I love this time of year. The jamming, pickling and chutneying can begin with all the gluts of fruit and veg. Usually I like to make Victoria plum jam but this year I fear I will not be able to. You see we usually nick a few plums from our neighbours Victoria plum tree, as the branches overhang our garden and they leave the fruit to rot on the tree. So we feel it is our duty to pick what we can as it’s such a waste of fruit! But alas, they don’t prune or look after their plum tree at all so this year the yields are low, and all the best plums are out of our reach (who grows a fruit tree a million feet high so you can’t get to the fruit I tell ya!?!?). But enough of my lamenting, and on to pickling.
My mum made an amazing tomato pickle/chutney one year, so that is the only pickling I have really tried. But this year since my onions were ‘midget’ onions, I thought why not pickle them instead of cook with them, and enjoy them with our Christmas Day cheese and biscuits or Boxing Day lunch. So I consulted the Queen of preserving, the recently deceased Marguerite Patten – God rest her soul.
On Ms Patten’s advice, before the pickling could commence I needed to brine my onions for 24 hours. This is a salt and water solution that preserves the crunch in the onion if only left for 24 hours; brine longer if you want your veg soft. So after de-skinning and carefully placing into a jar, you just cover them with the solution and leave them.
I left them in my kitchen overnight, then the next day drained the onions from the salty solution and rinsed them thoroughly. The second stage is to prepare the pickling liqueur.
For every 600ml of vinegar you use – I chose a white, malt vinegar for mine, you add 1 tablespoon of the pickling spices. My spices are pre-bought and mixed for convenience, but dear Marguerite does list all the different components in the book I used (above the above photo) should you want to mix your own. Simply bring the vinegar and spices to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes to infuse the vinegar nicely. Once the liqueur has cooled I poured over the onions in a sterilised jar, sieving out the spices. There is some debate as to whether to leave the spices in the vinegar – I guess it is down to personal taste as if you leave them in they continue to work their magic and may result in a flavour that is too strong. It depends how you like your pickled onions :).
After adding the pickling liqueur you leave in a cool dark place, like a cupboard or larder, for two to three weeks before they are ready to munch on. I however am leaving until Chrimbo to enjoy with all the delicious cheeses and meals we will be consuming.
So this is a really good way to preserve your onions if they turn out disappointingly small, like mine did. Or if you just don’t fancy keeping them for cooking with.
Until next time, happy gardening!