This week's project has been to pickle the shallots that we grew. We seem to have grown an awful lot of them this year, despite a whole row of my autum planted ones going rotten in the relentless rain in May. At the time I was miffed to have to pull them out and compost them, but now I see it as a blessing. There are only so many shallots I can peel and pickle (and I think I reached my limit this week!)
You can buy (well, you can here in the UK) pre-done pickling vinegar. It comes in large bottles and is ready spiced for you to use. Booooooring. What's the fun in that? I like making my own spiced vinegar, you can put the spices that you like in, not what Mr Sarson thinks you like. Ideally you should make the vinegar about a week before you're going to use it, to give the spices a chance to really infuse the vinegar. Or, if you're in a rush you can just make it on the day you're pickling, it's not the end of the world.
Half a stick of cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
2 teaspoons allspice berries
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon juniper berries
3 bay leves
170g (6oz) light muscovado sugar
1.1 litlres (2 pints) white wine vinegar
250g (9oz) rock salt
2 litres (3 1/2 pints) of water
1.4 kg (3lbs) peeled and trimmed shallots
Tie the spices into a muslin bag (actually, I think buying bags is a waste of money. I buy a big piece of muslin and cut small sqaures out of it, plus a strip to tie it). Place the vinegar in a large pan and add the spices bag. Add the lid to the pan so all the flavours stay in your vinegar instead of wafting around your house. Bring it to the boil and then remove from the heat. Leave it to infuse as long as you can.
The day before you want to pickle, put the salt into a large pan and add the salt and heat gently until the salt has dissolved. Allow the liquid to cool, add your prepared shallots and weigh them down in the liquid with a plate or a bowl (anything to keep them from bobbing about on the surface)
When they've been in the liquid for 24 hours, drain the shallots and pack them into sterilised pickling jars. Add a bayleaf to each jar. Warm your infused vinegar a little, you don't want it boiling but I find that warming it a little just softens the shallots a little. Strain the vinegar & discard the spices, then pour into the jars with the shallots filling each to the top before sealing. Do try to leave them for at least a month before eating.