Monday 22 December 2014

Cucumber ‘Bread & Butter’ Pickle for Christmas

I can’t believe it’s Christmas day in 3 days time. Where has December gone? Every year I like to make something homemade to give away to family and friends along with their standard Christmas gifts. I think it adds a nice touch to get a handmade present, plus I enjoy the excuse to spend some time in the kitchen.

This year I decided to try making a pickle. I considered baking some cookies but my family always get so much to eat over Christmas that I wanted something they could enjoy later on without the fear of it spoiling. Pickles, jams and chutneys are the way to go.

My Dad has fond memories of his father making cucumber pickle aka Bread & Butter Pickle when he was growing up. I remember seeing jars of it in the cupboard, these odd looking jars of sliced cucumber with little flecks of red chilli and balls of mustard floating in it. My granddad is sadly no longer with us, so I thought it would be a nice idea to try and recreate a cucumber pickle for the festive season.

Pam Corbin of River Cottage fame came to the rescue with the perfect looking pickle. It looked and sounded just as I remember my grandfathers to be. I’ve never made a pickle before and was surprised to learn the ingredients require only the merest of cooking time, the majority of the time is spent brining the cucumbers before their soak in the pickling liquid. This also ensures the cucumber pickle retains a bit of crispness and bite, rather than being a mushy mess more in line with a chutney.

The pickling liquid a bit of raw onion and red chili to add a little extra kick. It’s not meant to be spicy, but lend a gentle background tongue tickle. Sugar is added for a touch of sweetness and to help balance out the sharp tang of vinegar. Ground turmeric also transform the pickle from a rather anemic looking green to a bright and exotic looking golden yellow (be carefully when handling it, turmeric stains are impossible to get out). I think it also makes it look wonderfully festive. The mustard seeds add little pops of flavour when eaten and I think there is something quite hypnotic watching they bob around in the pickle.

Cucumber pickle aka bread & butter pickle may sound an odd name as the pickle does not contain these ingredients. It gets its name from the fact it is a pickle traditionally eaten with your bread and butter. They got their name "bread & butter pickle" during the great depression when fresh cucumbers were grown by many households and so often eaten for lunch with bread and butter. Due to the lack of refrigeration, rather than let any surplus cucumbers go to waste, they were pickled to make them last all the rest of the year. Very frugal and a great way of ensuring nothing went to waste. I’m sure it would taste delicious with some leftover turkey, stuffing or cheese too!

To see Pam Corbin make the bread & butter pickle, click here for her video on River Cottage Food Tube.

Cucumber ‘Bread & Butter’ Pickle
(Recipe by Pam Corbin from River Cottage aka Pam The Jam)
1.5kg cucumber (5 large)
1 large onion
5tbsp salt
500ml cider vinegar (must be 5% proof or more*)
200g granulated sugar
1½ tsp ground turmeric
1½ tsp celery seeds
3 tbsp white mustard seeds
1-2 finely chopped red chilli, seeds removed

Peel the cucumbers, cut off the ends, quarter lengthways and slice into 3-4mm thick slices.  Peel and chop the onion into fairly small pieces (no larger than the pieces of cucumber).  Mix the cucumber and onion pieces together in a non metallic bowl.
Sprinkle over the salt, gently toss through the cucumber and onion and leave for 2 hours.
Rinse the cucumber and onion well in icy water. Taste check the cucumber and rinse again if it is too salty (they will be naturally quite salty at this stage though). Leave them to drain in a large sieve or colander and pat dry with some kitchen paper.
Wash the jars well and place the lids and jars into the oven on baking tray. Heat the oven to 150C and leave the jars to heat and sterilize while you finish the chutney.
Place the vinegar into a saucepan that will be large enough to eventually take all the ingredients. Add the sugar, turmeric, celery seeds, white mustard seeds and chopped chilli.
Heat gently, stirring until the sugar has dissolved, stir to combine and bring to the boil.
Add the drained, rinsed cucumber and onion, stir and bring back to the boil then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes only! It needs this long to destroy any bacteria which could cause the pickle to deteriorate, but any longer and the pickle will be less crisp.
Remove the pan from the heat and the jars from the oven. Carefully distribute the cucumber pickle into the jars, filling almost to the very rim. Make sure all the cucumber is covered with some of the pickling liquid.
Using rubber gloves, quickly screw the lids tightly onto the jars while they are still hot. Leave them to cool on the side. You should hear the lids make a sudden ‘pop’ sound as they cool. This means the heat has created a vacuum and the jars are effectively sealed and airtight, meaning the pickle will keep safely until opened.
Label the jars and store in a cool place until required. Once opened, store in the fridge and eat within 4 weeks.
The pickle can be eaten immediately or kept for up at a year.
Makes 7 x 450g (1lb) jars

Note: The vinegar must be at least 5% proof in order to sufficiently pickle and preserve the cucumbers. The vinegars will state their proof % on the bottles.


Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

These look like the perfect pickles! We love pickles in this household. There are always jars of them in our fridge and pantry :D

The Caked Crusader said...

Ooh, nice. I do love a pickled cucumber.

Wishing you a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year

Gluten Free Alchemist said...

This is such a lovely colour and I love the story behind it and why you have made it. I have to say that I am fast becoming a pickle and preserve fan. May just try this. Have a fantastic Christmas Katie and thanks for your support of GFA this year. x

Johanna GGG said...

I agree that preserves are lovely at Christmas time - so much food around that it is just hard to face any more. But it is also a time of year for leftovers and pickle always perks them up! Great story and I love the idea of chilli tickling the tongue rather than burning it

Choclette said...

I'd never heard of these until I went on a River Cottage preserving course with Pam. We made them there and I fell in love and luckily came away with six jars.