It's only a couple of days until Christmas and I hope you've got your menu planned and all your goodies ready, or almost ready. It's always a nice touch to give a nod to our frugal and food loving grannies by adding a couple of homemade items to your yule table. So here are two easy recipes, even for new cooks, that you can make now or over the holidays.
Pickled cucumbers is the easiest pickle you'll make and even though the flavour increases the longer you let it mature, if you made it today you could eat and enjoy it on Christmas day; it's not too late.
Quick pickled cucumber
- 4 - 6 young cucumbers or about 15 - 20 baby cucumbers
- 1 onion
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 ½ cups of your favourite vinegar (I used malt vinegar)
- ½ - ¾ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon pickling spice OR ¼ teaspoon black peppercorns, ¼ teaspoon coriander seeds and ½ teaspoon mustard seeds.
Cut the cucumbers in halves lengthways, then cut each half into three long pieces. Leave the baby cucumbers whole. Place the cucumbers in a large bowl and sprinkle 1 tablespoon of salt over them, cover and leave for three hours. After three hours rinse the cucumbers to remove the salt and salty water. Leave them in a colander to drain. If you don't do this step the cucumbers will release all their water into the vinegar and spoil it. You must remember to wash the salt off though.
Sterilise a preserving/canning jar big enough to hold the cucumbers. You can do this in the dishwasher or in the oven for 15 minutes at 150C/300F degrees.
Bring the vinegar, sugar and spice to a boil and let it simmer for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, lay the sterilised jar on its side and pack the cucumbers in. Stand the jar up and pour in the hot vinegar. Seal the lid and leave the jar on the bench to cool down. When it's cool, store it in the fridge or cupboard. The vinegar and sugar will help preserve the cucumber if you don't eat it all on Christmas day. When you open the pickles, store them in the fridge.
This is a ginger cordial that, when added to cold mineral water, tastes like homemade ginger beer. It will take you about 30 minutes all up to make it.
- thick piece fresh ginger about three inches/8cm long
- 1½ litres/quarts tap water
- ¾ - 1 cup sugar
- rind and juice of one lemon
Peel and grate the ginger. Grating is better than slicing because the greater surface area you have, the better the flavour. Place the grated ginger, water, sugar and lemon in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Stir to make sure all the sugar dissolves. Turn off the heat, put the lid on the saucepan and leave on the stove top over night. The next morning, strain the ginger liquid through a strainer, sitting in a jug. Pour the ginger cordial into clean bottles and store it in the fridge. If you want to store the cordial for a while, sterilise the bottle before filling it.
To make up a drink, pour a small amount of ginger cordial into a glass and fill the glass with cold natural mineral water or soda water. Add ice, mint leaves or a lemon slice.