England, like any country, has its pro's and con's but I thought I had died and gone to heaven when I discovered many pubs over there are furnished with an enormous glass jar of pickled eggs at the end of the bar. The procedure is an odd one as follows: Buy a nice crunchy bag of salt and vinegar crisps and then plonk a wet pickled egg into the middle. Proceed to munch happily through the egg with the pickled albumen squeaking on your teeth, follow with a handful of soggy crisps and a slug of beer and wonder why you're not having much luck with the ladies. I absolutely love vinegar, I'm addicted to the stuff. My hand actually starts shaking in anticipation as reach into the cupboard for one of the many jars of pickled produce that line the shelves. I even have this balsamic vinegar 'atomizer' bottle and sometimes give the taste buds a quick spray as I'm passing for an instant vinegar hit so I'm a perfect candidate for having a go at making my own. I haven't done much pickling I'll confess, this year being my first foray into homemade vinegar heaven but what I have done I found pretty easy. My expert guide book is Alys Fowler's brilliant 'Abundance' (you're not going to believe this but we sell it: Alys Fowler - Abundance) which is a beautifully put together and easy to understand book. The photographs are great and not only tell the story but will properly inspire you to actually make the stuff. 'Abundance' also covers drying, fermenting, jam making, bottling and freezing in great detail so a brilliant reference book for the home growers library. I have actually been to Alys's house in Birmingham and unless she nipped out and spent a small fortune on homemade pickles, chutneys and preserves to scatter about the place I can confirm she's definitely the real deal. Anyway, time for a quick pickle? One of the great things about making pickles is it's a speedy process so a great place to start on your preserving career. I pickled some slightly unripe cherry tomatoes as I was clearing out the tunnel and ended up quite a few. Green tomatoes are fine to use, it's the over ripe ones you need to avoid as they will turn into a mush and ruin your lovely pickles. To get started of you will need at least one sterilised sealable preserving jar. As luck would have it we stock a broad range of quality 'Tala' preserving jars in a range of sizes from 700ml to 2100ml. These are clip top rubber sealed jars with lids which can be used for pickles and preserves but also for airtight storage of dried foods like dried beans or cereals. We stock the following round 'Tala' sealable preserving jar sizes: 700ml, 950ml, 1500ml, 2100ml. You can see all four food preserving jars here. Sterilising your jars (rubber sealed clip top type) Jars need to be sterilised to kill off any bacteria which will multiply and spoil your stored produce. Start by washing your jars in warm soapy water and rinse with boiled water, you can then use one of the following recommended methods for rubber sealed jars:
- Remove the rubber seals beforehand and sterilise separately by simmering in a small pan of water for 10 mins. Boil the jars and lids in a large pan of water at 160˚C for 10 mins.
- Remove the rubber seals and sterilise separately as above. Place the jars on a baking tray in a cold oven and set to 140˚C. Once the oven has reached temperature leave for 15 mins.
- Wash your jars in warm soapy water and rinse with boiled water. Remove lids and rubber seals from your jars and place everything on the top rack of the dishwasher. Set the dishwasher to a hot wash without using any detergent tablets or cleaning solution.