Well pickled – Chef Scotty B

Onions ready for lids
Onions ready for lids

How trendy has the humble pickle suddenly become?! It seems that fine dining meccas or even the most rat-piss, crap-slinging, shit-hole diners have their own house pickles or ferments these days. But this is not a new technique that the culinary masters have painstakingly extracted from the wonders of our technically advanced age of cooking; ferments and pickling predate writing and human history. Especially crucial in the less hospitable corners of our spinning ball of dirt, the art of preserving was less about culinary wankery, and all about survival. A process born of necessity, food preservation literally meant the difference between life and death during the harsh winter months when fuck all would grow.

An art form that up until recently was relegated to childhood memories of being enslaved by my mother at the height of summer, stuck inside peeling boxes of whatever she had scrounged up for cheap at the markets, when I would rather be outside playing (or more likely lying around watching bullshit on TV). Mums speciality was peaches. Packed into the old school Agee jars with the 2 part lid that had the flat top seal and the ring that you used to screw the seal into place while the jars cooled down. The types of lids that truly were child proof, as when the jar cooled and the delicious contents contracted to seal in the goodness, only a skilled adult, adept with a flat head screw driver could pry the bastard loose. She also used to jar up beetroots (which Dad loved), home made tomato sauce and spaghetti (with the same tomato sauce); but of course being the uneducated ingrate that I was, I preferred Mr. Watties’ cooking to Mums.

Oh but those peaches! They could turn a drab bowl of school-reluctant, Monday morning, cardboard chunk cereal, into a symphony of texture and flavour. I shudder to think how much sugar was in one of those little jars of joy, but back in the 80’s, fat was the dietary devil, not good old wholesome sugar. Even if I had known, nothing would have stopped me scoffing them at every possible opportunity.

Growing up in the country it seemed that this was just the done thing. Every other house-hold had their own preserves and pickled bits and pieces, hoarded lovingly while the old homestead veggie patch was in its prime. Everyone had a unique approach, usually passed down from the older generation of bottlers and picklers, every house had a unique flavour or a unique product. It never seemed special to me as a kid, I just thought that was how normal households operated.

25 years on I never dreamed of spending a perfectly wastable day off (when by all rights I should have been slothing around the house drinking, eating, and generally making a nuisance of myself) brining, salting, sterilizing, cutting, peeling and fermenting the ripest and brightest from our little home garden, and what’s more, getting quite excited about it all. The childish, shameless glee I felt when that triumphant pop from the domed lids of our preserving jars sounded, signalling that, against all odds of negligence and general uselessness, we had got it right! On this day, we had won the war against time and the endless struggle with decay. There would be preserved summer goodies this long dark Melbourne winter.

Fresh Jalapeños from the garden
Fresh Jalapeños from the garden

Pickled Jalapeños

  • Servings: 6 x 300mL jars
  • Time: 1hr 30mins
  • Difficulty: med
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Ingredients
  • 850g jalapenos
  • 1000g water
  • 500g rice vinegar
  • 60g salt
  • 350g castor sugar
  • 3 cloves garlic sliced
  • 16g fresh oregano
  • 2g black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 40g shallots sliced

Jalapeños packed into jars
Jalapeños packed into jars

Method

Bake jars at 120ºc for 30mins, and boil a batch of new lids for 5 minutes to sterilize. Wash chillies in salted water, remove the tops and punch a hole into the top of the chilli to allow liquor inside. Combine all the ingredients except the chilli in a pot and bring to the boil. Place your hot jars on a tea towel and pack your jalapeños tightly into the jars. Remove the oregano from the pickling liquor and then using a funnel, pour the hot liquid into the jars, dividing all the bits evenly over the jars. Continue to fill all the way until it overflows slightly. Firmly screw the lid and shake the shit out of the jar to help the liquid penetrate into the chillies. Air will escape from inside the chilli as they fill with liquid. Remove the lids and top up with more liquid until it overflows slightly again and then screw the lids back on as hard as you can. Allow to cool at room temperature, as this happens the liquid inside will contract and suck the dome on the lid down. This will create that glorious “pop” sound, the sound of victory!

Pouring in the hot pickling liquid
Pouring in the hot pickling liquid

Jalapeños ready for lids

Pickled Onions

  • Servings: 6-8 jars depending on size
  • Time: 3hr 30mins
  • Difficulty: med
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Brining the onions

Ingredients
  • 1.6kg baby onions peeled and washed
  • 100g salt
Method

Salt for 1 hour then cover with boiling water. Allow to sit in the salty water until it goes cold. Reserve 350g of the onion water to add to your pickling liquor, and discard the rest. Bake jars at 120ºc for 30mins, and boil a batch of new lids for 5 minutes to sterilize.

