Last autumn, I bought The Wonderful Weekend Book by Elspeth Thompson - I am not damning it with feint praise when I say that it is charming, also much the best of the recent deluge of books on home-making for the nostalgic.
Elspeth gives a really wonderful recipe for cucumber and dill pickle, and I made a huge vat with the last of the cucumbers. I've been eking it out carefully, as it is so delicious. But now the first cucumbers have arrived in my vegetable box, so I can polish off the few remaining slices and make some more.
I didn't post this when I made it, because there were no more cucumbers (I don't really think it would be a good idea to make this with watery winter indoor fruits). It can also be made with courgette, although I haven't yet tried that.
Courgette and dill pickle
for four 450g jars
It always seems to me a miracle that something submerged in liquid can retain its crunch, but this does. And the flavours are great from day one, none of that leaving it to mature until Christmas that you have to do with chutney. I've found this is terrific with my usual lunch of leftovers, almost as good as chilli jam.
3 large cucumbers (or 6 courgettes)
2 large onions
50g coarse salt
450g soft brown sugar
600ml cider vinegar
1 tbsp whole mustard seeds
a large handful of fresh dill
Thinly slice the cucumbers and onions, and this is easiest on a mandoline. Layer with salt in a large plastic box, and weight down with a plate and some tins. Leave it four at least four hours, then drain and rinse in a big colander. You want to get all the salt out.
Dissolve the sugar in the vinegar, then add the veg, seeds and dill. Bring to the boil. After one minute, drain, reserving the liquid. Boil to a syrup (which will mean boiling off around one third). Meanwhile, put the vegetables in sterilised jars. Cover with juices, and seal. Keep in the fridge once you've re-opened the jar.
Other good preserves
Spiced apricot preserve this one is BRILLIANT for an instant gravy to go with roast pork
Roasted tomato ketchup very good for cooking
Home-made vanilla extract easy, and satisfies my need for the semblance of thrift
Rose petal jelly it will soon be time to make this, the buds are swelling - and it's pouring with rain at the moment, which can only be good for the roses
PS Elspeth has a new book about to come out ... she says on her blog today that it's already in some shops, so I'm hoping the postman will deliver my copy today
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