Showing posts with label verjuice. Show all posts
Showing posts with label verjuice. Show all posts

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Chicken with Roasted Onions, Grapes & Verjuice

When I made a serious effort to learn to cook in my early twenties, it seemed terribly important to impress dinner-party guests with fiddly platings and pointless twirls and swirls. (Thank goodness the ubiquitous sauce/plate skidmark had not yet been invented, because who knows what horrors I would have perpetrated on the plate.) These days, in my fifties, I have a much more uncomplicated approach to entertaining, and when I'm expecting guests I pour all the effort into creating simple, delicious dishes that sing with clean flavours.

Chicken with Roasted Onions, Grapes & Verjuice

This is the sort of food people want to enjoy when they eat in your home. Of course there is a place for exquisite cutting-edge cuisine that looks like a flower garden exploded on a plate, but that place is not your family table. Honest food made with love and good ingredients will always knock the socks off your guests - and I promise you that most professional chefs melt into puddles of delight when presented with a homely classic such as roast chicken, a rustic veggie soup or a fall-apart beef stew.

This unusual but delicious combination of clean fruity flavours highlights the versatility of Verjuice, which lends a pleasant sweet acidity to this rustic dish.  It takes a little time to fry the chicken pieces and onions before they go into the oven, but it’s well worth the effort, because the sticky golden residue that forms on the bottom of the pan adds gorgeous flavour to the final dish, and the chicken pieces look so beautifully golden and rustly.  

This is the penultimate in a series of new recipes I've developed using Verjuice (available at Woolies),

Chicken with Roasted Onions, Grapes & Verjuice

20 (about 750 g) small pickling onions
3 Tbsp (45 ml) oil, for frying
12 free-range chicken pieces (breasts, thighs & drumsticks)
2 bay leaves
6 sprigs fresh thyme
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
½ cup (125 ml) Verjuice
½ cup (125 ml) dry white wine
1 bunch red grapes, stripped from their stems
1 bunch green grapes, stripped from their stems
salt and milled black pepper

Heat the oven to 180 ºC.  Cover the onions with boiling water and set aside for 15 minutes (this loosens their skins).

In the meantime, heat the oil in a large shallow pan and fry the chicken, in batches and skin-side down, over a medium-high heat, until the skins are crisp and a beautiful golden brown.  (Don’t turn the pieces over or let them cook through.)  Set aside on a plate.

Cut each blanched onion in half lengthways, trim the tops and bottoms, and slip off the skins.  Fry, cut side down, in the hot chicken fat left in the pan, for 3 minutes, or until nicely caramelised. Watch them like a hawk so they don’t burn. Carefully turn the onions over using tongs and fry for a further 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside on a plate.

Add the bay leaves, thyme sprigs and garlic to the pan and cook over a low heat for a minute, without allowing the garlic to brown.

Deglaze the pan with the Verjuice and wine, stirring and scraping to loosen the golden sediment on the bottom of the pan.  Tip any juices that have accumulated under the chicken into the pan. Simmer over a brisk heat for two minutes to burn off the alcohol.

Arrange the chicken pieces and onions in a roasting tray, and tuck in the grapes.  Pour the hot wine/Verjuice mixture around the chicken, and scatter over the bay leaves and thyme sprigs.  Season to taste with salt and milled black pepper.

Bake at 180 ºC for 40 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the grapes are beginning to collapse.

Serve immediately with a crisp green salad, plus crusty bread to mop up the juices.    

Serves 4-6.

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Friday, 18 December 2015

Pavlova with Poached Apples and Caramelised Verjuice Syrup

Apples and almonds have a great affinity with Verjuice. Although apples are not a traditional topping for a Pavlova, they work beautifully in this recipe, with its extravagant, brittle nest of almond-scented meringue, its clouds of whipped cream, and a reduced Verjuice syrup that’s just on the point of turning to caramel. The Pavlova should be made 8-12 hours ahead of time, and you can also prepare the apple filling well in advance.

Pavlova with Poached Apples and Caramelised Verjuice Syrup

This is another in a series of new recipes I've developed using Verjuice (available at Woolies), and I hope you'll give this recipe a bash, even if you're mortally afraid of making anything involving temperamental meringue.

My attempts at making billowing pavlovas and snowy, crisp meringues were spectacularly flat, sticky failures for many years, but eventually I nailed them, and I haven't had a flop since.  I hope my method works for you - and it it doesn't, please drop me a line on Facebook so I can assist you.

