What a pickle

Let the fruits of sum­mer brighten au­tumn and win­ter too. Try these recipes for tra­di­tional pick­les and the shorter-life, ‘fridge’ va­ri­ety

The Sunday Telegraph - Stella - - EAT IN -

The Sami fam­ily I stayed with in Nor­way this sum­mer di­vides the year into eight sea­sons in­stead of four, and it is ‘sum­mer-au­tumn’ that Eli­nor, the mother, likes best. I’m with her. It isn’t so much that you let go of sum­mer, it’s that it lets go of you. The slide to­wards au­tumn can be sub­tle but you know it’s hap­pen­ing. The light grad­u­ally re­cedes and that au­tum­nal feel­ing of set­tling down starts to creep in, yet you still sense the ease of sum­mer.

Some cooks find this pe­riod over­ripe – the toma­toes seem bloated; peaches have lost their firm­ness – but ev­ery year I feel over­whelmed by the abun­dance of this in-between sea­son. I’m happy for the weather and the food to change, but some­thing in me wants to pre­serve in­gre­di­ents. This is only partly be­cause I want to eat sum­mery foods in the au­tumn and win­ter. Mostly, it’s about the en­joy­ment of making some­thing and the plea­sure of hav­ing la­belled jars of pick­led peaches, cher­ries, radishes and cu­cum­ber hug­ging up to each other on the kitchen shelves. Peaches be­cause their skins turn the vine­gar a glow­ing pinky-or­ange; cu­cum­ber be­cause its green­ness makes you think of the piney fresh­ness of dill be­fore you’ve even opened the jar. An Amer­i­can-Ira­nian poet wrote of pick­les ‘gos­sip­ing in vine­gar’, and I always re­mem­ber that line.

Pick­ling doesn’t have to mean hours spent wait­ing for the wa­ter from veg­eta­bles to drip – dur­ing salt­ing – from colan­ders. We’ve now taken on the habits of other cul­tures: ‘quick pick­les’ or ‘fridge pick­les’ are com­mon in South East Asia and Amer­ica. There’s no salt­ing; you just put the veg­eta­bles in a so­lu­tion of vine­gar, wa­ter, salt (maybe sugar too) and add spices. Most veg­eta­bles – car­rots, cour­gettes, cu­cum­ber – need only to be sliced into ba­tons or rounds but some, such as green beans, should be blanched to soften them, then rinsed in cold wa­ter to set their colour. The mixed pick­led­veg­etable recipe be­low can be used at any time of the year (and with other spices).

The cu­cum­bers and the peaches are prop­erly pick­led, and you can use these recipes as blue­prints too. Plums and apri­cots can be treated like peaches (they just need a shorter cook­ing time), and gin­ger, star anise, cin­na­mon and cloves can all be used in­stead of rose­mary.

To ster­ilise jars, ei­ther wash them (and their vine­gar-proof lids) in soapy wa­ter and put them in a low oven for 20 min­utes, or run them through the dish­washer.

I’m al­ready look­ing for­ward to eat­ing the rose­mary-pick­led peaches with roast pork in Oc­to­ber: salty crack­ling, sweet-tart fruit and a meet­ing of sum­mer and au­tumn.

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