Christmas Crafts, Handmade Holiday Cards & Gifts

How to Pickle Vegetables

Pickle fresh veggies in homemade spiced pickling vinegar to preserve them for the Christmas season, or to give away as gifts.

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Salt, oil and vinegar all prevent vegetables from decay by protecting them from the bacteria that could rot them. Salt draws out moisture and creates an inhospitable environment for bacteria, oil coats the produce to prevent contamination from the air and the acid in vinegar, known as acetic acid, inhibits bacterial growth. Pickling combines the preservative qualities of salt and vinegar, and it's an ideal way to preserve vegetables such as beans, cabbage, cauliflower, cucumbers, onions and shallots. The pickling process also transforms the taste and texture of these fresh vegetables into more complex flavors, which taste delicious with a variety of different foods such as fish, game and cold meats. For best results, use the freshest, crispest produce.

Brining and Potting Up

The vegetables need "brining" in salt water first before being preserved in vinegar, to draw out the moisture that would otherwise seep into the vinegar and dilute it. The brining time varies — dense vegetables, such as shallots, need longer than beans or cucumbers. Use coarse salt, as it contains none of the anti-caking agents that are added to table salt.

For 3-1/4 pounds of vegetables, mix 4.5 liters of water and 1 pound of salt into a brine, add the veggies and leave for 12 hours with a plate on top to weigh them down and keep them submerged. If pickling shallots, skin them then cover with fresh brine for another 24 hours before placing them in sterilized preserving jars. Pour the spiced pickling vinegar over them so they are completely covered, and seal the jars.

Homemade Spiced Pickling Vinegar

Ingredients:

6 cups malt vinegar
a few pieces of blade mace
20 cloves
20 whole allspice berries
1 cinnamon stick
6 peppercorns
1 cup raw cane sugar

Steps:

1. Boil all the ingredients together in a pan for a few minutes. Then cover and leave the liquid for 2 hours to cool completely. Strain into sterilized bottles until needed.

2. Use preserving jars with vinegar-proof lids when you bottle the vegetables in pickling vinegar. Leave the pickles to mature for at least three months before using them.

Excerpted from A Greener Christmas

© Dorling Kindersley Limited 2008

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