Friday, December 2, 2011

Bloody beetroots: the pickle duo part one

Like Marmite, beetroot splits people. Love it, or hate it - it's mad bad and dangerous to know. Well maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration but I've heard people go on rants about this humble veg that would make Russell Brand cover his ears and partake of some smelling salts to recover himself. My ma for example. Get her started on the many reasons she hates beetroot and you will be sitting around for a long time. Prime complaints include the staining of fingers and anything else it comes in to contact with, not to mention the fact that is 'just horrible, quite horrible'.

I beg to differ. Which is why, when we spied a large box of said stuff in our favourite Sussex farm shop, I may have got a little tooooo enthusiastic and bought far more than even I could eat before it went off.

The solution? A bloody good beetroot pickle. Simple, a million times better than the shop bought beetroots in vinegar and a doodle to make.

If, like me, you can get your hands on some yellow and red beetroot, it makes for a nice contrast while the pickle is fresh but, be warned, the reds will soon put paid to the delicate colouring and everything will look pretty uniform after a few days.

Beetroot pickle (makes one jar)
500g Beetroots - as many varieties as you can get your hands on
500ml pickling vinegar - we used cider vinegar with 1 tsp black onion seeds, 1 tsp coriander seeds 1/2 tsp fennel seeds, 1 tsp celery seeds, 1 tbsp muscovado sugar and a cinnamon stick. Leave to simmer on a low heat for half an hour. You may want to evacuate the kitchen in this time as the fumes are pretty hefty.

Boil the beetroots in water until they soften but are still quite firm. This normally takes 45 mins for normal sized beetroots but vary depending on size. Remove from the pot and leave to cool.

Once cool, peel the beetroot. At this point, you can decide whether to leave them whole, or chop into slices as I did (handier for quick grabs).

Put the beetroot into a sterilised jar. If you are pouring the vinegar on whilst warm, you will need to ensure the jar is warm - best done in an oven on a low heat (around 140 Celsius). Otherwise, wait for vinegar to cool then pour into jar.

Seal tightly and leave for a week or two for the best flavours before tucking in.

Crunchy onions: the pickle duo part two

Pickled onions rock. Especially when you make them at home.

Ok, so the shop bought ones aren't terrible. They do their job. Particularly when that job involves a ham sandwich and a bit of mustard. But these are the easiest things in the world to make. And they're cheap. Did I mention easy? The clincher, however, is the taste. With a crunchy kick, these pickled onions will brighten up your life, or at least your lunch*

* I of course take no responsibility for this statement but you'd have to be a dour old mutt for it not to be true. Or you're a freak who hates onions. Either way, that's your problem, not mine.

Without further ado....

1kg pickling onions
Pickling vinegar for vinegar recipe see pickle duo part one - though for this I like to add 1 tbsp of mustard seeds too.
50g Salt
1 litre water
Litre capacity sterilised jar

Peel the onions. Put the onions in a bowl and cover with the water and salt. Place a plate inside the bowl with weights atop. Leave for 24 hours.

Rinse the onions. Place into The sterilised jar. For a softer onion, cover with the vinegar and seal whilst the vinegar is still warm. For some serious CRUNCH, leave vinegar to cool and then pour over onions and seal jar.

This is better at the two weeks onwards mark but I wouldn't blame you if you tucked in sooner. It still beats the crap out of shop bought ones.

Ps we've also tried a slightly different recipe from Lindy Wildsmith's Cured. A recipe book that everyone should have on their shelves, if only for the jaw-droppingly sexy pictures of the cured meat, fish and other goodies. We are yet to crack that jar open. If you're lucky, I'll keep you updated.