Sometimes there just aren’t enough accompaniments and condiments in the fridge. Actually, when you live with a vinegar addict, there are never enough condiments in the fridge. At times I believe he would prefer a sandwich without the bread, just many varying condiments and pickled items in between two slices of cheese… So I indulge him from time to time.
I really like pickling and preserving things. There’s something very rewarding about sealing something up in a jar and saving it up for just the right moment. The tomato chutney I wrote about last year in October rested and waited very patiently in the fridge until I decided our Christmas party was the right time for it’s glorious showcase. We scooped it up onto on rye crackers with a soft goats cheese. It was a sensational (though I do say so myself) combination, soft, crunchy and strong; and it had just been waiting, very quietly for its perfect pairing and all I had to do was open a jar.
These make an excellent gift, I gave jars and jars away at Christmas. There is nothing nicer than left over cold meats, some strong cheese and a pickled onion.
You have to start pickled onions the day before, to give them a good brine. Some recipes don’t call for this but I like to as it tenderises them before submerging them in the vinegar and then you don’t have to wait so long to open the jar and eat! Maybe 3 weeks instead of 6. The quantity below will make about 3 medium kilner jars but if you’re making gifts double or even triple it. Check how the un-prepared onions fit in your jars before you start so you don’t get left with one lone onion with nowhere to go.
1 lb pickling onions or shallots
Pickling spice about 1/2 a teaspoon per jar : I make up a mix and store it in an old spice jar: use 2tsp mustard seeds, 1/2 tsp dried chilli, 2 tsp peppercorns, 2 tsp all spice, 2 tsp corriander seed.
600ml vinegar (I use a mixture of malt and white)
100g brown sugar
1 dried bay leaf per jar
First, begin the long slow process of peeling your onions. I like to leave the long top on mine so I just slice off the flat root end and then laboriously peel the brown layers away
Now heat about 1l of water mixed with the 1oz salt until the salt has dissolved. Let the water cool down and then submerge your onions and weigh them down. I use a plate and the kilner jars. Now leave this overnight.
The next day, drain your onions and sterilise your jars. I do this by washing them in very hot soapy water and putting them in a hot oven to dry. I put lids or the orange seals into boiling water for a minute.
Now heat the vinegars, sugar and pickling spice over a low heat until it just comes to the boil. Now turn it off.
Divide your onions between the warm dry jars, pop in a bay leaf and pour the vinegar over. You can drain the spices out of the vinegar if you want as they will have released their flavour into the hot vinegar, but I leave mine in.
Now seal the jars up and store them for a minimum of 2 weeks before you eat them.
Now for the beetroot. Measurements are approximate here as it depends on how much you want to make and how big your beetroots are! I made one jar of these because I had 2 huge beetroots and guessed at the vinegar quantity. If you have vinegar left over, store it in a jar with all the spices and then use it as a ‘starter’ for your next pickling escapade.
4 medium fresh beetroot
200ml malt vinegar
1 tsp of spice mix mentioned above. (In beetroot you can also use cinnamon sticks and cloves for a lovely rich flavour)
1-2tbsp golden caster sugar
Sterilise a jar as mentioned before
First boil your beetroot whole and unpeeled in water for around 30 minutes or until tender to the point of a knife
When they are ready, run them under cold water or let them cool down before you peel them. The skin will come away easily but I still use a peeler to minimise the purple fingers!
Now slice your beetroots into the shape and size you fancy. I did mine in half and then into 4, you don’t want them to be too chunky. Rounds are also nice because you can see the lovely pattern inside the beetroot…and they fit into a sandwich better.
Tightly pack all your beetroot pieces into your sterilised jar
Warm your vinegar sugar and spices in a pan and then strain it over the beetroots.
Seal the jar and wait at least 2-3 weeks. Or if you’re Tom, open immediately and consume within 3 days.