Pickled pears

Christmas, for us, means making stuff to give to friends and family.  This is a lovely easy thing to make, and goes really well with cheese or cured meats.

  • about 16 small-ish firm pears (Conference are good), peeled, with stalks left on
  • 1 litre white wine vinegar
  • 0.5 litres water
  • 500g sugar (granulated)
  • 4 star anise
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
  • 1 tablespoon allspice berries
  • 2 teaspoons juniper berries
  • The zest of 1 lemon, peeled in large strips
  • 1 teaspoon cloves

 

Boil up the water, vinegar, sugar and spices in a large pan with a lid. Make sure it’s a stainless steel or other non-reactive pan, or the vinegar will create pits in the surface!

Put the pears into the hot liquid, turn the heat down to a simmer, clap the lid on and leave the pears to poach for about 20 minutes.  Take the pears out of the liquid and put them somewhere warm.  Turn up the heat under the poaching liquid and boil it for about 10 minutes until it has reduced a bit and gone syrupy.

Divide the poached pears between 4 large-ish wide necked jars, previously sterilised.  Pour the reduced cooking liquid over the pears, ensuring that each jar gets its share of the whole spices.  If you want you can add a sprig of fresh rosemary to each jar – it looks pretty and adds a herby flavour.  Seal the jars with vinegar-proof lids – either use parfait jars (the ones with rubber seals and metal clips), or proper Kilner jars, or improvise with wide-necked pickle jars and seal them with greaseproof circles and plastic-coated jar lids.

These pickled pears can keep for up to 6 months unopened in a dark cupboard.  Once you do open a jar, keep it in the fridge and use up within two weeks.

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bloody brilliant piccalilli

img_20161107_222829-1So named by family friend Eric, who is renowned for his taciturnity. However, he got very animated about this piccalilli, and declared it to be bloody brilliant. High praise indeed, from a man of few words.

  • 1kg mixed vegetables, washed and peeled as necessary. Essentials are cauliflower (white or romanesco), green beans, and shallots or small silverskin onions. The rest can be made up of sweetcorn, fresh peas, red peppers, courgettes, carrots, green tomatoes. The  more colourful the mixture, the better.
  • 50g fine salt
  • 30g cornflour
  • 10g ground turmeric
  • 10g English mustard powder
  • 15g yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 heaped teaspoon ground coriander
  • 600ml cider vinegar
  • 200g granulated sugar

The most time consuming part of making piccalilli is cutting up the vegetables. You need to make sure that the pieces are quite small and of an even size. Once you’ve got your kilo of chopped veg, put them in a large bowl and sprinkle over the salt.  Mix it in well and leave the bowl, covered in a cloth, overnight. This will help to ensure that the vegetable pieces stay crunchy.  The next day, rinse the veg in ice-cold water to get rid of the salt, and drain as much of the water off as you can.  The veg need to be quite dry or the resulting sauce will be watery. Put the cornflour, turmeric, and all the other spices in a big jug and mix them to a smooth-ish paste with some of the vinegar.  The rest of the vinegar goes into a large saucepan to be heated up with the sugar, until the sugar has dissolved.  Bring the vinegar and sugar mixture to the boil, then pour some of it over the spice paste and mix it well, then pour the spice paste and vinegar mixture back into the pan and bring to the boil again.  Keep stirring it until it thickens. This should take about five minutes.  Take the pan off the heat, and then you’re ready to mix in the drained vegetables.  Stir all the vegetables around until they are all coated with the spicy sauce, then pack them into sterilised jars, making sure there are no air pockets.  Seal the jars with wax paper discs to cover, and acid-proof screw-on lids.  This piccalilli can be eaten straight away but improves after about 4  weeks maturing in a dark cupboard.  It’s excellent with cheese, cured meats, pork pies, roast beef, sandwiches, anything that benefits from a mustardy, crunchy hit. I have been known to eat it from the jar with a spoon.  It’s also vegan, containing no animal products (but it tasts so good WITH animal products…!).