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Some time ago I added a recipe to this site for Cucumber Bread and Butter Pickle.  Put simply, this is a pickle to eat with bread and butter, perhaps alongside some cold meat or cheese.  (I actually enjoy it on its own in a sandwich.)  The original recipe was a fairly traditional one and shortly afterwards I added a second version with coriander seeds which gave a citrus flavour to the pickle. (Well at least I think coriander seed tastes a bit lemony!)  Here is a third version: different again, this time with a spicy bite from the chilli and mustard seeds and called American style, though I am not quite sure why.  I love this one, but next time will make sure I have washed off the salt a little more thoroughly.  The first batch was fine but the second needed either an extra wash or perhaps I should have used a little less salt – it was rather too salty for my taste. The salting is essential as without this step, which draws out the excess water in the cucumber, the pickle would go mouldy.  All of the cucumber based bread and butter pickles are worth making in the summer months when cucumbers are plentiful, but a smaller quantity can be made at any time of the year, especially if you can find a good offer on the market.  Adjust the chilli according to taste: I added a very small one the first time but find I am increasing the quantity with each batch I make.  Just a word about the vinegar: this version uses cider vinegar but another type such as wine or malt can be substituted, however it should be at least 5% proof in order for the recipe to be successful.  If you substitute malt vinegar the distilled clear type will better preserve the bright colours of the ingredients.

The recipe comes from Pam Corbin and the spin off series from River Cottage, River Cottage bites.  I scribbled down the ingredients from the television and am pretty sure they are right.  I expect the full recipe is in one of the two River Cottage volumes that Pam has written but I am not sure.  Now I just have to decide which recipe to make each time!

A note on how to dry the salted cucumber and onion: Tip rinsed items into the centre of a clean tea towel, gather the corners together and making sure there are no gaps for the cucumber and onion to fly out, take outdoors and shake by flicking your arm downwards, towards the ground.  This is Pam’s method demonstrated in the series but has been our family trick for drying lettuce years before the invention of salad spinners.  (Be sure to keep away from anything you could hit and try to avoid spraying the windows or the cat!)

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

American Style ‘Bread & Butter’ Pickle
(Makes 2-3 x 1lb jars)

1kg cucumber
1 medium sized onion
3-4tbsp salt (sea salt recommended if available)
300ml cider vinegar (must be 5%proof – see note above)
200g granulated sugar
1tsp ground turmeric
1tsp celery seeds
2tbsp white mustard seeds
1 chopped red chilli (size to taste – removing the seeds & membranes will make it milder)

1.  Peel the cucumbers, cut off the ends, quarter lengthways and slice into 3-4mm thick slices.  Peel and chop the onion fairly small pieces (no larger than the pieces of cucumber).  Mix the cucumber and onion pieces together in a non metallic bowl.

2.  Sprinkle over the salt, gently toss through the cucumber and onion and leave for 2 hours.

3.  Rinse the cucumber and onion well in icy water. Taste check the cucumber and rinse again if it is too salty.  To dry see note above.

4.  Wash the jars well and sterilise them.  I usually do this by filling the jars with boiling water and putting the lids in a bowl of boiling water.  I pour away the water just before filling each jar and immediately take the lid from the bowl and screw it on.

5.  Place the vinegar into a saucepan that will be large enough to eventually take all the ingredients. Add the sugar, turmeric, celery seeds, white mustard seeds and chopped chilli.

6.   Heat gently so that the sugar has dissolved, stir to combine and bring to the boil.

7.   Add the cucumber and onion, stir and bring back to the boil.  Cook for 3-4 minutes.  It needs this long to destroy any bacteria which could cause the pickle to deteriorate. Any longer and the pickle will be less crisp.

8.  Pot while still hot into the pre-prepared sterilised jars. Screw on the lids well and then turn upside down until cool, which helps with the seal, after which they can be labelled.  This can be eaten immediately but also keeps well.