Spices in the pickling liquid

Pickling Liquor

Ingredients
  • 1 ½ tsp coriander seeds
  • 2 cloves
  • 4 x pimento
  • 1 cinnamon stick broken into pieces
  • 3 tsp black peppercorn
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 knob of ginger peeled and sliced
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 5 small dried chilli
  • 750g malt vinegar
  • 350g water
  • 350g reserved onion water
  • 200g brown sugar
  • 150 white sugar
  • 40g salt
Method

Combine all of the ingredients and bring to the boil. Lay a tea towel on the bench and place the hot jars on top. Pack the onions tightly into jars and, using a funnel, fill with liquor being sure to divide all the bits evenly between all of the jars. Tap the sides of the jars to release any air bubbles and then fill until over flowing slightly and then screw the lids onto jars as tightly as you can. Once again as the jars and the liquid cools, listen out for that glorious pop!

Onions packed into jars

No preserves blog (I feel) would be complete without a ferment, and beer just so happens to be my favourite kind of ferment. Beer was actually the first home preserve that I took an interest in, for obvious reasons, but it opened the gateway to a magical world of new flavours, and wonderful home produce. This recipe is one of my personal favourites, and one that we produce at home on a regular basis with consistently excellent results, and consistently great sunday afternoon sessions.

We All Rage in Gold
We All Rage in Gold

We All Rage in Gold

  • Servings: 28Lt
  • Time: 2hr prep, 6 weeks 'til drinking
  • Difficulty: med
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Ingredients

:Grains: 

  • 300g best wheat pale
  • 100g caramalt

:Sugar:

  • 4.5kg briess light malt extract (3x 1.5kg tins of liquid malt extract)
  • 200g dextrose

:Hops:

  • 30g amarillo-60mins boil
  • 20g citra-5mins boil
  • 10g amarillo-5mins boil
  • 20g ella-5mins boil
  • 20g citra-dry hop
  • 20g ella-dry hop

:Yeast:

  • 1 slap pack 1007 german ale
Method

You’ll need a 30Lt fermenter, an airlock, a long handled plastic spoon and a few other bits and pieces, talk to your local brew shop and they will be more than happy to help you out. This is how we learned everything we know about brewing as a lot of the literature out there seems to require a certain level of implied knowledge. There is a shit tonne of jargon in the brewing world!

Bring a large pot of water up to 60ºc. Put your grains into a grain sock, or a muslin sack and tie the top. Soak the grains in the 60ºc water for 30 minutes. Remove the grains from the water and discard (compost). While this is happening, sanitize your 30Lt fermenter and your long plastic spoon. Take your “slap pack” of yeast and smack it! This should break the internal package of yeast and release the yeast cells. The main package which is filled with a nutrient rich solution which will feed the yeast. You should see the pack start to swell after about 30-40 mins as the yeast metabolises the nutrients.

Bring the pot to the boil and dump your amarillo hops in, cover with a lid and set a 60 minute timer. While this is happening fill up the sink with hot water and put the tins of liquid malt extract in to melt. When the timer has 15 minutes left add in all of the sugars and malt extract and stir until it has dissolved. Bring back to the boil carefully as the sugars can cause the pot to boil over. When the timer has 5 minutes left add all of the 5 minute hops. Put the dry hops into a new sock or muslin, tie up the top and store in the freezer for later use.

Once the timer has finished, fill the sink with cold water and sit the pot in there until the water around the pot is warm. Repeat this cooling process 3 times and then pour the mix (wort) into your fermenter and fill it up to 28ltrs with cold water. Once the wort has cooled to 25-30ºc tear open the slap pack and pour the mix into the wort being careful not to pour the inner packet into the mix. Stir very vigorously with your plastic spoon. This aerates the wort providing the yeast with a hit of oxygen to help with growth. Screw the lid on and fit the airlock on top. Fill the air lock half way with water to prevent more oxygen getting into the beer. Put the fermenter into a dark place (I cover mine with a black tshirt) and store somewhere cool to ferment.

In a few days you should see bubbles coming through the airlock, this means life! This should continue for roughly a week and a half (depending on how hot it is). Once the bubbles have stopped, I let it sit for another week. At this point chuck your dry hops bag into the fermenter and allow to steep for 1 more week. At this point you are ready to bottle! After bottling I like to let the beer sit for another 2-3 weeks at least, when self restraint tends to fail, however the longer you let it sit for, the better the beers seems to be, if you can handle the anticipation.

This post is part of the monthly link up party Our Growing Edge. This event aims to connect food bloggers and inspire us to try new things. This month is hosted by Mr Fitz at Cooking with Mr Fitz.

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