Month seven Tigress’s can jam canning challenge and for July the choice of ingredients was mine, and I choose cucurbits. I began by making a jam to use up some Galia melons I’d bought to photograph, along with some frozen plums that needed using from the freezer before this years harvest requires the space. Anyhow, that’s another story, jam wasn’t what I wanted from the July canjam. The best thing about taking part in this global canning event is the stretch, the discovering anew. I was wanting to do some pickling.
I am a pickle novice, having never been drawn to them, through lack of positive experiences. Pickles for me have been onions served with cheese, English ploughmans-lunch style, Branston pickle, a manufactured brown sweet gloopy relish that has its moments in a cheese butty (sandwich), and pickled beetroot, that was once the only way you ever found this root veg and that comes with a powerful acetic hit. I do have one recollection of my friend Mary eating pickled umeboshi plums to ward off sea sickness when island hopping in Greece, they seemed pretty disgusting but did work. Later in life the pickled ginger with sushi element crept into my middle class lifestyle. That’s it, the full extent of my pickling life …. so far.
I’ve read loads of recipes and am intrigued by what is called in the US ‘Bread and Butter’ pickle. It obviously doesn’t mean these are included as ingredients but does it mean that it is meant to be eaten on bread and butter? I assumed this to be so until a google search ‘what does bread and butter pickle mean?’ pointed out another alternative. Something that is your ‘bread and butter’ is your main form of income, so bread and butter pickle could be the breadwinner of the pantry, your stalwart pickle, a good all rounder that you can’t do without. Anymore ideas, please let me know. I ended up making up a recipe based on the many I’d read. I think my summer squash pickle is more or less a bread and butter pickle, made with summer squash instead of cucumbers.
Luckily, this week in the Taurus market garden, the first summer squashes are ready to harvest. Some Early Prolific straightneck squashes provided the perfect starting point for my foray into pickling. This yellow squash is lovely eaten raw and has an excellent flavour. I decided to go for colour, adding plump purple scallions and orange sweet peppers into the mix. As often happens, the colours change during preparation, in particular the purple onions lost their hue, but I still ended up with a beautifully coloured pickle with a summery vibe.
If you, like me, have never really tried pickles, MAKE THIS ONE!!!! It is just fantastic. I only made it 2 days ago and even without the usual month mellowing off period, it tastes amazing. I haven’t a clue what you serve it with, but straight from the jar with a fork is working for me. This was just what I needed to turn me into a pickle fiend.
SUMMER SQUASH PICKLE
Makes 6 x 500ml (1pint) jars
1.5Kg ( 3 1/4lbs) summer squash courgettes or small zucchini
400g (14 oz) onions
300g (11oz) sweet peppers, 2-3 peppers
200g (7 oz) salt
1 ltr (1 3/4 pint) white wine vinegar
250ml (1/2 pt) water
450g (1lb) sugar
1 1/2 tsp celery seed
2 Tbsp mustard seed
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp turmeric
6 small dried red chillies
1 tsp black peppercorns
Top and tail the squash and cut into uniform sized slices, so they are about .5cm (1/4 in) thick. Slice the onions and deseed and slice the peppers. Place all the vegetables in a glass bowl and sprinkle with the salt, turning them all over so the salt is evenly distributed. Cover the bowl and leave for 12-24 hours. Drain off the liquid that is drawn from the veg, rinsing and draining thoroughly several times to remove as much salt as possible, finally leaving to drain.
Prepare the water bath, jars and seals ready for canning. For more info about how to hot water process, refer to the guide here. Place the vinegar, water, sugar and spices in a pan and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Simmer for 5 minutes then add the vegetables. Bring back to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Pack the vegetables into hot sterilised jars, filling them to leave required headroom, then top up with the vinegar, distributing the seeds evenly amongst the jars. Seal and process the jars for 10 minutes. Pickles always improve on keeping for at least a month before opening, if you can wait that long.
Pickles have a high acid content so can often be made without hot water processing (canning) them. If you can them you are making doubly certain that they will be preserved safely for a year or more.