Pavlova with Poached Apples and Caramelised Verjuice Syrup

For the Pavlova:

5 extra-large free-range eggs
a pinch of Cream of Tartar
250 g caster sugar
2-3 drops of good almond extract

For the filling:

5 large crisp apples, peeled, cored and quartered (I've used both Granny Smith and Golden Delicious, with good results)
1½ cups (375 ml) Verjuice
½ cup (125 ml) caster sugar
1 cup (250 ml) whipping cream
¼ cup (60 ml) flaked almonds, lightly toasted in a dry frying pan

First make the Pavlova. Heat the oven to 160 ºC, fan off. Separate the eggs and place the whites in a spotlessly clean bowl together with a pinch of Cream of Tartar (you'll find this in the baking aisle of supermarkets). Keep the yolks for making mayonnaise.

Using an electric beater or a food processor fitted with a balloon whisk, beat the egg whites for 2-3 minutes, or until they are standing up in firm - but not dry - peaks.

Add a third of the caster sugar at a time to the whites, whisking well for a few minutes between each addition. When you've added all the sugar, drop in the almond extract, to taste, and continue beating for another 3-4 minutes, or until the meringue is very thick, firm and shiny (with no sign of grittiness when you rub a blob between your fingers).

Your mixture should hold its firm billowing shape without drooping. If the meringue seems thin or floppy, your Pavlova will collapse in the oven, and you'll need to chuck out the mixture and start all over again.

Line a baking sheet with lightly oiled baking/greaseproof paper (put little blobs of meringue on four points under the paper to stick it down). Draw a plate-sized circle on the paper, spread a third of the meringue mixture over it to form the base of the Pavlova, then place big, generous dollops of the remaining meringue around the edges to form a basket. A huge metal spoon is the right utensil for this.

Place the baking sheet on the middle rack of your preheated oven, and immediately turn the heat down to 110 ºC (oven fan off). Bake for an hour and a quarter, then switch off the oven (don't open the door!) and let the meringue case dehydrate, undisturbed, for at least 8 hours, or until it is crisp and dry.  If you'd like a Pavlova with a slightly squidgy centre, let the case dry out for 6 hours.

To prepare the apple filling, put one cup of Verjuice and the caster sugar into a pan.  Bring to a gentle bubble, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.  Add the apple quarters and poach, covered, for 9-11 minutes, or until they are just soft.  Set aside to cool completely.

To assemble the dessert, remove the apples from their syrup with a slotted spoon and set aside.  Add the remaining ½ cup of Verjuice to the syrup, turn up the heat and boil over a medium-high heat for 10 minutes, or until the syrup has reduced by about two thirds, is turning to an amber colour, and is thick, glossy, and producing plenty of big lazy bubbles. Watch the mixture like a hawk – you want it to be just on the point of caramelising.

Whip the cream until it's thick and billowy, pile it into the Pavlova and arrange the apple pieces on top.  Drizzle the hot syrup over the top, scatter with toasted almonds and serve immediately.

Serves 6. 

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Monday, 14 December 2015

Prawn and Asparagus Salad with Verjuice Dressing & Mayonnaise

An easy, sea-breezy salad that takes just minutes to put together, and you cannot go wrong if you use the very best ingredients in this simple dish. I've specified cooked, peeled prawns from Woolies here, which I admit are expensive, but they are very good, fresh and springy, and a fine ingredient to splash out on when the festive season comes rolling in.  If you're on a low-carb or diabetic diet, omit the Verjuice (which is a little sugary) and use more lemon juice or white-wine vinegar.

Prawn & Asparagus Salad with Verjuice Dressing & Mayonnaise

This is another in a series of new recipes I've developed using Verjuice, which is wonderful for making salad dressings with a slightly sweet, subtle zing.  Its gentle acidity makes it the perfect companion for ingredients with a delicate taste, such as prawns.

In this bright salad, a two-ingredient dressing and a clean-tasting homemade mayo make magic with prawns, asparagus, dark salad leaves and peppery baby radishes. If you can't find Verjuice, use more fresh lemon juice, plus a whisper of caster sugar to cut through the sharpness.  Please see my Cook's Notes at the end of the recipe for what to do if your mayo curdles.

Wine recommendation by Michael Olivier. He says: "Bellingham Whole Bunch Roussanne 2015, 
recently awarded 5 stars in the 2016 Platter's South African Wine Guide."

It looks like: Elegant bottle The Bernard Series labelling. In the glass pale golden straw with youthful lime flashes.

It smells like: Gentle tropical fruits, desiccated pineapple, kiwi and scrunched fynbos herbs. 