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Prunes: love them or hate them?  Perhaps it is the humourous asides that accompany their mention – perhaps it’s memories of school dinners – I don’t know, after all, they are simply dried plums and if you like plums I cannot understand why you would not like prunes as well.  So, let’s hear it for the much maligned but versatile prune!  How do I eat them?  Well stewed, of course, hot or cold, which is the simplest way but I also put them in fruit cakes and even, in spite of my dislike of meat and fruit together, in a Moroccan style dish we love of chicken.  Now I have a new way…

I came across this recipe recently whilst leafing through one of my favourite chutney and pickle books The Penguin Book of Jams, Pickles & Chutneys by David & Rose Mabey and is extremely simple.  The instructions say it goes well with ham and I plan to make sure it goes on the table at Christmas & New Year.  I tried a quarter quantity using inexpensive supermarket Value brand prunes and was able to almost fill two attractive tall jam jars, just having to add a few extra prunes (say 50g) for good measure to top up the jars.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Pickled Prunes
(Makes around 1½lb)

8-10ozs/250-300g no soak pitted (stoneless) prunes
2ozs/125g sugar (I used white)
1 small blade of mace – original used a pinch each of ground nutmeg & mace
12 black peppercorns
½pint/10fl ozs/300ml white malt vinegar
½tbsp brandy (optional)

(As I was using no soak prunes I omitted the step soaking them in water overnight until plump and juicy, before draining.)  However … 

1.  … if the prunes seem a little dry cover with boiling water.  Leave for 5-10 minutes to plump up before draining well. 

2.  Wash the jars well and sterilise.  I usually do this by filling the jars with boiling water and putting the lids in a bowl of boiling water.  I pour away the water just before filling each jar and immediately take the lid from the bowl and screw it on.  Shake as much water from them as possible before filling.
Alternatively put the jars in an oven set to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4 for 10 minutes.  Be careful to put them on a dry surface when removing or they could crack.  Lids can be placed in a small pan of boiling water.  Shake as much water  from the lids as possible before filling.

3.  Place the sugar,vinegar and spices in a small pan.  Boil for about 10 minutes to allow the sugar to dissolve and the flavours to permeate the vinegar.

4.  Pack the prunes into prepared jars, using extra prunes if necessary.

5.  Adding brandy is optional and if using it should be divided equally between the jars before adding the vinegar mixture.

6.  Place the peppercorns and mace blade in the jar (cut the blade into pieces if you have more than one jar) and finally pour the vinegar over the prunes.

7.  Put the lids on the jars and invert until cool, which helps with the seal.

8.  These prunes can be eaten immediately but are better kept a few weeks or even months.  They have a spicy slightly sharp flavour and are good eaten with cold ham.

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I have been thinking ahead to Christmas cooking as some of the recipes need to be made in advance to allow the flavours to mature. I will make our Christmas cake, Christmas Pudding, Christmas Chutney and Mincemeat very soon but first here is the recipe for some delicious spiced pears.  These are good served with cold meats or cheese at a festive seasonal buffet.

The recipe comes from the Hairy Bikers BBC Christmas television series The Hairy Bikers Twelve Days of Christmas.  They credit Italian chef Antonio Carluccio as their inspiration.  I followed the original recipe for Pickled Pears almost exactly using 2lb jars (which had originally been full of Mincemeat).  Kilner type preserving jars would be ideal if available.  These pears should be eaten within two months and stored in the fridge once the jar is opened, so if you are unlikely to eat a large quantity in one go it could be a good idea to make smaller jars containing just one or two pears.  Juniper Berries are becoming easier to find, though still not widely available in the UK.  I have a small jar, bought from the herb and spice section of a French supermarket which is labelled Baies de Genièvre.  The original recipe did not specify the size of pear, but I chose small evenly sized ones, digging into the bottom and removing the end opposite to the stalk.  These are designed to be served whole on a buffet with slices cut from them by diners, but I wonder if  pear quarters might be a good alternative to whole pears.  I think too that peach or plum halves would be delicious prepared to the same recipe and even perhaps mixed in the same jar – something to try another year! 

