Well Preserved

IMG_3090I guess making a winter food store is a bit redundant these days. But I love the idea of it, even though I’m lucky enough not to have to do it to get by. I adore opening a larder and being presented with rows of jars with their trapped summer contents. Better still, if the contents were grown by us too. It’s a habit I inherited from my father, a notoriously stingy & thrifty individual who liked nothing better than trapping rabbits and scouring hedgerows, leaving tunnels in 8 foot bramble bushes as evidence of his passing. As a child, obviously this was a massive embarrassment, seeing as it was pre-vintage fervour and repurposing wasn’t yet a byword. But in some ways he was way ahead of his time.

 All the same, the making of preserves is an annual autumn event in the house of Chopsticks; part ritual, part what-the-hell-do-I-do-with-another-hundredweight-of-tomatoes. You’ll have noticed the odd post on the subject in the past. In some ways it’s almost embarrassing, posting stuff about something that takes only a few minutes to achieve – it’s scarcely Masterchef.

But actually, that’s the point. It is easy. Everyone can do this – should be doing this – it’s fun and rewarding and simple and nourishing. And so, my evangelising continues, this time with Seriously the Easiest Pickle in the World.

IMG_3087Ingredients: cucumbers, enough vinegar to 2/3 fill your jar, sugar & peppercorns. And a jar.

Wash and dry the cucumbers. It is better if you use the tiny Lebanese snacking cucumbers for this – they’re about 10cm long.

  • Slice your cucumbers into discs about 3mm thick.
  • Take the vinegar (I used cider vinegar, but you could use whatever you have in your pantry), sugar (couple of tablespoons per jar, less if you don’t like sweetish pickles) & peppercorns (about a tablespoon per jar) place in a saucepan and bring to the boil.IMG_3088
  • Meanwhile clean your jar well with hot soapy water, rinse and put the wet jar in the microwave for a couple of minutes to sterilise (or the oven if you prefer).
  • Layer your slices of cucumber in the jar and pour over the hot vinegar mix.
  • Cover with sterilised lid (pour boiling water over the lid first to sterilise it).
  • Leave for as long as you can stand it – couple of days to weeks/months. They will improve with age!IMG_3091

 Variations include:

  • Add rings of thinly sliced red onion to the layers of cucumber
  • Try other spices such as coriander seeds, bay leaf, dried herbs, dried chillies, mustard seeds, cinnamon stick
  • Vary the levels of sugar to find your favourite
  • Try different types of vinegar
  • Keep the tiny cucumbers whole

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