I have been watching "The Great Allotment Challenge" on BBC2. On this programme, the pairs of allotmenteers are judged on their ability to grow perfect produce, to create flower arrangements and to preserve produce. Personally, I don't see any reason why one would want to grow three identical onions or three perfectly straight and identical carrots (using some ridiculously labour intensive methods), nor do I seem to have the desire to create a flower pedestal. But I do like the part where the competitors produce preserves with their fruit and vegetables. Some of them are quite adventurous, others are classics. One pair made tomato jelly, the thought of which made me gag. It appears that the preserves are judged straight away, but I really think most preserves need a bit of rest. Jellies in particular sometimes take a bit longer to set. My last blackcurrant jelly only set after three days. At this point I had already given up and decided to use it as cordial. Imagine my surprise when I tipped the jar to pour some into a jug and a beautiful, perfect lump of jelly plopped out!
I do like to make jams, jellies and cordials with fruit and I love to eat pickles. I don't make many vegetable preserves, this is really Richard's domain but I do make pickled cucumbers.
Cucumbers are mysterious fruit. They don't taste of much but cucumber, although I have friends who loathe the taste because to them it is strong and unpleasant. It must be some genetic trait I am sure. Cucumbers take to added flavours very easily. They are also invisible in the vegetable drawer, so much so that I forget we have some. This happened twice in the last ten days and yesterday I noticed that I had no less than five cucumbers. There is only so much cucumber salad one person can eat in a week.
Here, cucumbers need to be grown under glass and we don't have that possibility in our garden. We buy salad cucumbers shrink wrapped in plastic, which is annoying to remove but useful if you forget about your cucumbers because they liquefy neatly contained in the plastic. One of my forgotten fruit had just done that. It ended up on the compost. I decided to make pickled cucumbers with the remaining four.
This is what I did:
:: wash 4 cucumbers thoroughly using soapy water (if home grown, this may not be necessary)
:: cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise and scoop the seeds out with a small spoon.
:: slice the cucumbers into half moon shaped pieces, about 5 mm thick.
:: place them in a jar together with one thinly sliced large onion.
:: add 85 g of sea salt (or any other salt you happen to have), mix well, cover and leave over night.
:: next morning, pour of the water and rinse the cucumbers thoroughly to remove excess salt.
:: in a large pan, heat up 500 ml of white wine vinegar or cider vinegar with 250 g of sugar.
:: when the sugar is dissolved, bring to the boil
:: add 1 tsp coriander seeds, 2 tsp yellow mustard seeds, 1 tsp black pepper corns, 1/3 tsp turmeric
:: simmer for 5 min
:: add cucumbers to the simmering vinegar/sugar/spice mix
:: bring back to the boil and boil for 1 min.
:: put cucumbers in clean, sterile jam jars. Pour remaining liquid over cucumbers and seal jars.
I love the way cucumbers change their colour from vibrant green to pickle green. It happens very quickly once they are immersed in the sugary vinegar. I filled five jars using four largish salad cucumbers. I hope they are good!
I hope there are not too many typos in this post, I am slightly tipsy after an afternoon of celebrating a friend's 40th Birthday. 40! I vaguely remember that age. I gave the Birthday boy a jar of pickled cucumbers and a bottle of wine, in a Spiderman gift bag. Classy, I know.
Sam came home early to pursue teenage activities and I followed a couple of hours later, utterly exhausted. The remaining four are still partying away. I don't know where they get the energy from.
I hope you are enjoying your weekend, wherever you are. The rain is back here in Glasgow but I hope for a drier day tomorrow. Cx