In previous years, we have focused on growing mainly salad veg, which we have harvested as they grow and have eaten straight away. This year we are expanding our garden, and looking at growing foods that can be preserved and used over many months.
I’ve broken down this recipe so that you can make a simple brine, and a basic pickling vinegar, and adapt it for the veg you have to hand, the size of the jars you have at home and the tastes of your own family. It’s an easy recipe; the hardest bit is patience – waiting for 24 hours before completing the recipe, and then letting 3 weeks go by before you can finally try the shallots!
250g rock salt
2 litres water
1.35kg shallots (I check I have enough shallots to fill jars I have available, and if one jar is slightly under-filled and under-packed, we just start that one first.)
2 litres white wine vinegar
1tbsp allspice berries
1 tbsp juniper berries
1 tbsp mixed peppercorns
1 tbsp mustard seeds
2 bay leaves
170g light muscovado sugar
Then your own flavouring of choice, for this recipe we added:
1 tbsp dried chilli flakes
1 tbsp maple syrup
Sharp knife and cutting board
Large bowl, preferably stainless steel
Large saucepan or jam pan
3 large sterilised preserving jars with screw-top lids
Ladle and funnel (not essential but incredibly useful)
Bring the salt and water to the boil in a large saucepan to create a brine, and then set aside to cool.
Top, tail and peel the shallots. Leave enough of the ends that they still hold together as a bulb.
Put the shallots into a large bowl, weigh down with a plate, so that they are completely submerged (otherwise they will float about on the surface) and leave for 24 hours. I use a bowl, rather than the cooled saucepan, so that I can wash it ready for prepping the vinegar solution the next day.
After 24 hours, put the vinegar, allspice berries, juniper berries, peppercorns, mustard seeds, bay leaves and sugar into a large saucepan and bring to a gentle boil.
Once the standard pickling vinegar mixture is boiling, we add our own flavouring. For this recipe we chose chilli flakes to give the shallots a hotter kick, and maple to counteract the taste of the vinegar (as not all in our family are fans.) This is the part that really makes the recipe your own and it’s fun to change it every time.
Simmer gently for 5 more minutes, to infuse the new flavours, and then leave to cool.
Drain the shallots carefully (they are soft and delicate now, and can fall apart easily) and pack into the prepared jars.
Remove the two bay leaves from the pickling liquid and then pour the vinegar into the jars. Try to guide the peppercorns and berries towards the outside of the jars, for a more aesthetic look on the shelf!
Cover the jars with the screw-top lids and then leave in a cool dark place for 3 weeks before eating.
Make sure you add a label, with the date, to the jars.