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Pickled Pears
(Makes 2 or 3 large jars)

1 litre/1¾ pints white wine vinegar
0.5 litres/17½fl oz water
500g/1lb 2oz caster sugar
3 small star anise
1 large cinnamon stick, broken into pieces (one for each jar)
1 tbsp allspice berries
1 lemon, zest peeled off in a large strip with a potato peeler
½ tsp cloves
2 tsp juniper berries
20 evenly sized small Conference pears, peeled with stalks intact
Small sprigs fresh rosemary (one for each jar)

1.  Place the water, vinegar, sugar, star anise, cinnamon stick, allspice berries, lemon zest, cloves and juniper berries in a large, lidded, non-reactive pan and bring to the boil.

2.  Peel the pears carefully leaving the stalks intact.  I like to gently dig out the end opposite the stalk.  Add the pears to the saucepan and cover the pan with a lid.  Reduce the heat and let the pears simmer gently for 10-15 minutes, or until they are tender.

3.  Carefully remove the pears from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

4.  Bring the liquid back to the boil for 4-5 minutes so it is slightly reduced and thickened.  (In practice I found it best not to overdo this step as it is important to have enough liquid to top up the jars after they have been filled with pears.)

5.  Wash the jars well and sterilise.  I usually do this by filling the jars with boiling water and putting the lids in a bowl of boiling water.  I pour away the water just before filling each jar and immediately take the lid from the bowl and screw it on.  Shake as much water from them as possible before filling.
Alternatively put the jars in an oven set to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4 for 10 minutes.  Be careful to put them on a dry surface when removing or they could crack.  Lids can be placed in a small pan of boiling water.  Shake as much water from the lids as possible before filling.

6.  Remove the spices from the liquid and return it to the pan on a low simmer to keep it hot.  Divide the pears between the sterilised jars, handling them gently as they will be soft but packing them in as tightly as possible. As you fill the jars equally distribute the spices and lemon rind between them, at the same time adding one small sprig of rosemary to each jar.  Finally divide the reduced cooking liquid equally between the jars.   (I found that the jars were not filled right to the top so I topped them up with some freshly boiled water from the kettle, hence my comment above about not boiling the mixture away too much.) 

7.  Seal the jars tightly.  I find that inverting the hot jars, until they are cool, helps with the seal.

8.  These pickled pears can be stored for up two months.  They can be eaten after one week but once the jar is opened it should be stored in the fridge and eaten within two weeks.

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Pickled lemons are traditionally used in North African dishes.  The sourness of lemon or lime and the saltiness of olives can be cooked together with meat or fish, often in a traditional Tagine, or served as an accompaniment at the meal.  (I will be posting a delicious recipe for North African Spiced Baked Chicken with Pickled Lemon in the next week or so.)  The pickle is delicious finely chopped and stirred into Couscous.  The original recipe also suggests placing pieces on fish fillets before baking or using the lemon oil/vinegar as in dressings or on fish and chips for a spicy lemon flavour.  I tried, unsuccessfully, to make pickled lemons some years ago and was loth to try it again, but I experimented with a very small quantity with a different recipe and this time found it to be extremely successful.  The lemon and/or lime pickle is very quick and simple to make and can be used after three or four days, although three weeks is recommended to allow the fruit to start to soften.

This recipe was taken Crosse & Blackwell/Sarsons Vinegar Perfect Pickles by Suzanne Janusz.  (The recipe for Lime Pickle, a spicy accompaniment for Indian Food with a very different taste, was taken from the same booklet.)  This recipe is for finely sliced lemons and limes but it can be made with lemons or limes alone and I have seen whole and halved lemons prepared in a similar way, although I have not tried this.  I see no reason why larger pieces of fruit could not be used although they would probably need longer to absorb the pickling mixture.  It is better to make several small sized pots as the lemons start to deteriorate, becoming over soft, once the pot has been opened.  For this reason too it would be wise to reduce the ingredients, making a smaller amount, where the pickle is just for occasional use. 

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

North African Style Pickled Lemon & Lime
(Makes aprox 1ltr/1½pints)

6 lemons or limes (I used a mixture – 3 of each)
25g/1oz salt
15ml/1tbsp paprika
30ml/2tbsp caster sugar
75ml/5tbsp sunflower oil
300ml/½pint white distilled pickling malt vinegar

This recipe needs to be started the day before.

