Updated: May 4
Pickling is my happy place.
At the end of a week in the restaurant, if I had leftovers that I couldn't use, I'd pickle them.
At home, if I have some veg that is starting to look a bit sad and I don't have a specific plan for it, I pickle it.
If I forage something and can't quite work out how to cook with it straight away, I pickle it.
Then when winter comes, i have shelf loads of delicious and colourful summer veg waiting for me. Also - and this is important if you haven't pickled before - pickling doesn't have to end with something so sour with vinegar (like supermarket pickled onions often are) or so sweet with saccharine (like some gherkins) that it demolishes your taste buds. With very little practice, you can find the perfect balance of salt, sweet and sour to suit you and then you can pickle just about anything. I'm going to lay out some instructions on how to pickle beetroot, but you can apply these basic principles to so many different types of food.
I've pickled all sorts in this way, including:
Cucumber and watermelon (the cucumber does discolour)
Pickling onions (with beer!)
Celeriac (with chilli, turmeric, cumin and coriander seeds)
Bramble buds (with extra sugar, for dressing cocktails)
Ash keys (the seed pods from ash trees - they were a bit chewy!!)
Burdock root (I simmered it in cider vinegar for a couple of minutes first)
Herrings (with fennel tops, bay leaves and sliced shallots)
Boiled eggs (i used the leftover pickling liquor from pickled beetroot so the eggs went pink!)
Pickled Beetroot (which is nothing like the supermarket kind!)
What you need:
One or more wide necked jars
Some raw beetroot
Vinegar (i generally use a 50-50 mix of cider vinegar and distilled or white malt vinegar, but don't forget that malt vinegar is not gluten free. Distilled or rice vinegar is GF)
Some herbs and spices (I love star anise or rosemary, along with juniper berries and bay leaves for beetroot, but you can throw in anything that takes your fancy)
What you do:
- Make sure you know what the volume of the jar(s) is (you can fill with water and tip into a measuring jug
- Sterilise the jar(s) (wash and put in the oven - with lids off - for 15 mins at 180ºC)
- Wash, peel and slice the beetroot as thin as possible (use a mandolin if you have one)
- Pack the beetroot along with a generous amount of herbs and spices tightly into the jar(s).
- Divide the volume of your jars by 2. This is approx how much pickling liquor you'll need.
- Make a mix of vinegar and water up to this volume in a pan. This can be anything from 50-50 to 70-30 ratio of vinegar to water, depending on how much you like vinegar. Add approx 80g salt per litre of pickling liquor and as much or little sugar as you like. I vary it according to what I'm pickling, it is good with beetroot so i use approx equal amounts of sugar to salt, some times a little more.
- Bring the mixture up to the boil, stirring all the time
- Pour it over the beetroot till all the beetroot is submerged.
- Seal the jar (if it is a normal jar with a metal lid, you can put some greaseproof paper between the lid and the jar top to protect the lid)
That's it. You can use it 3 days later, but it's even better after a few months and will keep for years unopened!
And if you are wondering how to use it, it is great with fish - herring, trout or smoked salmon, I recently served it with potted mutton and sour cream for a nordic-style starter, or you can make a salad like the one in the photo with mayonnaise, a bit of horseradish and topped with boiled eggs and chives.
NEXT LEVEL PICKLING
I was going to include some more recipes here, but this seems like quite enough info for one post, so check back tomorrow for bolted onion chutney and dandelion vinegar! It's the wrong time of year for my favourite ever pickle, piccalilli, but if you want the recipe, let me know - I've got a really good Yorkshire one.