I have been determined to get things straightened out ready for the spring. However, my biggest weakness is procrastination and the bigger the mess the more likely I will put things off. The most pressing need right now is the dome… it is a huge mess as it has been a dumping ground for months. I need it ship shape and spick and span ready for a new season of seedlings to emerge under my watchful care in mere weeks!
So, I stepped in there to make a start and was faced with an even more impending procrastination problem. In the summer I harvested my shallots and carefully laid them out in trays to dry in the greenhouse, intending to pickle them in the following weeks. Unfortunately, they never left the drying rack. As they are such a robust vegetable, they didn’t demand urgent attention like a bowl full of gherkins would have. And there was always something more pressing, more urgent, and more interesting to be done. So, I didn’t do anything. Until now.
Faced with the thought of the monumental task of tidying the dome, all of a sudden pickling onions seems like a great thing to do. It could have something to do with the fact some of them were starting to go a little soft or beginning to sprout. So, it switched from a ‘when I get round to it’ job to a more pressing ‘you snooze you lose’ situation and I hate to see waste from the garden. I needed to pickle onions urgently. Cleaning the dome can wait.
Having said that it isn’t a job to be rushed. It turned out I had 2kg of the marble sized shallots and I completely forgot the advice of using a little hot water to loosen the skins to make peeling easy. Over the course of a couple of days I spent a considerable amount of time carefully peeling onions and trying not to mark the layer underneath as it can show up in the final pickle. It was mind numbingly boring but it sure beats cleaning.
Not having really planned for this job I realised I didn’t have quite enough salt to do the brining process. But then I remembered a bag of Himalayan pink salt in the back of the cupboard to top up the last few grams to get what I needed. And just like that they have become artisan gourmet pickled onions.
The salty brine water was then rinsed away, so it probably won’t even make a difference that there was Himalayan pink salt in there, but I will know. Fortunately, the chillies are still sporadically producing so when the recipe called for dried chillies, I thought ‘I can do better than that’. The only other seasoning the recipe called for was peppercorns and while that is all good and well – it is from a much loved and trusted recipe book, it seemed a tad boring for my tastes so I had a bit of a look around the garden to see what else could lift the flavour a little.
I always have a problem with making pickled onions as the recipe says put the onions into sterile jars and fill with vinegar. But considering the onions themselves take up most of the space in the jar, how much do you really need? I normally fill the jars with the onions and as part of the rinsing process to remove the brine, then fill the jars with water and pour it off into a measuring cup so I have a better idea of not only how much vinegar but also how many jars I actually need to sterilise. Then I empty the onions out into a clean bowl and give the jars a good wash and pop them in the oven at 100ᵒC for 20 minutes.
Then with the right amount of vinegar and a little extra, just in case, I boil the vinegar with the peppercorns, chillies and whatever else I decide to put in there. Then pack it all into hot jars and seal them up, waiting for that magical pop to tell me all is well and in months to come we will have delicious tangy, crunchy oniony goodness.
And then there would be nothing stopping me from cleaning the dome… although I should probably get a mask, so I don’t breathe in the dry dusty soil and give myself legionnaires disease. In the meantime, there are those tomatoes I popped in the freezer intending to make tomato relish when the heat of the day wasn’t sweltering and more suited to standing over a hot stove. Annnnd…. I do need to make room in the freezer for more space for the new season harvest….
Gosh I’m terrible. I need to stop procrastinating and clean the dome so I can get the new season off to a great start!
Come again soon – Spring is just around the corner.
Sarah the Gardener : o)