Giardiniere Pickles (Italian Garden Pickles)
I had a spell of work in Italy when I was 21, and one of my abiding memories of all those Italian meals was that Sunday lunch always began with a plate of salamis, prosciutto and mortadella served with pickled vegetables. I loved the way the pickles cut through the richness of the meats. So, here is another recipe by Lucy Crabb, former Executive Chef at Norwich City Football Club, which she calls Italian Garden Pickles.
Makes four 17½ fl oz (500 ml) preserving jars
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This recipe is taken from How to Cook Book Three.
This has to begin the night before with the normal salting process.
Work your way through the list of vegetables until they are all prepared: cut each onion into eight wedges through the root; next, cut the courgettes and aubergine into thick matchsticks, and the fennel bulb into wedges; lastly, core and deseed the peppers and cut them into 2 inch (5 cm) chunks.
Now layer all the vegetables, except the garlic and tomatoes, in a non-metallic bowl, and as you pile them in, sprinkle salt between the layers.
Now pour over 3 pints (1.75 litres) of water, cover with a plate with a weight on it to submerge the vegetables, and leave the bowl in a cool place overnight.
Next day, drain the vegetables in a colander, then rinse them well under cold, running water.
Now shake off the excess water, dry them in a clean tea cloth, and leave them spread out for about 3 hours on another clean tea cloth to dry off thoroughly.
After that, tip the vegetables into a bowl and stir in the garlic, along with the tomatoes and olive oil.
Next, sterilise the jars. To do this, wash the jars and lids in warm, soapy water, rinse well (again in warm water), then dry them thoroughly with a clean tea cloth, place them on a baking tray and pop them in a medium oven, gas mark 4, 350ºF (180ºC) for a minimum of 5 minutes.
Next, pour a thin layer of vinegar into the bottom of the hot, sterilised jars and add a bay leaf, a sprig of rosemary and a sprig of thyme.
Then pack in the vegetables, adding the remainder of the herbs and peppercorns as you go, and pour in enough vinegar over each layer to ensure the vegetables are covered completely.
Now swivel the jars to make sure the air is expelled and really press the vegetables down under the liquid before you cover with vinegar-proof lids.
Label when cold and store the pickles in a cool, dry, dark place to mellow for a month before eating.
They will keep for up to 6 months.
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Preserved properly, beetroot has none of the overpowering vinegar flavour that you all too often find in jars. Instead, it has a wonderful sweetness and flavour that makes it ideal with all cold meats and cheese.
Okra, or ladies' fingers, is an interesting vegetable often found in African and Indian recipes. Here it's pickled which at the very least will prove to be a conversation starter as it's so unusual!
One Christmas tradition in our family is returning from midnight Mass to freshly baked, crisp sausage rolls and equally crisp pickled onions. I have now discovered that shallots with a little sherry vinegar make a different, rather special version.
Make these a month before Christmas and you'll receive plenty of compliments when serving them with cheese and cold cuts. Or why not make up some batches as gifts for food-loving friends?
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