Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Pickled Beetroot

I'm still fairly new to pickling and in fact preserving as a whole, but with such a glut of gorgeous beetroots at the moment I thought what better way to extend the joy of eating them then to make a pickle.

In previous years I've pickled onions and shallots but never really out of necessity, more for the fact that I enjoy them with a ploughmans. I've also dabbled in jams and chutneys following a successful day at a pick your own farm or a seasonal glut of courgettes (as I'm sure a lot of us experiencing at the moment). So with what little knowledge I have got and with Pam Corbin's River Cottage handbook to hand I thought I'd be a bit experimental and make it up as I go along.

Many beetroot pickle recipes would call for you to cook the beetroot before preserving; this year I haven't cooked a single one preferring to pick them slightly smaller and slice thinly in salads to keep the fantastic stripes that the Barbabietola di Chioggia have running through them.

As with standard recipes I heated enough distilled malt vinegar to fill the jar and added three heaped teaspoons of sugar to take some of the sharpness away. Whilst this was coming to the boil I packed the sliced beetroots into the jar fairly tightly to maximise space.

To the vinegar I added some whole black pepper corns and a few bay leaves from the tree in the back garden. This was all poured into the jar whilst still hot ensuring that the beetroot was fully covered. The intention is that by pouring it in hot and then sealing the jars, it may slightly soften the beetroot along with the actual pickling in vinegar itself.

The end result looks great and exactly as I had imagined. After a day the beetroot has coloured the vinegar an almost fluorescent pink which is far more attractive than a dark brown jar on the shelf.

Hopefully, when it comes to eating, the beetroot will still retain it's earthy flavour along with picking up some of the sharpness and sweetness of the pickling solution. Whether or not it will retain it's crunch I don't know but I'd like there to still be a bite to it. Imagine a single slice on cracker topped with cheddar or couple of slices finely shredded in a leftover roast pork sandwich; I'm already salivating!

Monday, 24 April 2017

Progress on the allotment

Since taking on the allotment in November progress has been slow but steady. The landowner had said that he would plough it for me when it dried up a bit. So I waited and waited and by early March I thought I’m just going to have to do it myself.

The problem with the site is the amount of rabbits that are in the neighbouring fields and hedgerows; each individual plot needs to be fenced off and rabbit proofed. Not that I’m complaining too much, having an allotment amongst open countryside is an absolute joy. It’s a real pleasure just to sit and watch nature, although I’ve not had too much of chance to do so yet due to the copious amount of digging that has been required.

By fencing the plot I was accepting that the tractor wouldn’t be able to get in and I’d have to dig it all by hand. I waited as long as I could but eventually conceded defeat and set to work with the fork and spade. I was eager to get some broad beans and early potatoes in, some strawberries plants that I had put in a few weeks earlier had been immediately dug up by the rabbits so protection was my top priority.

I’ve now cleared almost all of one side of the plot and am now working my way back up the other. Being well over halfway I can start to see the light at the end of tunnel. The beds are starting to take shape and what was once just a picture in my head is becoming a reality.

As with all projects the plan is changing all the time. Seeing a greenhouse on eBay for £50 I just couldn’t resist. If you can imagine trying to build the worlds most complicated Meccano set without any instructions, you’ll be somewhere near the difficulty level involved in dismantling and rebuilding this greenhouse. Worth it now that it is finally done but I spent days trying to work out how this thing went back together.

Still, we're getting there. A few more full days spent digging and hopefully it will be time to sit down and enjoy it all.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

The Best Seed Offers

With the new year fast approaching I thought I'd look at what offers were available on vegetable seeds - here's some of the best that I found.

Otter Farm

Free postage and packaging on all orders over £25 and a free bay plant on all orders over £15

Ends 5th January



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Closing down sale, all vegetable seeds 25p per packet.


Thompson & Morgan

Seed Sale - Vegetable seeds from 99p

Ends 7th January at midnight


Sarah Raven

Up to 50% off vegetable seeds

DT Brown

Buy three or more packs of seed potatoes and save 20% per pack.