1.   Scrub and finely slice the lemons and/or limes.

2.  Layer the fruits and salt in a non-metallic colander or sieve.  Cover with a non-metallic cover (not touching the fruits) and leave in a cool place for 24hrs.

3.  Before preparing the pickle wash and sterilise the jars.  I usually do this by filling them with boiling water and putting the lids in a separate small bowl of boiling water.  Pour away the water just before filling each jar and once the jar is full immediately take the lid from the bowl and without touching the inside screw it onto the jar.  Although the contents for the jars in this recipe are not heated the hot lid should contract and form a seal: if re-using a jam jar with a ‘pop in/out indicator’ on top this may well contract.  However, the seal cannot be guaranteed so it is best to make occasional small quantities rather than one large batch.

4.  Do not rinse the fruit.  Layer in sterilised jars sprinkling paprika between the layers.

5.  Mix together the sugar, oil and vinegar. Pour this mixture (unheated) over the fruit.  Seal the jars. (See note above at 3.) 

6.  The jar should regularly be gently shaken to mix together the oil and vinegar.  Allow to mature for a few days and ideally up to three weeks before using.  Store in a refrigerator once open.

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This is a lovely spicy citrus pickle to serve as a side dish with an Indian meal, whether part of an extensive Indian menu when entertaining friends or a midweek family meal.  It is especially good with tandoori style cooked meats and kebabs. So many of the lime pickles in the shops are very oily but this version is much less so.

This recipe was taken from a manufacturer’s booklet lent by a pickle making friend: Crosse & Blackwell/Sarsons Vinegar Perfect Pickles by Suzanne Janusz.  The limes in the original recipe are halved and finely sliced but they could be left as quarters or thickly sliced if you prefer.  Make in several small jars, so it can be opened freshly as needed. The full quantity of chilli makes a hot pickle but by using less the heat can be adjusted to taste.  The seeds contain a lot of the heat, so removing these and just using the green part will make a difference.  Served with poppadums alongside a dish of sweet mango pickle this would make a very simple starter or appetiser.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Lime Pickle

45ml/3tbsp vegetable oil
15ml/1tbsp coriander seeds
15ml/1tbsp black mustard seeds
2.5ml/½tsp cumin seeds
2 fresh green chillis, finely sliced (reduce/increase according to taste)
1 large onion, finely sliced
15ml/1tbsp salt (original amount, but may be too much – see below. NB try 1tsp next time)
225g/8ozs sugar
60ml/4tbsp tomato puree
300ml/½pint distilled pickling malt vinegar
8 limes, halved & finely sliced

1.  Prepare all the ingredients before starting to make the pickle as they need to be added in quick succession.

2.  Heat the vegetable oil in a medium sized saucepan.  Put in the spices and fry them over a medium heat until they start to pop.  Do not overcook as they burn very quickly.

3.  Put in the chillis and onion, stir and cook for a minute.

4.  Add the remaining ingredients and gently simmer for about 30minutes, stirring occasionally until the lime pickle thickens.

5.  While the pickle is cooking wash and sterilise the jars.  I usually do this by filling them with boiling water and putting the lids in a separate small bowl of boiling water.  I pour away the water just before filling each jar and immediately take the lid from the bowl without touching the inside and screw it on as soon as the jar is full.

5.  Pot the chutney into the prepared jars sealing while still hot.  Cool and label.  Store for a few days before using to let the flavours develop.

6 March 2010 – Note: The first batch of pickle was a half quantity and I was happy with it.  However the second batch I made was rather too salty so I have halved the salt content of the original recipe.  (I wonder if I might have misread the recipe the first time I made it, using 1tsp rather than 1tbsp.)  I rectified the problem by making a second half batch without salt, mixing it with the one that was too salty and re-potting.