It tastes like: A full circle through easy entry with white flowers, ripe nectarines, Canary melon and gentle sweet spices. The fruit is generous, the acidity balancing and zesty in its youth. Long, full, richly flavoured, with a gently waning aftertaste.

Prawn and Asparagus Salad with Verjuice Dressing & Mayo

350 g asparagus tips
a packet of dark mixed salad leaves
200 g Woolworths ready-cooked peeled prawns
8 baby radishes, halved lengthways

For the dressing:

100 ml Verjuice
100 ml extra-virgin olive oil

For the mayonnaise:

2 extra-large free-range egg yolks, at room temperature
flaky sea salt
1 tsp (5 ml) Dijon mustard
200 ml sunflower oil
100 ml extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp (45 ml) Verjuice
1 Tbsp (45 ml) fresh lemon juice
1 tsp (5 ml) Tabasco, or more, to taste
milled black pepper

To make the mayo, put the egg yolks, salt and mustard into a bowl.  Tuck a damp cloth under one side of the bowl to tilt it. Using an electric beater, whisk the yolks until creamy.

Mix the two oils in a small jug. Turn the beater to its highest speed. Now, as you whisk the egg yolks with one hand, dribble the oil onto the yolks, a few drops at a time, with the other. Continue patiently whisking and dribbling on the oil, a little at a time, and within a few minutes you will see the egg mixture begin to thicken. Keep adding the oil in a small steady trickle until you have a thick, pale yellow ointment.  (See Cook’s Notes, below.)

Stir in the Verjuice, lemon juice and Tabasco and season with salt and pepper.  Place in the fridge to chill for a few hours.

To make the dressing, combine the Verjuice and olive oil in a small jar or jug.

Blanch the asparagus tips in boiling salted water for 1-2 minutes, or until just tender-crisp.  Drain then plunge into a bowl of iced water to set the colour. Leave for 3 minutes, then pat dry on a clean towel.

Put the salad leaves on four plates and arrange the prawns, asparagus and radishes on top.  Drizzle with the dressing  (give it a good shake first) and serve with the mayo and plenty of warm crusty bread.

Serves 4.

Cook’s Notes:

If your mayo ‘splits’, or does not thicken, start again with a clean bowl. Place a whole egg yolk in the bowl, whisk till creamy, and very gradually dribble on the split mayo mixture, whisking all the time, as above.  In most cases the mayo will re-emulsify.

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Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Chicken Liver Paté with a Jellied Verjuice Topping

A fine, smooth chicken liver paté is a splendid starter for a celebration, and specially for a festive feast, for so many reasons.  You can make a glorious paté several days in advance; it will cost you peanuts. And because this is such a rich and indulgent snack, a little goes a long way, particularly if you have plenty of snappy little gherkins, salty capers and Melba toast or crackers.

This recipe is based on my Low-Carb Silken Chicken-Liver Pâté with Green Peppercorns, but instead of sealing the dish with clarified butter, I've topped it with a wobbling layer of sweet, tart, lightly jellied Verjuice, which contrasts beautifully with the rich metallic taste of the livers.

Chicken Liver Paté with a Jellied Verjuice Topping

Wine recommendation by Michael Olivier.  He says: "Monis Medium Cream: Traditional Flor Method" 

It looks like: The Monis look is a classic one and very clearly states the type of wine – degrees from driest to sweetest on the label. In the glass the wine is gem bright pale gold amber.

 It smells like: Barley sugar sticks and pine needles. 

 It taste like: Silky smooth. Honey. Christmas Cake spices. Touches of windfall citrus and plump raisins.

Chicken Liver Paté with a Jellied Verjuice Topping

For the paté:

500 g chicken livers, thawed
120 g salted butter
6 spring onions, white and pale green parts only, sliced
1 large sprig fresh thyme
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 Tbsp (30 ml) Verjuice
3 Tbsp (45 ml) cream
a pinch of nutmeg, to taste
salt &  milled black pepper

For the jelly: 

½ cup (125 ml) Verjuice
3 ml (a heaped half-teaspoon) powdered gelatine

To serve:
crusty fresh bread or crackers

Trim and rinse the livers, and set aside in a colander.

Melt all the butter in a large frying pan over a medium heat, add the spring onions and thyme, and cook them gently in their bath of butter for 3-5 minutes, or until the onions are soft but not browned.

Stir in the garlic and cook for another minute, with out allowing it to burn. Now turn the heat up, add the livers and fry briskly for 3-5 minutes, or until the livers are lightly browned on the outside, but still rosy in the middle.

