I'm keen to get in on this pickling thing, Hugh. Where's a good place to start?
Plums and pears are annual staples at our place simply because they dominate our garden. New this year, though, are pickled sour grapes (an emotionally confused condiment if ever there was one). They came about when a nearby friend and vigneron was thinning unripe bunches of grapes on his pinot vines. Pickled, they're a knockout. The basic recipe for pickled fruit is a 1:1 syrup of sugar to vinegar (I prefer raw sugar and apple cider vinegar), brought to the boil with spices (allspice, cloves and cinnamon are basic). Do the fruit in the syrup in small batches to ensure that the fruit is cooked through (and pasteurised), but not collapsing and mushy.
If the fruit overcooks, just purée it and turn it into a sauce. Pickling the likes of fennel and fungi calls for a seasoned vinegar rather than a syrup. Pasteurise the sliced-diced vegetables either by blanching or baking. Season the vinegar with salt, pepper, caster sugar, garlic, bay, thyme and dried chilli, bring to a boil, then simmer for five minutes. Pack vegetables into sterilised jars and pour on the hot vinegar. Top each jar with a tablespoon of olive oil and you're done.
Illustration Lauren Haire
Want more ideas for pickling? Check out our collection of pickle and preserve recipes.