Friday, March 14, 2008

It’s time to do the preserves

Now that the grapes are netted, I’m busy collecting the fruits of summer.
The cucumbers bearing enormous quantities as do the tomatoes, the egg plants and the capsicums.
Because my pickles enjoy such popularity I share with you the “secret” recipes :-)
Some years ago I had an Eureka moment :-))) I always did the bottle sterilisation the old way, as are written in every recipe…heat it in the oven, steam it in a Vacola contraption ect…long, hot, arduous processes. Than I thought... if we sterilise the wine bottles and anything in the winery with Sodium Metabisulphite (SO2) why this wouldn’t be good for my preserving jars also?!...instead of the messy and labour-intensive, conventionally recommended processes. So I’ve tried it and it worked :-)))
I didn’t loose ANY preserves to spoilage since then.
Preserving is easy now! Just soak the bottles for 10 minutes, shake out the water and fill.
So far this year I've made:

Katóka's Pickled Dill Cucumbers

Wash the cucumbers. Sterilise the jars. Into each jar put:
2-3 grape leaves
1 teaspoon (ts) black pepper
1 ts black mustard seed
1 ts white mustard seed
1 ts coriander
1 ts dried chilly
1-2 bay leaves
1-2 cloves of garlic
1 handful of fresh dill
3-4 cm fresh horseradish root
Cut cucumbers to bite size chunks, fill the jars. While filling you can put in more dill, garlic and horseradish to look nice :-)
In a big pot prepare the salted water. For every liter of water measure 40g of salt. Bring to the boil. When boiling, pour into jars to fill. Leave 2-3cm space on top to allow for the gases developing during fermentation. Close jars, put them in a dark, cool place.
The pickling process is a malolactic fermentation. The liquid will be cloudy for some time then it will clear and settle, forming a whitish sediment. This is natural. If you don't like the look of the sediment you can wash it off before serving. It is ready to eat when the liquid is clear and settled - maybe 1 month.
You can use any spices you like instead of my version but you CAN'T omit the grape leaves (it is needed for supplying tannins to keep the cucumber crunchy. It can be replaced by cherry leaves or even black tea leaves -though I never tried this - as long as it contains tannins) and the horseradish (containing some antiseptic compounds).
With exactly the same process and condiments I pickle green tomatoes and mixed vegies also. In the vegie mix I use carrots, cauliflower, red and white cabbages, green tomatoes and cucumbers.

Blackberry Cordial

Pick (or buy) the blackberries. Put it in a pot and add enough water just to cover the fruit. Boil for 30 minutes. Mash or process in a blander the resulting 'soup'. In a sieve let it drip out overnight. For every liter of strained cordial add 500-750g sugar (depending how sweet you like it). Bring to the boil to let the sugar dissolve and bottle it boiling hot. Put the bottles in an esky or cover them with pillows to create a SLOW temperature drop for 2-3 days.
Enjoy! :-))

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