Tip the livers and their juices into a blender.  Deglaze the pan with 2 Tbsp Verjuice, stirring and scraping to dislodge any bits.  Bubble for 30 seconds, remove the thyme and pour the pan juices into the blender.

Blitz to a fine, smooth paste, then add the cream, and whizz again until just combined.  Season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg, then pour into a paté dish (or individual pots), and smooth the top. Cover with clingfilm and chill for 3 hours.

To make the jelly, pour the half cup of Verjuice into a small bowl. Sprinkle the gelatine on top and leave to ‘sponge’ for 3 minutes. Set the bowl in a pan of simmering water, halfway up to its waist, and leave until the mixture is clear.  Allow to cool for 3 minutes, then pour the jelly over the paté in an even layer. Sprinkle with thyme leaves and black pepper, then refrigerate until the topping has set.
Serve with bread, crackers and capers.

Serves 6-8 as a snack.

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Saturday, 14 November 2015

Camembert Baked in Vine Leaves, with Verjuice-Poached Grapes

Need a gorgeous Christmas curtain-raiser? Try my jewel-bright starter, which combines hot oozing Camembert with sharp-sweet grapes lightly poached in Verjuice.  (If you don’t have fresh vine leaves, use blanched baby spinach leaves to wrap your cheese.)

Camembert Baked in Vine Leaves with Verjuice-Poached Grapes
and oven-baked croutons. (Plate by David Walters.)

Wine recommendation by Michael Olivier.  He says: "Asara Vineyard Collection Pinotage Rosé 2015." 

 It looks like: Packed in a Burgundy shaped flint bottle with a gold screwcap and elegant label. In the glass it is a beautiful dusky pink, inviting you to take a sip. 

 It smells like: Watermelon sorbet, spun sugar and roadside brambles. 

 It taste like: Fresh red and black berries, the fullness of honeydew melon, crisp, fresh and a lovely harmony right through to a long aftertaste.

This is the second in a series of new recipes I've developed using Verjuice, and I do hope you'll put this show-stopper on your Christmas table this year. Why? You can make it well ahead of time, it doesn't take long to fling together, and it's a simple starter that draws appreciative gasps from guests.

Camembert Roasted in Vine Leaves with Verjuice-Poached Grapes

For the grapes:

1 cup Verjuice
4 large vine leaves, or 6 baby spinach leaves, stalks removed
1 Tbsp (15 ml) honey
1 large sprig of fresh thyme
a big bunch of sweet red grapes

For the cheese:

1 x 250 g just-ripe Camembert
1 sprig of fresh thyme
milled black pepper

To serve:
oven-baked crouton tatters (see Cook's Notes; below), or Melba toast

Heat the oven to 180 ºC.

First prepare the vine leaves and grapes. Pour the Verjuice into a shallow pan and bring to a simmer. Spread a large sheet of clingfilm on the counter.  Blanch the vine leaves by dipping each one in the simmering Verjuice for 10 seconds. Snip off the stalks and spread the leaves on the clingfilm to dry. If you're using baby spinach leaves, you'll need to blanch them a little longer - they should be soft and floppy.

Add the honey and thyme sprig to the pan, then lay the bunch of grapes in the pan, on its side. Poach at a gentle simmer for about 7 minutes, turning the bunch often, or until the skin is splitting and fruit is just beginning to collapse. Remove the grapes and set aside to drain in a colander.

Turn up the heat and boil the Verjuice until it has reduced by about half, and is thickened and glossy. Set this syrup aside.

Cut an X shape across the top of the Camembert, about 5mm deep, and push a few sprigs of thyme into the slits, using the back of a knife.  Wrap the cheese in the blanched vine leaves.  Set the cheese on a sheet of baking paper, wrap up to a loose parcel, and secure with kitchen string or raffia.

Place on a baking sheet and bake at 180 ºC for 7-12 minutes, or until the cheese feels very soft and oozy.

Remove the baking paper, and place on a platter.  Arrange the poached grapes around the cheese, drizzle them with the Verjuice syrup, and serve immediately with crisp golden croutons (see below) or Melba toast.

Serves 4 as a starter or snack.

Cook's Notes:

To make oven-baked crouton tatters, heat the oven to 190 °C, fan on. Tear a day-old baguette, or white rolls, into big rough scraps, and arrange them on a non-stick baking tray.  Drizzle very lightly with olive oil, toss well to and bake for 7-10 minutes, or until they're golden brown and crunchy.  Put the croutons on a wire rack and allow to cool - they will stay crisp for a few hours, depending on the humidity in your kitchen.

