I've made a new deal with myself. No more squandering mornings with aimless pottering, making excuses for why I can't possibly get on with my work yet. From now on, I shall have to reach my target word count before I start doing any baking, preserving or pottering, not after.
Okay, so who knows how long this new regime will actually last, but today it worked out very well indeed. I worked all morning, reached the word count and headed to the kitchen to celebrate.
I wasn't reaching for a glass of wine, not that early in the day! Instead I was reaching for my pan of vinegar and my dish of onions. Pickling may seem like a strange celebration to some, but to me it made total sense and was exactly what I wanted to spend my free-time doing. My hard-earned time no less.
At the farmer's market this weekend we spotted punnets of shallots for a quid and I couldn't resist buying two in order to try out the pickled onion recipe I'd found in Pam Corbin's book. I prepared them yesterday by blanching to remove the skins and then covering in salt to get rid of as much water in them as possible. I also prepared some vinegar by adding spices, bringing to the boil and then removing from the heat. I left both the onions and the vinegar overnight, and they lay there on the kitchen counter this morning tempting me.
I was very good, I held out and only finished them once I'd done my work. Talk about will power. I rinsed the onions in very cold water and strained the vinegar. I then packed the onions as tightly as possible in sterilised jars, covered them with the spiced vinegar and sealed the tops with vinegar proof lids.
Apparently they need to mature for about eight weeks - now that's what I call deferred gratification - but you can bet the minute that time is over we'll be down the chip shop for a newspaper wrapped bundle of chips to have with them. I know they'll got well with a ploughman's too, but my childhood memories are of fish and chips and pickled onions on a Friday night, so the first outing of the onions has to be with chips!
Here's my adaptation of the recipe. I found that I needed more vinegar than it called for, I think because rather than making one 900g jar, I made several smaller. I also changed the spices to suit my own tastes, and left out the sugar because I like a sharp pickle. If you want sweet ones add 150g of sugar or honey when you boil the vinegar.
Spiced Pickled onions - makes about five 1/2lb jars, or one large 900g one.
1kg small onions or shallots
50g fine salt
700ml vinegar - I used a mix of cider, malt and white wine to get a mix that wasn't too strong, but will retain its bite.
20g root ginger, bashed slightly and chopped into quarters
2tsp allspice berries
1 cinnamon stick (I used a large piece of bark)
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 small dried chili
bay leaves - one per jar
Top and tail the onions, cover in boiling water for 20 seconds, then plunge in cold water. Slip of their skins, places them in a shallow dish and cover with the salt. Cover and leave overnight.
Place all the spices, except the bay leaves, in the vinegar mix and bring up to the boil. Remove from the heat and leave to steep overnight.
The next day: strain the vinegar, wash the onions thoroughly in very cold water and drain, then pack into sterilised jars. Cover completely with vinegar and seal. Leave for 6-8 weeks to mature.
Obviously, I have no idea how these taste yet, but the smell was amazing (if you like pickled onions and spices of course, which I do) so I think they're going to be good. I will update in March!