Preserving Food (part two): PICKLING

Tending to the garden during the summer when most volunteers were away, I watched the rocket lettuce and chard grow so fast that I couldn’t eat or even hack it back fast enough, in the end throwing most of it in the compost. The garlic, beetroots and red onions in other beds were better behaved, as once ready they still last surprisingly long in the soil. Still, I knew that these vegetables couldn’t sit in that soil forever, and yet I couldn’t eat them all, so I decided to try my hand at pickling them.

When looking for pickling recipes, I wanted to find something simple that focused on food preservation rather than culinary excellence. There are thousands of pickling recipes on the internet – I got mine from allotment.org.uk, an excellent website with thousands of recipes that are simple and straightforward.

There are two basic forms of pickling: raw and cooked. Pickling cooked goods, such as beetroot, is fairly easy: you boil them, put them in a clean jar and pour in the pickling vinegar (which can also be boiled to make it last longer). Pickling raw goods, such as onions, takes a little more time as they first need to be dipped in a near-saturated salt-water solution for 24 hours, allowing the moisture to be drawn out of the veg, leaving room for the vinegar; you then rinse the content in water and place them in vinegar (but no boiling this time). The raw pickled goods then take about two months to soak in properly, while the cooked goods can be ready in as little as two weeks (but you may as well keep them longer, as that’s what pickling is for). You might note from the photos that I added a plastic lining under the jars, having read this prevented the vinegar corroding the metal lids. On reflection, however, most jars these days already come with plastic surfaces on the underside of lids. I have since pickled several other things just using the same principles, including cucumbers, garlic and eggs, usually without having to find other product-specific recipes.

The pickling vinegar I used at first was some cheap brand of Greek red wine vinegar I found in a cornershop, before I found a big jar of pickling vinegar in a supermarket. The latter was still good value and came in a jar that can itself be used for pickling. Note that pickling vinegar apparently needs to have an acidity of at least 6% – your standard splash-on-yer-fish-and-chips vinegar has only 5% acidity (pff!). It can be found cheaply, so don’t fall for any high-brow expensive versions of what is, after all, vinegar.

The jars I used were simple recycled sauce or pickle jars, thoroughly cleaned, sterilized with boiling water and dried in an oven at low-heat (or just flick-dried when I was in a hurry, remembering to keep a tight grip so the jar didn’t go flying across the room). Once again, some specialized kitchen shops will charge you £6 for a pickling jar just large enough to fit one shallot, and yet it is just what it is, a jar . . . an empty one at that. Uncle Ben’s on the other hand will sell you a good sized jar for under £2, and they’ll throw in a sauce inside it at no extra charge. One of my pickled onion jars is actually a glass juice bottle that I used for the smaller onions that could fit through the narrow neck of the bottle. It does the job.

Andy

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: GARDEN NOTES: Radishes and Finding Peace in a Tidy Shed « Common Ground Community Garden
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