When autumn arrives, I usually start craving pickles. I love pickles of all sorts, and each year make a batch of preserves, both sweet and savoury - jams, marmalades, chutneys and pickles. It must be my "homing instinct" thing, as when cooking preserves, I go back to my territory. Though I haven't visited my homeland for 10 years, canning takes me back home, at least in my mind. Canning is a national religion in Russia. Quite understandably. If you have snow for up to six months (as in my parts of the world), you need to be well prepared food-wise. Of course, with supermarkets open 24 hours a day nowadays, you don't actually need to save food this way, but it must be a genetic call: get ready for winter, save your harvest. Oh, and it's also great fun.
I have recently come across a lovely recipe for bread and butter pickles on Pinterest, and wanted to try it. The original recipe for bread and butter pickles appears on Savoury Simple blog. I have slightly adapted it, and also converted some of the cup measurements into something I can understand. I don't quite know why these pickles are called bread and butter pickles, as neither ingredient is used in the recipe. Does anyone know the origins of this name?
Anyway, I managed to buy some lovely small size cucumbers at the local farmers' market. I also used half a standard size cucumber to add to the total weight, so you can use either. It's just smaller size cucumbers look prettier and taste better, I think.
Cucumbers pickled with mustard seed and turmeric
800g cucumbers, thinly sliced
5-6 small shallots, thinly sliced
75g coarse salt
375ml apple cider vinegar
150g granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp mustard seed
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 fennel flowerhead (or 1tsp dried fennel seed)
Slice the cucumbers thinly and slightly at an angle if you want oval-shaped slices rather than round (I did a mix of both).Slice the shallots thinly. Put both sliced cucumbers and shallots in a big pan, add the salt, pour the cold water over. Leave the pan to sit for 2 or 3 hours.
Now the original recipe suggested draining the cucumbers and doesn't mention if the salted water should be preserved. Save one mug of salted water. I thought that the pickling liquid might not be enough to cover the cucumbers, and I was right. I have saved a mug of salted water, which I later added to the pickling liquid. Rinse the sliced cucumbers in cold water.
In a medium size bowl or small pan mix the apple cider vinegar, sugar, mustard seed, turmeric , and add a fennel flowerhead (or fennel seeds). Pour this mix over the sliced cucumbers and shallots in a big pan. Add the saved mug of salted water.
Bring to boil and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring the cucumbers.
Remove from the heat and ladle into sterilised jars.
I often reuse jam and honey jars for my homemade jams, but for pickles prefer the wider jars, so I buy either Kilner or Tala jars whenever they are on offer (right now, for example, they are 4 for 3 at Robert Dyas). Once you have a good supply, you can reuse these jars for many years.
The pickles will keep well in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Though they won't last that long here. These are very tasty pickles, crispy, flavourful, sightly yellow from turmeric. Brilliant with plain boiled potatoes, or in a sandwich with rye bread and corned beef.