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)
Are jars measured in metrics there?
Yes. The large ones are a litre and the smaller ones are 500ml : o)
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Oh, that would take some getting accustomed to!
I think I’d struggle with the other way round, metrics makes such sense to me. : o)
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I love your vinegar-and-jar calculating trick! Very nifty.
It usually works out spot on, with maybe a little left over to turn into a salad dressing works for other pickles too. : o)
Well done! A great harvest and you got it all done (never mind cleaning the dome…)
It turns out cleaning the dome isn’t so bad, I’m almost done! There is nothing like the reward of sowing new season seeds to spur on the efforts! : o)
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Well done! Great idea measuring the water … 👏 Bet they taste divine
It works well with gherkins as well. It can be so frustrating having to prepare just a little bit more to fill jars or have loads left over. I’m looking forward to giving them a taster… they should be ready with plenty of time for spring and summer salads! : o)
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Sarah, I always have good intentions about getting many little inside projects done during the winter months but after a bit of what I think is deserved down time from a summer of busy activity, it suddenly becomes spring. Where in the world did winter go. Then the lack of activity doesn’t really inspire the excitement of getting busy with the new garden season when bones ache, muscles complain, and energy wanes quickly. However, by the end of the first month of spring all things are a go for the garden year. We here in Nebraska are at the end of summer but still have 66 days until a killing frost so there’s still some season left. I was buried in zucchini this year and finally just pulled out the plants because I didn’t want any more. It’s the first time that ever happened. The sweet corn was the star of the garden this year. I have at least three dozen ears frozen with about that many to freeze on the second planting. I know that doesn’t really sound like much but for one old bachelor, it’s plenty. I have one large jar of refrigerator pickles with enough cucumbers for another one. All the onions are harvested and drying in the basement. The tomatoes are starting their summer flush and are so delicious and juicy in spite of the very dry weather. Much of the summer salads are made with tomato, onion, and cucumbers out of the garden. And, well, the basement lettuce salad garden is helping with those summer salads as well.
Be well, stay safe and may all your aches and pains only be little ones.