Harvest is often accompanied by the season of the vinegar. It is that sweet and sour moment of the kitchen larder as you take some of your crop -- because there's only so much freezer space -- and turning it into something completely different.
Today, we're bringing you three stalwarts that scream autumn and winter. No meat and potato pie will be a success without them and no belly will feel full without the crisp bite of them. For the following two recipes, red cabbage (takes 24 hours) and pickled beetroot, we used the following spiced vinegar from an old family recipe book:
Pig Row Spiced Vinegar
2 inches of cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon of cloves
2 teaspoons of allspice
1 teaspoon of black peppercorns
1 teaspoon of mustard seed
2-3 bay leaves
2 pints of distilled white vinegar or malt vinegar (you could even try some of the more fancy cider and wine vinegars too, don't be afraid to try something different on a small batch).
Put the cinnamon stick, cloves, allspice, peppercorns and mustard seed into muslin bag. This is simply a square piece of muslin around 6-8 inches that has been gathered together at the edges and tied up with some string -- don't use dyed string or plastic string! You should end up with what looks like a small steamed pudding of a bag. Place the vinegar and the muslin bag in a pan and cover the lid, keep on a gentle to medium heat, bring it to the boil and remove it from the heat and set aside until cooled, do not removed the muslin bag. You can leave it for around 2 hours allowing the spices to steep into the vinegar after that time strain into a jug and discard the muslin bag and spices.
Pig Row Red Cabbage
1 x Red Cabbage
Spiced Vinegar (see above)
The heartbreaking part of making red cabbage is that you cut off and discard the outer leaves from the cabbage. These are often discoloured, weather worn and pigeon pecked. Quarter the remaining cabbage and remove the hard inner stalk -- you don't want to pickle that, it never softens up, you can recognise it by the simple fact that it is pure white and could easily be used to knock out a burglar -- shred the cabbage with a sharp knife, wash in sieve and drain well. In a metal or plastic bowl, layer the red cabbage, then salt it, don't be mean with the salt and don't drown it either, then add another layer of red cabbage, more salt etc until the entire bowl is full. Leave the bowl for 24 hours in a cool place, covered. When you return you will notice pink water in the bottom of the bowl, don't worry, drain it off and the wash the red cabbage again in cold water, draining well afterwards. Now pack the red cabbage into clean, sterilised jars (see runner bean recipe below) and pour in the cold, spice vinegar. Place a lid on the jars, tighten (we tend to use the old fashioned kilner clip jars with the rubber seals) and label 'Red Cabbage' and the date you bottled them on. This recipe can also be used for white cabbage too. You can eat after a fortnight and are recommended not to keep it longer than 6 months, it will start to lose its crispness after 3 months.
Pig Row Pickled Beetroot
Spiced Vinegar (see above)
Wash the beetroot carefully, try not to rub the skin off. We cube our beetroot and then roast it until tender at between 160-180c, there is no times for this because it depends on the type of beetroot and the size of cubes you like. You can at this point add herbs for taste too, rosemary, thyme or oregano but for this recipe we're keeping it pure. Allow the beetroot to cool and rub off the skin. If you cubed the beetroot in large pieces you can now slice into ¼" cubes. Place in sterilised jars (see below for tips on this), we tend to use kilner snap jars or the conventional kilner jars with the screw lid. Then completely cover with the spice vinegar, screw on the lid, label, date and store in a cool place. We advise for cool pickles that you store them in a fridge. You can on this recipe use boiling spiced vinegar, this extends the storage life of the beetroot and it still retains its colour. Eat within six months.
Finally, we have a variation on our dilly bean recipe which is normally reserved for French beans or bobo beans.
Pig Row Pickled Runner Beans
2 lbs of runner beans
2 1/2 cups distilled white vinegar or malt vinegar
2 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup salt
2 hot chilli peppers
4 fresh garlic cloves
4 heads fresh dill
Top and tale the runner beans making sure they fit in your glass jars, we use kilner jars because frankly they are the best and they last years. We tend to use the 0.5 litre jars but you can go smaller, just cut the runner beans to fit. Don't forget to wash the runner beans in a sieve under cold water. In a medium sized pan boil the vinegar, water, garlic cloves and salt. Take off the heat after five minutes and leave to cool. Bring a large pan to the boil, the pan water should easily cover your jars when they are placed in the pan. You are looking to have at least one inch of water above the submerged jars. Put the open jars in the boiling water to sterilise, leave the lids in only a minute -- we tend to put the lids in a sieve and it makes it easier to retrieve them. Do not throw the pan of water away, this will become your water bath, keep it simmering as you process the rest of the food. Leave the jars for three minutes and pull out. Place all the lids and jars on a clean work surface on a clean towel and leave to cool. When the jars have cooled, slice your chilli peppers in half, scrape out the seeds into a dry frying pan and gently cook the seed until light brown. In the jars, pack one half of the chilli (you can add more chillies if you like, it's all down to taste and the heat of the chilli), runner beans and dill in. Make sure they are snug and won't move when the cooled vinegar is poured in. Loose beans will float and when this happens, store them in the fridge and not in a larder. Pour the vinegar in, covering all the beans and leave a gap at the top of the jar to allow for expansion in the water bath. Add the dried chilli seeds. Tap the jars gently to allow any trapped air bubbles to escape, this is a deeply satisfying hobby watching them bubble up the sides and pop in a heady scent. Place lids on the jars, tighten until snug and untighten by a quarter turn -- this is a neat trick we learnt from the Wartime Garden, and allows for a better seal. Place all the jars into the pan you sterilised the jars in, we tend to do 4-5 at a time but it depends on the size of your pan, again make sure that the jars are completely submerged. Bring the water back to the boil, this pan is now your water bath -- there are other canning options available including pressurized canning machines but these can be expensive -- we leave the submerged jars in the water bath for ten minutes after the water comes to the boil. After 10 minutes turn off the heat under the water bath and leave to cool. You should notice, if using kilner jars, that the dimple in the top of the lid has been sucked down. This means you have got a perfect seal. Tighten the lids further after the jars have cooled if required. Any jars where the dimple is still up, store in a fridge. Wait for 2-4 weeks before you start to eat them. The flavour softens the longer you keep the beans. Eat within six months. These beans will carry you through winter and are great with cold cuts, hot pies or just on their own.