HomeLifeA beginner’s guide to pickling your homegrown fruit and veg

A beginner’s guide to pickling your homegrown fruit and veg

Want to know how to make delicious pickles, chutneys and relishes by adding homegrown vegetables, fruits and herbs to the mix?

“A vegie patch is the fastest path to preserving homegrown produce,” says keen gardener Jo Turner, who learned many of her skills from her mother and grandmother. She has now put her knowledge into a new book, The Preserving Garden, an illustrated guide on how to preserve your produce throughout the year.

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The book features recipes for chutneys, piccalilli and a plethora of pickled veg, and how to go about growing and preserving them.

Here, she offers tips for anyone wanting to have a go at pickling their homegrown produce.

Pick fresh produce

Pickles in glass jars (Alamy/PA)

“You can pickle zucchinis, cucumbers, onions, carrots, beetroot and capsicums,” Ms Turner enthuses, or use tomatoes in chutneys and zucchinis in piccalilli.

Choose firm, young, blemish-free vegetables and start the pickling process within 24 hours of picking them. Some, such as beetroot, will need preparation. Ms Turner peels and roasts her beetroot before pickling.

Watch your vinegar

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“You need an acidic brine made from vinegar and spices,” she advises. The vinegar used should have an acidity content of at least 5 per cent, which should be on the label of the bottle. Alternatively, ready-made pickling vinegars are widely available from supermarkets.

White vinegar is often the base for pickling vinegars, but you could also use cider vinegar, wine vinegar or malt vinegar. For a richer flavour, balsamic vinegar can also be used. Don’t add water to the mix as it will reduce the acidity, Ms Turner says.

Mix your vinegar with sugar (some recipes require a lot of sugar), salt and spices and you will get a brine. You may have to taste it to assess sugar content, she suggests. Remember that darker vinegars will result in a darker brine and may not be ideal if you want your pickles displayed in a clear liquid, she adds. Use white sugar to keep the brine clear, not cloudy.

Herb choice

Herbs in the top of jars of pickled cucumbers (Alamy/PA)

Use whole spices and washed fresh herbs to add to your vinegar, as that will give the best flavour. Ground spices will make the brine cloudy.

“Ideal additions include whole peppercorns and bay leaves, star anise and more robust spices,” Ms Turner suggests. She uses fennel leaves with carrots and finely sliced chillies to spice up other pickled veg, while cucumbers (gherkins) go well with mustard seeds, coriander seeds, cumin, dill, chilli and bay leaves. Whole cloves, allspice and star anise make good companions for beetroot.

Sterilise your jars

She advises avoiding metal lids to seal jars containing brined or pickled produce, unless they are sealed with a plastic-like coating on the underside. Sealing rings help long-lasting preservation and glass bottles can also be used.

To sterilise, wash the jars, lids and rings in hot soapy water and rinse in a sink of clean hot water. Leave the lids to air dry on a clean tea towel. Place damp jars upside down on a baking tray lined with an old tea towel and place in a warm oven for 15-20 minutes, she advises. Turn the oven off and leave the jars to keep warm until needed.

Putting it together

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Some veg, such as cucumbers, will need to be sprinkled with salt and left for a few hours before being rinsed off in a colander with boiling water and dried. Capsicums will need to be grilled and their blistered skins removed before preserving.

You’ll need to boil the brine in a pan so that the sugar and salt are dissolved.

“Place your spices and cut-up vegetables as you would want them into the jar and then cover it with boiling hot brine, ensuring that your jars are warm when you do it, or they may crack,” Ms Turner says.

“Pouring hot brine on veg won’t make them softer because it doesn’t cook them through.”

Remove air bubbles by gently running a small spatula or cocktail stick into and around the jar and leave a centimetre at the top, but the vegetables need to be completely covered with the brine, she adds.

How long will pickled veg keep?

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If you place an unopened jar of pickled veg in a dark, cool room it should last for six to 12 months, she predicts.

Once the jar is opened, it needs to be resealed and kept in the fridge and should last a couple of weeks. Chutney may keep longer, although it will need to be placed in the fridge after opening, she adds.

The Preserving Garden by Jo Turner is published by Thames & Hudson. Available now.

Do you pickle homegrown fruit and veg? What are your favourite things to pickle? Let us know in the comments section below.

Also read: Charred Lamb Kebabs with Pickled Onions

– With PA

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