We have a thing about preserves in our house. Everyone loves them, and I make a fair amount. They are very popular as gifts.Our French friends and neighbours are very enthusiastic about the “le chutney”. They are slowly learning how to make it from magazine recipes or from British neighbours. My closest neighbour Marie-Line (yes, she spells it that way) has taken to heating it up and serving it with meats of all descriptions – I suppose as a type of sweet and sour sauce. I can’t say I have copied her example, but it is well received by her family.
Sadly, we have run dry of all supplies – there is nothing left in the larder. A very sad affair.
So, I have taken to making a few things out of season – it’s amazing how you can rustle up a few ingredients to bridge the gap in the larder until Autumn arrives once again.
I bought some shallots the other day – they were reasonably priced as, let’s face it , they’re not at their best at this time of year – one or two had green shoots coming out of their tops. However, pickled in a dark and spicy vinegar they are very forgiving and quite delicious.
Here’s the recipe.
(You can scale the amounts down, but it’s never worth it – they go so quickly!)
3 kilos of shallots – peeled.
1.5 litres of cider vinegar
0.5 litre of balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons of pickling spice – I used a mixture of peppercorns, allspice berries and coriander seeds.
6 heaped tablespoons of dark brown sugar – more if you like them sweet.
Cinnamon sticks – about a thumb’s length for each jar you fill
A few small dried chillies (optional)
The process is a two day thing, I’m afraid.
FIRST DAY – Peel the shallots and generously sprinkle on the sea salt ( don’t use the coarse stuff as it won’t adhere to the shallots, and just fall to the bottom of the bowl. Cover and leave for 24 hours
– Add all the other ingredients, except the cinnamon sticks into a thick based saucepan. Gently bring to a boil. Cover and leave to infuse for 24 hours.
SECOND DAY. Drain the shallots in a colander and shake off any excess salt. Pack into jars, add a cinnamon stick and pour over the cooled vinegar.
Store for at least two weeks in a cool place and serve with the usual suspects – Ploughman’s, cold cuts etc.
Note – Ensure jars are clean and have been rinsed in boiling water to sterilize. I do this by standing a spoon in each jar and pouring boiling water into each jar up to the brim. Allow to stand for 5 minutes and drain on a clean cloth. Put the lids into a heatproof bowl and pour over boiling water to cover. Not very exciting reading, but necessary information)