Sunday, 1 December 2013

Pickled cucumbers and gingerbread houses

I cannot believe it's over a month and a half since my last blog post. I am going through a difficult phase in my life right now, and although I am working really hard to make it better, every time I get close to getting things resolved, I slip right back to the start. I am trying really hard to be positive and believe things will get better, but recently I have been so exhausted that everything apart from the absolute minimum required, i.e. getting out of bed to go to work, have been put on the back burner.

However, I am trying not to sink further into the swamp I feel I am in right now, and trying to get back into some old routines. I suddenly felt like I wanted to write a blog post again. Although I'm not cooking nearly as much as I used to, I am trying to make just a little bit of something every once in a while. The problem is, I haven't been photographing most of my food as blogging has been very far from my mind. I have been crafting a little bit recently, as currently it is a better outlet for my anxiety and depression than any other of my hobbies. So I think for a while, the blog posts will focus more on cards than on cooking.

A while ago, I made some pickled cucumbers. I had no idea how they would turn out, but I took a few photos of them just in case they turned out good enough to blog about. Surprisingly, they turned out not just good enough, but really good! Next year I will definitely make a bigger batch of pickled cucumbers if we manage to get a good cucumber crops. It was also surprisingly easy, although I was a bit worried about sterilising the jar and things like that. But like with so many other things, once you actually get going, it's not as complicated as you made it out in your mind to be. So if you like pickled cucumbers but think it's too hard to make yourself, don't worry, just go ahead and try!

I googled several recipes and made a bit of an amalgamation of them all. They all seem to be along the same lines, although the Culinary Consultant picked this particular one as he liked the thought of the sweet peppers in there with the cucumbers. 

Pickled cucumbers:
3 lbs cucumber (I used one really big cucumber)
3 cups sugar
2 cups vinegar (I used pickling vinegar)
1/4 cup salt (recipe said canning salt, I used regular sea salt)
2 medium white onions
2 sweet peppers
1 teaspoon mustard seeds

The howto:
Slice the cucumber thinly in any shape or form you prefer. My cucumber was getting a little out of date, so I scooped out all the seeds, and then sliced it thinly. I also sliced the onion very thin. Most recipes then instruct you to put the cucumbers and onions in a colander, mix with some salt, weigh down with a plate and leave over night to drain. I was too impatient so I only drained the cucumbers for a few hours. After that, rinse and drain well.

To prepare the jar (I used a Kilner 1l canning jar), wash it well in hot, soapy water. Line a baking sheet with newspaper, and after letting the most of the water drain off the jar, place on the sheet. Preheat oven to 140 degrees C, and place jar into the oven for at least 10 minutes, or until all the water has evaporated. Keep it in the oven so that it is hot until you use it (you should never put the hot pickle mixture into a cold jar). If your jar has a rubber sealing ring, it should be placed into cooking water for a few minutes.

To prepare the pickles, mix the sugar, vinegar and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add cucumber, onions and peppers, bring to a boil and let cook for one minute. Add the mustard seeds and dill. Scoop into the can and seal. Let pickle for at least a week or two. I made my pickles a month ago, and they are still fine, so seems like they keep for at least a month, probably much longer. I make sure I only use a clean fork when I scoop my cucumbers from the jar to keep it as sterile as possible, I think this should definitely help keep the cucumbers good for longer.

The verdict:
I was very sceptical about how this whole thing would turn out, especially since the giant cucumber I was using was looking a bit... weird. But the end product is absolutely amazing, and tastes exactly like pickled cucumbers are supposed to taste. We have been using them a lot on sandwiches and burgers. I never thought we would get through the whole big jar, but we have already eaten half of it in a month! Next year I think I will make two different batches, one with the peppers and one without and see whether that makes any difference to the flavour. 

Card of the day:
I recently bought a papercrafting magazine and it came with some free giveaways, such as Christmas themed papers and chipboard cutouts of gingerbread houses. I couldn't resist to play with them a bit and these are the cards I made. Almost all of the materials, apart from the kraft card, some brown cardstock and some ribbon I had in my stash came with the magazine. I also used some Tim Holtz vintage photo distress ink to ink around the edges of the papers to give them a bit of a vintage look.

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