pickling season is upon us.

It’s been a few months since I have posted. There’s been a lot going on, however it just seems like I haven’t had time and then when I have, I haven’t been able to decide what to post about. But two requests from friends and family have guided the way.

This year I’ve been pickling vast amounts of cucumbers (14kgs so far, and another batch to do today), but I’ve also been pickling beetroot. I’ve experimented and worked out my own recipe for the beetroot. The cucumbers are an adaptation of another recipe. I’ve found that the trick to pickling is having enough vinegar and sugar to preserve it, and having everything hot to seal the (sterilised) jars. If jarred hot and sealed, your pickles should last a long time, unless you have someone in the house who eats them a jar at a time.

I’m not exactly the queen of proper method when it comes to sterilisation of jars, so I’ll refer you to a link for the proper information.

Important note about jars: if you are putting something hot into your jars, they must be hot as well. If you are putting something cold into them, they must be cool, or at least room temperature. Cold jar + hot liquid = potential glass explosion. Fee free to reuse jars and lids – I do on a regular basis. Just make sure that jars and lids are clean, and free of damage (cracks, chips, etc.

I’ve had my cousin and a friend requesting the recipes, so here they are (minus pictures today)

Awesome bread and butter pickles recipe:

Ingredients:
1kg of cucumbers – the smaller the better, but I pickle larger ones too. make sure they are as freshly picked as you can get *
2 brown onions
3 Tbsp salt
1/2 cup hot water
2 cups vinegar (I normally use white vinegar, but feel free to experiment)
2 cups sugar (I use raw sugar as a general rule. This does change the colour a little, but I quite like it. White sugar is fine if you prefer. Other options could include honey – go wild!)
Pickling spices (this is my standard mix for this recipe. Sometimes I change it up a little)
5 tsp mustard seeds
2-3 tsps dill (preferably fresh)
1/2 tsp turmeric
2-3 chillis – dependent on taste. We have several kinds of chillis growing and they all have different levels of heat.
3 tsp cumin seeds
3 tsp coriander seeds.

Method:

thinly slice the cucumbers and onions. I use a mandoline slicer, but a food processor with a slicing blade or a sharp knife would do the same job. Place them in a non-reactive bowl or pan. I actually brought a few cheap 5.1 liter buckets with lids for this purpose. Dissolve the salt in the hot water, pour it over the cucumbers and onion, mix through, and let sit for 3 hours.

As you get to the end of your three hours, sterilise your jars so they are ready to go. The next part isn’t particularly time consuming.

Mix the vinegar, sugar, and pickling spices in a non-reactive pan. make sure you have enough room to add your cucumbers. With a small pan you may need to boil them in batches.

Bring the liquid to a boil, stirring occasionaly until the sugar is fully dissolved. Boil for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, drain your cucumbers and onions. press them to release any excess moisture. Don’t stress about damaging them as I squash mine a fair bit and they seems ok. You’re just trying to get the extra liquid out.

Tip the cucumbers and onions into the pot. Bring to boil and let boil for 2 minutes.

Fill the jars with your delicious pickles. fill to about 1 cm from the top, making sure there’s enough liquid to cover thm, then put the lids on. Make I usually fill them on a wooden board on the sink. Sitting hot glass on metal or glass can cause issues, so once filled they are transferred to a teatowel laid out on the bench.

Do not disturb until fully cool. a normal screw top jar will pop as it seals – so expect a few pops from your kitchen while they cool.

Beetroot in Apple Cider Vinegar:

Fresh beetroot, either boiled or baked in their skins. I didn’t weigh my beets when I picked them, but I’d guess it was maybe 1- 1.5 of beets. I’ll weigh next time.
3 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup water
2 cups sugar (again, I used raw. The colour doesn’t matter as the beets will turn everything purple anyway)
1 Tbsp mustard seeds
3 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds

I didn’t measure the spices, but I’d say the proportions were roughly what I’ve listed here. Throw in what you like.

I boiled the beets for my last batch, but I prefer to bake them as they seem to keep more of their juice in. If baking, wrap in foil and bake in a moderate oven til tender. If boiling, simply boil until tender. Either way, when trimming them cut off as little as possible. The more of the inside you expose, the more juice can come out.

Once cooked, let them cool by sitting in cold water. Once cool to handle, use your hands to slip the skins off. If you wash your hands regularly throughout this process they won’t get stained.

Chop up your beets as desired – I’ve done some as slices for sandwiches, some in 1cm chunks for salads, and some baby beets whole.

Place all other items in a non reactive pan and bring to the boil. while it’s coming to a boil, sterilise your jars.

let the liquid boil for a few minutes. Toss in your chopped beets and boil again, for 3-5 minutes.

Fill your jars, again leaving some space at the top and making sure there’s liquid to cover them. Pop on your lids, and let the jars cool.

Both of these recipes, if prepared right and with sterilised jars and clean equipment, should last at least a year. let the jars sit for at least a week before opening, to let the flavours develop properly. As with all preserves, it’s better to store them in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight.

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