Pickled Gherkins

Summer is preserving time, from making chutney & passata to pickled cucumbers and making jam. I have thankfully been given some jars, so I am back on track to get bottling. When I saw Quekes (baby cucumbers) on special I knew I had to make some more Pickles.

My dear friend Niina sent me Moomins Cookbook: An Introduction to Finnish Cuisine available here and I have made a couple of things from it, one of the best by far is their recipe for pickled gherkins.

Our kids love gherkins, as do we, they make a lovely addition to a Ploughman’s lunch, a quick easy pre dinner nibbles, or as an addition to lunch boxes. We can get them very cheaply here in Australia from tiny baby cucumbers the size of your kids fingers to the large Polish ones. However if I make them myself I know exactly what’s gone into them and there is nothing quite like home made in my opinion.

For this batch it almost seemed to take longer to get the sticky goo off my jars than it did to make the actual pickles. Then you just let time take it’s course and in about a month or two we’ll be enjoying our very own pickled cucumbers.

I think you’d be able to use this recipe as a base for other pickled vegies like carrots, cauliflower and onions as well as bread and butter cucumbers.For the amount pictured I double the recipe and had exactly the right amount of liquid. I leave out the horseradish, black current leaves (as I don’t have any) and the dill because it makes my nose itch to the point where I would gladly remove it from my face. You can make it to suit your tastes as well.

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You will need:

Some large glass preserving jars or smaller ones if you’re planning on slicing the cucumbers or gherkins.

Firstly wash your jars in hot soapy water and allow to soak to remove the labels and any goo from the labels. Once they’re clean, rinse well and place on a tray in the oven and heat for 10 mins at about 180 degrees Celsius.

1 kg of Gherkins or baby cucumbers

For the stock:

300ml of water

200ml of wine or apple cider vinegar

160g of sugar

1 1/2 tbsp salt

Seasonings:

1 tbsp allspice berries

1 tbsp mustard seeds

1 tbsp whole cloves

1 tbsp sliced garlic – optional

1 tbsp freshly grated horseradish – optional

For the jar:

2 dill flowers

2 black current leaves

Wash the gherkins well and cut them into slices.

Layer the slices in large sterilised jars together with the seasonings. If you like mild gherkins leave out the garlic and horseradish (as I mentioned above I only leave out the horseradish and they’re delicious, not to spicy at all).

Simmer the ingredients for the stock. Allow to cool, then pour enough stock into the jars to cover the gherkins. Close the lid tightly and store in a cool cellar or pantry (dark cupboard).

I doubled the quantity of stock based on how many cucumbers I had, I also poured hot stock over the cucumbers and microwaved each jar for 30 seconds in order to get the stock hot enough to create a vacuum when you put the lid on. Some people say you don’t need to worry, but I prefer to ensure the jars are sealed properly. Plus I like hearing that little click that happens when the suction forms. Yes you can call me crazy :D.

I hope you love these as much as we do. It’s a little taste of Finland, Thanks to Niina and the Moomins!

Spaghetti Bolognaise aka “Sk betty”

So this working mother thing requires a heck of a lot of organisation, especially with 2 children under 4 who are starving & tired when they get home from child care. So Thursday being the day off and market day I decided to make a supply of Spag Bol or Sk betty as it’s become known by Zachie.

You will need: (to make this much and enough for 3 adults & 3 kids)

1.5 kg Minced Beef

2 large brown onions, diced

2 large cloves of garlic, crushed

3-4 large mushrooms, diced

4 400gm tins of crushed gourmet tomatoes.

handful of chopped parsley

lug of olive oil

2 tsp smokey paprika

Salt & pepper

3 bay leaves

1 cinnamon stick

1/2 cup tomato paste

3 tsp powdered beef stock (Massell)

3 tins of water

In your largest pan fry off the garlic & onions until they’re translucent, add the diced mushrooms & fry off. (I dice the mushrooms fairly finely so they’re about the size of the mince meat) then add the meat in batches so that it is all browned & broken up before you add more, you want to fry & brown the meat not stew it. Once it’s all cooked & mixed in you add all the crushed tomatoes & fill the tins with water and add 3 tins worth of water, add tomato paste, paprika, beef stock & salt & pepper to taste.

Don’t add too much salt at this stage as you can always add more towards the end of cooking. Add the chopped parsley & bring to the boil, simmer gently for 1 &1/2 hours stirring regularly until the sauce thickens. Pack into freezer proof containers & freeze, when I am freezing sauce I leave it a little runnier than I would if I am serving it straight away so that when the time comes to use it I can simmer it a little to increase the flavour.

This quantity gave us 2 large 2 litre containers 1 small one for the kids and a bit leftover which I was thinking I could put on nachos or something.

To serve, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and cook spaghetti until it’s al dente, approx 12-15 mins, serve with lots of grated parmesan.

P.S. The gourmet tomatoes I get from UCG wholesalers in Preston – Bell Street they’re 79c a tin, so unless the supermarkets have them on special, that’s the best buy in my opinion, also love Annalisa tomatoes too.

Lemon Oil, Pesto Oil, Harissa

So cutting right to the chase, these are very simple and lovely gifts to give for Christmas, when you’re invited for dinner or keep for yourself, they’re quite simple & easy to make, you just need to ensure your bottles are clean & sterilised and slightly warm before you fill them.

Lemon Oil

Lemon Rind from 1 lemon

500 mls Good quality olive oil

Wash the lemon thoroughly and remove the rind with a potato peeler, ensuring there is no pith on the rind, warm the olive oil to 180 degrees with the lemon rind in the pan. Allow to cook slightly and pour into a bottle or jar. Allow to steep for a week, then drain to remove the rind and re bottle. Keep in a cool dark place.

Pesto Oil

Handful of Basil stems

2-3 cloves of garlic

Rind of parmesan cheese.

500 mls good quality olive oil

Wash the stalks of the basil & place into a saucepan with the cloves of garlic & parmesan rind, add the olive oil & bring to 180 degrees, allow to steep and when it’s cooled slightly pour into a large jar and place in a dark cupboard, leave for a week. Then drain and re bottle into sterilised bottles.

Harissa

This is a tear inducing chilli paste that’s native to Morocco, so of course it’s well loved in our house, but not by me, because I don’t do chilli, at least not with this much punch. You will need preserved lemons to make this so if you haven’t already had a go at making them ¬†either buy some, or get on it and a month or so you will be able to make the harissa.

You will need:

15 large red chillies

1 head of garlic

2 preserved lemons

1 Heaped Tbsp Ground Cumin

Olive oil

I would recommend you wear rubber gloves before you start this. Remove the stalks from the chillies, if you want to you can remove the seeds as well, but it’s not necessary, do bear in mind though that with the seeds it’s going to be even more potent.

Peel the garlic & rinse the 2 preserve lemons, in the bowl of a food processor place all the ingredients except for the olive oil. Puree until the ingredients begin to combine, start pouring in the olive oil, you want a chunky consistency, not¬†completely smooth, taste for seasoning, although you shouldn’t need any extra salt as the preserved lemons should have enough residual salt. Add at least a heaped Tablespoon of ground Cumin at this stage. Place into small sterilised jars & cover with a layer of Olive Oil, store in the refrigerator & use in moderation unless you want your socks knocked off!

Serve with bread, your tajines, as part of an antipasto platter or as a dip.