14 April 2014

Pickled cucumbers from the garden

It's that time of year again when many of us are starting our gardens so we can eat the freshest and tastiest of vegetables, fruits and herbs. Hanno started preparing the soil here on March 3, and over the following weeks, home-sown and bought seedlings started going in slowly. Last week some of last year's garlic was planted along with kohl rabi, turnips, lettuce, kale, Amish paste tomatoes and more ruby chard. Already planted and growing well are green beans, tomatoes, passionfruit, bok choi, peas, silver beet, onions, broccoli, cucumbers, cauliflowers, cabbage, capsicums/peppers, Welsh onions, sage, borage, parsley, pumpkin, daikons, thyme and yesterday I repotted an avocado and a bay tree. I wonder what you're planting.

For those of you who emailed asking whether Hanno will continue to do our lawn or will we get someone in to do it, here is your answer. A close up photo would reveal a smiling face. When we discussed it, Hanno said he wanted to continue to look after his own place, and that sealed it for me.

It was raining here yesterday, the remnants of a cyclone up north. That steady, gentle rain makes the plants grow like nothing else can. It feels good knowing the soil is wet and the tanks are full. Most of the hard settling up work is done now, we only have a bed of potatoes to plant and then the follow up plantings whenever there is a vacant spot. Of course there is still the occasional weeding and watering but that's not a chore, I think it's relaxing.

A few tomatoes are growing and we've just added some Amish paste tomatoes for sauce. These are the French tomato Rouge de Marmande.

Ruby chard.

I call this petticoat lettuce, I'm not sure of it's real name. We added a couple of these solar light to the garden when we noticed bandicoot holes in the lawn and a few eaten plants. They did the trick. No more holes.

The chooks were all corralled into the corner of their run when I went out yesterday to take these photos. There is Patrick on the far right, he should be showing the frightened girls what to do but he's still too young and silly.

 And this is why the chooks were scared. A young peacock from over the back fence.  I soon got rid of him.

The last pumpkin left on the vine.

Borage ready to burst into flower.

 There is an abundance of passionfruit.

Sprouting broccoli.

Peppers and daikons.

A bag of last year's garlic, just out of the fridge.

Garlic being planted.

From the vine ...
to the basket ...

to the kitchen ...
 and the fridge.

When you grow your own vegetables you tend to collect recipes for things you didn't make before, such as pickles.  We had so many cucumbers last week, far too many to eat fresh, I decided to pickle some in spicy vinegar. Those I made up yesterday could sit in the fridge for months, although they will probably be eaten much sooner than that. 

You don't need any special equipment and recycled jars will do to store them. Take your clean jars and either boil them or put the jars in a slow oven (150C/300F) for 15 minutes to sterilise them. Keep them all warm until you're ready to pack the cucumbers in the jars. The jars should be warm for that.

I think I used about 12 cucumbers but you can pickle any amount, just adjust the quantity of spiced vinegar you make. The night before, peel and slice all your cucumbers and place in a large bowl. Pour over about a tablespoon of salt. Don't worry, you won't eat the salt. If you don't drawn the fluid from the cucumbers it dilutes the vinegar too much in the jars.  Mix the cucumbers around with your hands, making sure the salt is well distributed, put a clean tea towel over the top of the bowl and leave it overnight. The following morning there will be a lot of fluid in the cucumber bowl. Pour it all into a colander and let the salty water go down the drain. Run clean cold water from the tap over the cucumbers to make sure all the salt is removed. Leave the cucumber in the colander for about an hour to drain. 

You can make your own variation of this spiced vinegar. Depending on whther you like it very vinegary, or sweet, or spicy, add more or less vinegar (make up the volume with water), sugar, spice. Make it to suit your taste. You don't have to include any spices if you don't like them.

This is how I made it:

  • 2 cups good apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds or pickling spice
  • a few peppercorns
  • a good pinch of chilli flakes
Place the above in a saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring to make sure the sugar dissolves.

To make up the pickles, pack the cucumbers into the sterilised jars and add enough vinegar to cover them. Put on the lid and allow to cool overnight before storing in the fridge.

I hope all my friends up north came through the cyclone with no flooding or other problems. It looks like we'll all be able to dry out a bit today. Take care, everyone.

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