Why it’s good to be In a bit of a pickle with your food
By Feebee Foran
Over the past few years, serving pickled and fermented foods has become a big trend in restaurants and cafés. However, the pickling and fermentation process has been around since 2030 BC. Kim Chi, Suaerkraut, Kombucha, Kefir – you don’t have to look far to find fermentation at work. A fantastic way to preserve seasonal foods long into the rest of the year, pickling and fermenting means that you will never have waste from your harvest.
Each year, I plant too much of everything. I tell myself at the start of the season to reduce my number of plants or to rotate my planting process, for example, plant four seeds this month, then next month, plant four more. However, the excitement of growing season always gets the better of me and I end up with heaps of delicious vegetables ready to harvest at the same time, far too much for me to eat, even after passing boxes of allotment goodies on to my friends and neighbours. So, I looked for a solution to ensure that I could get the most out of every harvest.
Since I started pickling and fermenting foods, I always have a store cupboard of delicious, long lasting vegetables that I can enjoy or wrap up with a pretty label and gift to friends and family. Like homebrewing (which also harnesses the fermentation process), when you make your own produce, its amazing how these lovely items become fast favourites for birthdays and Christmas gifts.
But aside from a pretty gift or flavoursome side dish, fermented foods come with their own fantastic health benefits. Fermented foods are a great probiotic, building your immune system and bolstering gut health – and since 80 per cent of your immune system is based in the gut, this is one to really focus on. They are also an excellent source of vitamins like Vitamin K and several B Vitamins.
Pickling for Beginners
Preserving your harvest of beetroot, spring onions, radishes, red onion and cucumbers is so easy, once you do it once, it will become second nature. If you haven’t grown your own, don’t worry, a quick trip to a local greengrocer will mean that you can pick up delicious locally grown vegetables to pickle and enjoy for months.
This pickle recipe is so versatile, and you can make it as big in flavour or as clean and vinegary as you like. I love hot and spicy, so this recipe has been created to my taste, but it’s not a set, definitive recipe, everything is interchangeable, so experiment and find a flavour that suits you.
Make up a spice mix of:
- 1tbsp black peppercorns
- 1tbsp coriander seeds
- 1tbsp yellow mustard seeds
- 10 cloves
- 1 tsp chilli flakes
Wash and trim 1kg of beetroot. Rub each whole beet with olive oil and pop straight into a pre-heated oven at 200C for about an hour, or until the beets are tender.
After you remove them from the oven, leave aside to cool until you can comfortably handle them. Peel the beets and depending on how you like yours, slice in discs or dice into tiny chunks.
Fill your (sterilized) jars to the top with the beetroot.
Over a low heat, gently toast the spice mix in a saucepan. Just as you can start to get the aroma of the spices, lower the heat (keep your eye on the ball at this point, as they can burn fast) and add in 700mls of white wine vinegar, 2 bay leaves and 100g light brown sugar. Bring to a simmer until the sugar has dissolved.
Now, let’s get pickling
Cover the beetroot with the vinegar mixture, ensuring the beets are fully covered with liquid.
Allow to cool before sealing the jars.
Store in a cool, dark place for about 2 weeks, then enjoy!
Fun Facts About Pickling
Cleopatra claimed that her beauty was a result of eating pickles (that’s good enough of an excuse for me).
The saying “In a pickle” was first coined by Shakespeare in the play The Tempest. The original quote read “I have been in such a pickle”.
George Washington was such a fan, that it’s believed he kept a constant stock of over 400 varieties of pickles at a time.
Feebee Foran is a nature enthusiast, allotmenter at Bohernabreena Allotments, milliner and homebrewer. Owner of Forager.ie, Feebee creates skincare and healing products using all natural, locally foraged herbs and plants.
Follow her nature adventures on Instagram @forager.ie