How many times have you woken up and thought ‘today’s a great day for pickling’? Probably not many. But that shouldn’t make it any less of a reason to try this homely hobby. And the good news is, it’s a hell of a lot easier than you’d think. So stick with me here and give this a go:
There are two basic types of pickles; one where vegetables are preserved in a vinegar solution, and the other where they are soaked in brine. With the attention span of a small child or poodle, I opted for the former as ‘refrigerator pickles’ are ready from 24-hours to a week after being placed in a jar. Those soaked in brine take 4-6 weeks to be ready and work through fermentation, changing the colour of the vegetables from bright green to yellowy.
Step One head to a market to stock up on pickle-able things. For us these included carrots, a cucumber, shallots, garlic and a thought-it-was-a-beetroot-that-turned-out-to-be-a-strange-radish radish, and a range of spices and seeds. We opted for mustard seeds and a mixed Marsala pack containing coriander and cumin seeds, bay leaves and black peppercorns. There are no rules so throw in whatever you fancy.
Add to this a few olive, jam and mayonnaise jars washed out and sterilised in the oven for a few minutes, a sack of salt (pickling or canning salt ideally, sea salt okay, iodised not) and distilled/white vinegar and you’re ready to go.
Secondly, chop the veg in pickle-sized pieces. Go for coins if you’re stuck, but any small chunks will do. We blanched the harder veg (carrots and onions) in boiling salted water for a minute or two then straight into iced water to stop the cooking process and prevent them from going soggy.
In a pan we slowly boiled up a solution equal parts vinegar and water (2 cups of each dependent on how many jars you’re filling), and two table spoons of salt. Once the salt has fully dissolved take off the heat.
Step 3: Stuff the veg into your jar (that’s what she said), layering with your selected seeds and spices. Once you’ve crammed as many roots in as possible, pour over the vinegar solution slowly as it takes a while for the liquid to trickle down. Let it sit for a minute and top up again to the brim. Seal and allow to cool on the side before popping in the fridge.
Pickles can be eaten as early as 24 hours after refrigerating but ideally around a week is when they’re ripe for the clicking. Nip down to the shops and pick your favourite cheese and some fresh bread a voila – your very own ploughman’s.