh for most vegetables and tends to overpower everything you put it with. But that’s only my opinion.
A couple of ‘Golden Rules’ are only use glass to pickle and preserve (it’s worth investing in some good quality Kilner jars in various sizes) or at least jam jars with tight fitting lids and always make sure the jars are sterilised before using. The easiest way to do this is make sure the jars are thoroughly cleaned, drain and place in an oven at 120oC for 10-15 minutes. N.B. if using Kilner jars make sure you remove the rubber seal before you do this. Put it back on once the jar has cooled slightly before you seal it. Always use good quality, fresh fruit and vegetables as even with pickling bruised or old fruit and veg won’t last as long and won’t eat as well. Also make sure whatever you are pickling is submerged in the pickling liquor to stop air and bacteria getting to it.
Basic pickling liquor
- Equal quantities (e.g. cups) of
- Caster sugar
- Vinegar (white wine, red wine, cyder, rice wine, balsamic all work well depending on the result you want and the produce you are pickling)
- Dry white wine (or water, red wine or beer, again depending on the outcome you want)
- Plus a good pinch Salt
Simply pack the prepared fruit or vegetables into the sterilised jars along with any herbs you may want to include e.g. dill with cucumber. Boil the pickling ingredients together along with any hard spices you may be using e.g. coriander seeds, anise, cinnamon bark etc. to dissolve the sugar and infuse the spices. Allow to cool slightly. Then pour the liquor over the fruit or vegetables to make sure they are submerged N.B. if you are pickling soft fruits such as raspberries or strawberries then you should let the liquor cool completely to avoid cooking the fruit. Cover tightly with the lid and allow to cool. Once cool store in the fridge. Ideally don’t use for 48 hours to allow the pickle to infuse. Most pickles will last at least 4 weeks in the fridge or longer.