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Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Cold Cucumber, Herb & Yoghurt Soup with Verjuice Granita

I hope you'll enjoy this cold yoghurty cucumber soup, topped with feathery flakes of frozen Verjuice. With its lovely contrast of herbal creaminess and sweet, crunchy acidity, this is a splendid starter for a blazing day. There are deep, clean, singing flavours here that make you want to drink it in buckets, as if it is exactly what your body craves.  This low-carb recipe is suitable for diabetics.

Cold Cucumber, Herb & Yoghurt Soup with Verjuice Granita 

Wine recommendation by Michael Olivier.  He says: "Klein Constantia Metis Sauvignon Blanc 2014." 

 It looks like: Packed in the bottle embossed with the Constantia logo, the fusion of philosophies is reflected in the flower on the label that is a hybrid of the South African Protea and French Iris. In the glass a pale gold with green amber flashes. 

 It smells like: Pure classical good Sauvignon aromas. White fleshed peaches and nectarines. Grapefruit oil. 

 It taste like: Rich, vibrant palate. Generous fruit, blackcurrant leaves, almost savoury. Minerals present in the exciting lime squirt in the long aftertaste. This is a laster if well stored could go up to 8 years after vintage.

I've had fun this month developing a series of new recipes using Verjuice, and this is the first of nine. Are you familiar with Verjuice?  It's a delicate, slightly tart, somewhat sweet, unfermented juice made from unripe grapes, popular as an acidulating agent in Roman times and the Middle Ages.

In recent times, this ingredient's been revived by Maggie Beer, one of Australia's best-loved cooks, food writers and restaurateurs. My aunt, the brilliant Gilly Walters of Wedgewood Nougat fame, introduced me to this ingredient some years ago, and I always have a bottle of it in my kitchen. What I love about Verjuice is that it doesn't have any of the throat-raspiness of vinegar - it's a gentle ingredient that sings sweetly in the background.

Over the next few weeks I'll be sharing some of my new Verjuice recipes with you, and I hope they encourage you to experiment with this intriguing ingredient over the festive season (you'll find it at Woolies).

When I first wrote this recipe down, I recommended serving it immediately, but I found that its flavour developed and mellowed over the next day, so feel free to make it up to 24 hours in advance (but keep it in the fridge, tightly covered, in a non-metallic bowl).

Make sure the serving bowls are very well chilled, or make pretty ice bowls in which to serve this beautiful starter.

Cold Cucumber, Herb & Yoghurt Soup with Verjuice Granita 

For the granita:

½ cup (125 ml) Verjuice

For the soup:

2 chilled English cucumbers (about 700 g)
2 Tbsp (30 ml) Verjuice
1 cup (250 ml) Greek yoghurt
1 small clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1/3 cup (80 ml) chopped curly parsley
1/3 cup (80 ml) chopped chives
3 Tbsp (45 ml) chopped dill
1 tsp (5 ml) Tabasco sauce
3 Tbsp (45 ml) cream
salt & milled black pepper

First make the granita.  Pour the Verjuice into a small metal pan and freeze for 45-90 minutes, or until just frozen - the time it takes will depend on how efficient your freezer is.  Use a fork to scratch and scrape at the surface to create light, feathery crystals. Return the dish to the freezer.

Lightly peel the cucumbers, leaving a little green skin here and there. Roughly chop and place in a food processor with all the remaining ingredients, except the cream and seasoning.  Whizz until very smooth. Now stir in the cream and season to taste with salt and plenty of black pepper.

Serve immediately in chilled bowls, topping each serving with a heaped spoonful of Verjuice granita, plus a scattering of chives or dill fronds.

Serves 4.  

(Note/Disclaimer:  I was paid a professional fee to develop these recipes and supply photographs, but this fee did not include featuring them on my blog and elsewhere. This I do because I'm pleased with these dishes and want to share them with you.)

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Saturday, 14 March 2009

Easy Peasy Home-Made Gherkins with Garlic and Chillies

Easy Peasy Home-Made Gherkins with Garlic and Chillies
I blame McDonald's for the fact that my kids don't like gherkins. I've tried to persuade them that the putty-coloured flap of sea-slug that has burrowed into a McDonald's rat-burger could hardly be described as a gherkin, but they've been put off for life.

I love gherkins - specially little snappy cornichons - but I find the shop ones here in South Africa so acidic that they strip the skin from my tongue.