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I am very fond of simply pickled cucumber and onion, often called ‘Bread & Butter’ Pickle, supposedly because it goes so well with Bread & Butter. There are various versions of this pickle, some of which have the addition of ginger or chilli to give a hotter flavour, but I like this straightforward and uncomplicated version. I like to make a half quantity of the amount given below as I prefer a lightly pickled, still crunchy, version.  It is delicious on its own, as a sandwich filling, but can also be served with cheese or cold meats.   The liquid around the pickle is clear – the variation (given below) has a brown liquid, but this can be made clear by using white rather than demerara sugar.

The first recipe comes from my favourite little book, bought many years ago, called A Pocket Book on Pickles & Preserves: techniques, hints & recipes by Olive Odell.   This is always the place I look first when hunting down a pickle or preserve recipe.  Serve with hot or cold meats or cheese.

Variations – see further down:
Cucumber ‘Bread & Butter’ Pickle (using coriander seeds)
American Style ‘Bread & Butter’ Pickle

100_8210 Cucumber Pickle

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Cucumber ‘Bread & Butter’ Pickle (using celery seeds)
(Makes 4-5 x 1lb jars)

3 medium cucumbers
4 medium onions
4tbsp cooking salt
600ml/1pt white vinegar
175g/6ozs white sugar
1 tsp celery seed
1tsp mustard seed, white or brown

1.  Wipe the cucumbers and cut into small cubes, or split lengthways into long quarters and then slice.  Peel and chop the onion into similarly sized pieces.

2.  Mix cucumber and onion together in a bowl, sprinkle with the salt, stir together and leave for at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight.  Rinse and dry thoroughly.

3.  Heat the vinegar, sugar, celery and mustard seed gently together until the sugar has dissolved.  Simmer for 3 minutes. 4.  Wash the jars well and sterilise.  I usually do this by filling the jars with boiling water and putting the lids in a bowl of boiling water.  I pour away the water just before filling each jar and immediately take the lid from the bowl and screw it on.

5.  Pot the mixture by packing the dried cucumber and onion into jars and pouring over the hot vinegar until they are covered and then putting the lids on immediately.

6.  The mixture is ready for eating within about 24 hours, but a longer keeping time gives a stronger flavoured but less crunchy pickle.

—–

This second, alternative, recipe for ‘Bread & Butter’ Pickle has an almost ‘citrussy’ flavour from the whole coriander seeds. It was copied into my recipe file many years ago, but I have no idea of the original source.  The liquid surrounding the pickle in this version is brown (from the demerara sugar) rather than clear.  Using white sugar would give a clear liquid but the flavour of the pickle would be less ‘caramelised’.  It is suggested that this would be good in corned beef sandwiches, hot dogs/frankfurters or barbecued sausages, but it is delicious with cheese (I enjoy it with a slice of Brie!).

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Cucumber ‘Bread & Butter’ Pickle (using coriander seed)
(Makes 1 large or 2 medium sized jars)

2 small cucumbers (around 8ozs each)
1 mild Spanish onion
1oz sea salt
5 fl ozs white wine vinegar
60zs demerara sugar
1tbsp mustard seeds (colour not specified: white or black)
1tsp whole coriander seeds
Generous pinch of cayenne

1.  Wipe the cucumbers and cut into small cubes, or split lengthways into long quarters and then slice.  Peel and chop the onion into similarly sized pieces.

2.  Mix cucumber and onion together in a bowl, sprinkle with the salt, stir together and leave for at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight.  Rinse and dry thoroughly.

3.  Heat the vinegar, sugar, cayenne, mustard and coriander seeds gently together until the sugar has dissolved.  Simmer for 3 minutes.

4.  Wash the jars well and sterilise.  I usually do this by filling the jars with boiling water and putting the lids in a bowl of boiling water.  I pour away the water just before filling each jar and immediately take the lid from the bowl and screw it on.

5.  Pot the mixture by packing the dried cucumber and onion into jars and pouring over the hot vinegar until they are covered and then putting the lids on immediately.

6.  The mixture is ready for eating within about 24 hours, but a longer keeping time gives a stronger flavoured but less crunchy pickle.

American Style ‘Bread & Butter’ Pickle

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

 

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