A bit of a pickle: Mark Hix's preservation orders

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

It used to be the only way to preserve fruit and vegetables, but pickling is still a rewarding option, says Mark Hix.

Tucking into Simon Kelner's homemade chutney made with his Blenheim orange apples at The Independent Woodstock Literary Festival reminded me that now is a great time to preserve vegetables and fruits for Christmas and the winter months.

Pickles, chutneys and preserves are thoroughly British and they go back a long way. Before the days of refrigeration, preserving was the only way to store fruit and vegetables.

There are many ways to preserve food, from bottling fish in oil or salt to simple handed-down chutney recipes. The key, though, is to ensure that you have good fresh ingredients and clean sterilised containers. Sealing is crucial, and can be simply done by loading in the hot chutney, jam or pickle – the steam of which creates its own vacuum.

Alternatively, you can boil the jars once they have been filled if you are preserving, say, mushrooms or a vegetable such as artichokes. Kilner jars are great and have that lovely homemade look in the larder or fridge. Of course, you will need to change the rubber seals every so often but the jars themselves will serve you for years. I even have some great old bottle-green examples from France which I picked up from a junk shop. I don't really use them for preserving, just for keeping both culinary and bathroom odds and sods in.

You can have lots of fun with pickles and preserves, and once you get the knack you can concoct all sorts of interesting things in preserving jars to pull out of the cupboard along with the cheese board.

Pickled shallots in cider vinegar

Serves 4

Pickled onions or shallots are always a handy thing to have in the larder, especially at Christmas time. You can normally crack these open after about 6-8 weeks or keep them up to a year. I've got some that are a couple of years old now and they are still pretty good, though not quite as crunchy as before.

3kg shallots, peeled
4-5tbsp rock or sea salt
1tbsp mustard seeds
6 bay leaves
30 black peppercorns
4-6 dried red chillies
3tbsp caster sugar
2 litres good quality cider vinegar

Place the shallots on a non-reactive tray and scatter with salt. Leave for 1 hour then rinse off and dry the shallots on a clean tea towel or kitchen paper, and load them into sterilised Kilner jars. Bring a third of the vinegar to the boil with the mustard seeds, bay leaves, peppercorns and dried chillies and leave to infuse for 30 minutes, then add the rest of the vinegar. Pour the vinegar over the shallots, ensuring each jar has an even amount of the spices and the shallots are well covered. Seal the lids and store in a cool place.

Pickled winter vegetables

Makes about 4 x 500ml jars

Root vegetables are perfect for pickling as a little winter nibble or accompaniment to cold meats or cheese. You can use a selection of root vegetables or single ones and add some shallots or button onions or even halved Brussels sprouts.

10 medium carrots, peeled
10 medium turnips, peeled
3 parsnips, peeled
2 litres white wine vinegar
250g caster sugar
2tbsp coriander seeds
4 red chillies, thinly sliced
100g root ginger, peeled and thinly sliced

Cut the root vegetables into different shapes: the carrots can be sliced on the angle, parsnips halved lengthways and sliced, and turnips cut into wedges. Mix them up and pack into sterilised kilner jars, distributing the chillies and ginger between them. Bring 500ml of the vinegar to the boil with the sugar and coriander seeds and leave to cool a little, then add the rest of the vinegar. Pour the vinegar mix into jars, ensuring the coriander is divided evenly between the jars. Seal the lids and store in a cool place for up to 4 months.

Blackberry jam

Makes 2 litres

There seem to be still plenty of blackberries on the bushes despite the rather erratic weather we've been having. There isn't too much rocket science involved in jam-making, except that you need to make sure that you use enough sugar to preserve the fruit. I quite like to add the fruit in two stages so you are left with some good chunks to spread on your toast or dollop on your rice pudding.

2kg blackberries, rinsed
1kg preserving sugar

Put the preserving sugar into a heavy-based saucepan pan or preserving pan with a cup of water. Cook over a medium heat, stirring every so often until the sugar has melted then continue cooking for another 5 minutes. Add half of the blackberries and cook on a medium heat for 30 minutes, stirring every so often. The mixture should be a fairly thick, sauce-like consistency by now and the blackberries will have disintegrated. Add the rest of the blackberries and continue cooking on a medium heat for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and spoon a thin layer of the jam on to a plate and place in the fridge. If the mixture sets (after about half an hour), the jam is ready to ladle into sterilised jars and seal the lids; if not continue boiling for another 5-10 minutes.

Store in a cool place for up to 6 months.

Spiced squash chutney

Makes 2 litres

Sometimes those big squashes and pumpkins that we see so much of around this time of year don't get used up and a chutney is a perfect way to preserve a good harvest of unwanted squashes through the winter months. You can adapt the spices according to your taste. If you want, you can dry the squash seeds out in a low oven overnight and chop them into the chutney for a bit of texture.

4tbsp vegetable oil
6 large onions, peeled, halved and finely chopped
2tbsp finely grated root ginger
1tbsp brown mustard seeds
The black seeds from 30 cardamom pods
tbsp cumin seeds
tbsp ground cumin
300ml cider vinegar
200g sugar
1.5kg squash such as butternut, gem or onion, peeled and seeded
The grated zest and juice from 4 limes
1 litre water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Gently cook the onions and ginger in the vegetable oil for 3-4 minutes in a thick-bottomed pan, stirring every so often until soft. Add the spices, vinegar and sugar, bring to the boil and boil rapidly for 2-3 minutes. Meanwhile cut the squash into rough 1-2cm dice and add to the pan with the lime juice and zest, water, season, cover and simmer gently for about 20-25 minutes until the squash is tender.

Transfer the hot mixture into sterilised jars and seal the lids. Store in a cool place for up to six months.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Life and Style
Phillips Idowu, Stella McCartney and Jessica Ennis
fashionMcCartney to continue designing Team GB Olympics kit until 2016
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Day In a Page

    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
    Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

    Take a good look while you can

    How climate change could wipe out this seal
    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

    Farewell, my lovely

    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
    Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

    Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

    Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

    John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
    Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

    Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

    The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
    The 10 best pedicure products

    Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

    Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

    Commonwealth Games 2014

    Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
    Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

    Jack Pitt-Brooke

    Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
    How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

    How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

    Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game