As I am sure I have said before, semantics aren’t my four year olds’ strong point. Life is complicated enough without having to explain the subtleties and nuances of the English language to a child that is already grappling with English, Mandarin and ‘Singlish’. Trying to comprehend why a single word has many meanings is a task I often find overwhelming and I have been speaking the language for considerably longer than I would care to admit to. Why, for instance, you would describe someone as being “in a pickle” when he was not in fact doused in vinegar, nor placed in a jar? A concept a little too complex for my little man. He had only just grasped the idea of a person being described as “pickled”, as meaning infused with alcohol and unable to function properly as a result. “Why would you want to pickle yourself with alcohol mama? Would it make you taste nice?” I am beginning to regret the conversation entirely. “If you get in a pickle… how do you get out again?” Seriously talk about something else now. The English have a lot to answer for.
I am trying to pickle beetroot. My son helps me to fill the jars with a stunning fuscia liquid, the sort of colour only possible when you cook with really lovely fresh beets. These ones have been given to me by a new friend that imports organic fresh produce from her farm in the Himalayas. I tell him that I am tickled pink that he loves to do such things with me. “Tickled pink?… Don’t you mean Pickled Tink mama”? I give up.
“And I have been thinking”. Here we go. “If I am stuck… so I am sticky… and get all mixed up about something… wouldn’t I be in a chutney?” Perhaps my precocious child has a point. Sort of.
Mixed Vegetable Beer Pickles
Fills a 1 litre jar
3/4 cup Japanese sushi seasoning (Mizukan) or other rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
6 Bay leaves
10 Allspice berries
2 TBSP peppercorns (pickled green ones are good if you can find them or black will do)
4 large red chillies
10 juniper berries
2 bunches of thyme
1 cup water
6 cloves garlic
3 medium sized carrots
small packet of baby corn
small head of cauliflower
2 japanese or small pickling cucumbers
Not normally a huge fan of fusion food, I appreciate the delicacy and slightly asian twist to this otherwise fairly classic pickled vegetable medley. Having been inspired to cook in the first place by a dish created by (definitively in my book) God of fusion cuisine Peter Gordon, I secretly harbour a hope that he would approve.
Peel the carrots and cut into batons or discs. Slice the baby corn lengthwise into halves or quarters if quite large. Trim cauliflower into small florets. Cut cucumber into batons or diagonal fat slices. Pack raw prepared vegetables into a sterilised jar (see sterilising notes at bottom).
Place all liquids and aromatics into a saucepan and bring up to the boil. Pour over prepared veggies in jar and seal tightly. Allow to cool then place in the fridge. Use within one month or within a couple of weeks once opened. Delicious with some salty roasted nuts and a large cold beer; particularly an Asahi, Sapporo or similar in the sunshine!
This recipe will make enough to generously fill a 1 litre jar with a little extra for immediate use or can adequately fill 6 x 200ml jars.
5 large or ten small beetroot
1 cup spring water
2 cups best quality white wine vinegar (Volpaia vinegar or similar specialist herb vinegars are lovely to experiment with)
1 cup white sugar (ideally organic and unbleached)
6 bay leaves
2 star anis
½ tsp peppercorns – you can use pickled green ones if you have them but black dried are fine too
2 large red chillies, whole
¼ tsp sea salt
Rinse off excess mud from beetroot and trim off any leaves (delicious blanched and doused in olive oil as a side dish by the way)! Place the beets in a large saucepan of cold, salted water and bring to a simmer. Cook gently for about fifteen to twenty-five minutes depending on the size of your beetroot. They are ready when you are able to stab them easily with a knife or skewer – ideally tender, but not overcooked.
Drain the beetroot and rub off the skins, tails and rough tops with your hands when cool. You can dunk them in a little bowl of cold water to get rid of any little bits of skin but don’t be tempted to run them under a tap as they will bleed out colour and flavour. Set aside.
Sterilise your jars (see notes at bottom). While your jars are in the oven, make your pickling brine; Place all the ingredients, except the beetroot, in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for five minutes to allow the flavours to meld.
Cut up your beetroot if you desire, or leave whole if very small. I like to cut them in wedges so that you can still see the original shape and size of the beet.
Place hot jars straight from the oven on the counter near your brine saucepan. Place the cut beetroot in the hot jars, being careful not to touch the inside of the jar with unsterile fingers. If you need to replace a rubber ring on the jar; now is the time to do it – but always with immaculately clean hands.
When the jar or jars are packed, pour on the piping hot brine. Make sure there are no bubbles and seal the jars as quickly as possible, whilst still piping hot.
Leave on the counter to cool, then store somewhere cool and dark – the fridge is ideal if you are in a hot country.
The pickles just get better with age, and can be stored for a couple of months if left unopened. Once opened, store in the fridge and use within two weeks. NB. if your pickles ever taste fizzy or you see bubbles in the jar you must discard them – it means that air has got into the jar and the produce is now rotting – and can give you rather more than just a bad tummy!
The resulting pickles are delicious with cold meats, and tangy cheeses such as creamy goats cheese, feta, halloumi, or sheeps milk cheeses. Try making a salad with watercress or rocket, segments of orange, slivers of pickled beetroot and a simple olive or walnut oil dressing.
Spiced Carrot and Sultana Chutney
This recipe will fill a 1.5 litre jar or 6 250ml jars
50g peeled, finely chopped fresh ginger
500ml white wine vinegar
4 fresh red large chillies (whole)
2 TBSPs crushed coriander seeds
2 cinnamon sticks
4 star anis
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
5 Bay leaves
1 TBSP sea salt
1kg peeled and finely chopped, organic carrots
1 head of garlic, cloves peeled and separated
Stir together the first ten ingredients and leave them to meld overnight. A large bowl covered in cling film in the fridge is fine.
The next day pour boiling water over your sultanas in a bowl and drain off well after five minutes. Set them aside.
Place the carrots in a preserving pan and cover with 500ml of water. Bring up to a simmer, cover and cook for about 5 minutes until the carrots start to feel tender. Drain off all water and pour in all other ingredients plus 200ml fresh water. Stir all the ingredients and bring up to a simmer. Gently cook, stirring occasionally for about 25 minutes. Watch it closely as it can very quickly turn to jam and then to glue, and you will want to remove it when it takes on a shiny slightly thicker feel.
While it is cooking sterilise your jars; see notes at the bottom.
Once your chutney takes on a slightly thicker, sticky consistency turn off the heat and get your jars ready (do not be tempted to put a lid on the pot). Place them on the work surface near your pot and get your jam funnel or sterilized small jug (even a small ladle will do) ready to transfer your chutney from pot to jar. Seal the jar while the mixture is still piping hot and try not to touch the inside of the jar while you do so. Leave the sealed jars to cool on the counter. The chutney, if placed in sterilized jars should last at least three months unopened, and at least two weeks once opened, if kept in the fridge.
Delicious with cold cuts and cheeses, but also with curries and, we recently discovered, delicious with cold, leftover cauliflower cheese!
Place immaculately clean glass jars upside down on the metal runged shelf (or on their side if you only have trays) in the oven for about ten minutes at 180C, turn oven off without opening the door and leave them until you need them. Boil lids and rubber seals in a saucepan for ten minutes then and leave in water until you need them (if you have a baby in the house you can use this steriliser instead)! It is a good idea at this stage to boil or sterilise a small plastic jug, jam funnel and/or tongs if you think you will need them.