How difficult could they be to make, I thought, when I spotted a pile of little gherkin cucumbers at my greengrocer's. Easy peasy, is the answer. These were ready to eat three days after I bottled them, but I have no idea how long they will keep - I will let you know in a few weeks' time. (See note about storage at end of this post.)

I turned, for a recipe, to my all-time favourite recipe book, Lady Fettiplace's Receipt Book by Hilary Spurling. (More about this wonderful book later, but, in nutshell, these are the passed-down-over-generations recipes of a lady of the manor living at the time of Shakespeare, and they are astonishingly modern in their refinement and sophistication. Lady Fettiplace's hand-written recipe for 'white bisket bread', for example, is the earliest documented meringue recipe.)

In her brine for the recipe To Keep Hartichocks All the Yeare (which she uses for both pickled artichokes and 'cowcumbers') Lady Fettiplace uses water, verjuice, fennel and hyssop. A wonderful verjuice is produced here in South Africa by The Verjuice Company, but I didn't have any to hand, so I used half good white wine vinegar and half ordinary white spirit vinegar.

The book's author, Hilary Spurling, recommends cider vinegar in place of verjuice, but adds that white wine vinegar is probably better as it won't affect the colour of the brine. In any event, do use a a white wine vinegar that has a slight sweetness to it. White balsamic vinegar would be fantastic, if you can afford it.

You can add all sorts of spices and flavourings to these gherkins: here's the recipe as I made it.

Easy Peasy Home-Made Gherkins with Garlic and Chillies

1.2 kg fresh, crunchy pickling cucumbers
700 ml water
350 ml white wine vinegar
350 ml white spirit vinegar
5 tsp (20 ml) coarse sea salt (Kosher salt is perfect; see notes)
1 Tbsp (15 ml) black peppercorns
1 tsp (5 ml) fennel or dill seeds

Optional flavourings:
celery seeds
dried bay leaves
dried red chillies
sprigs of fresh dill
coriander seeds
whole garlic cloves, peeled

First sterilise some jars. Use pickling jars with loose lids and screw-on rings (see notes) or sturdy glass jars with metal lids lined on the inside with plastic. I sterilise jars by boiling them and their lids in a large pot for 10 minutes. I fish them out with the end of a wooden spoon, and put them (the jars only, not the lids) in an oven heated to 140°C for ten minutes to dry out, before placing them upside-down on several sheets of newspaper.

Wash the cucumbers and drain well. Put the water, the two vinegars, the salt, peppercorns and fennel or dill seeds into a large enamel (or Teflon-coated) pot, bring to the boil and boil hard for 5 minutes. Add the cucumbers in three batches - about one batch per minute - and quickly bring the brine and cucumbers back to the boil.

 As soon as the brine boils again, scoop the cucumbers out of the liquid, using a slotted spoon, and tightly pack them, vertically, into the warm, dry, sterilised jars. Keep the brine boiling briskly.

 Add a few peppercorns and fennel seeds from the pot - plus bay leaves, red chillies, whole peeled cloves of garlic, and whatever flavourings you'd like to add - to the jars. Use a clean chopstick to push chillies down into jar, or they'll bob to the top. Using a soup ladle, pour the boiling brine over the cucumbers, and fill to within 2 mm of the brim of each jar. Screw on the lids tightly. After fifteen minutes, tighten the lids again to form a tight seal. Store in the fridge. Ready after three to four days.

Makes 4 large (about 500 ml) jars.

Cook's Notes: 

- Metal utensils will react with the vinegar, so use a wooden or plastic spoon and an enamel or Teflon-coated pot.

- Use fresh, snappy, crunchy pickling cucumbers for this preserve. The crunchier your cucumbers are, the snappier your gherkins will be. I haven't tried this, but I read that you can make pickling cucumbers even crunchier by soaking them for two hours in an ice-cold bath of water and ice cubes.

- You can buy sturdy glass pickling jars (which come with metal, plastic-lined disc lids, and rings) in most supermarkets. Or, if you live in Johannesburg or Stellenbosch, you can get these directly from Consol shops.

-A recent study showed that fermented dill pickles can contain listeria so, to be on the safe side, keep your gherkins in the fridge. And read this.

- Don't use idiodized table salt, which may cloud your brine.

These gherkins lasted very well in the fridge. I opened and ate them after 6 weeks, and they were crunchy and snappy. The last jar was opened a week ago (end of June) and they were still flavoursome, although losing some of their crunch. The jars containing chillies were by far the best. Print Friendly and PDFPrint Friendly