Now that is coming up to Christmas, I shall try to provide a few ideas for food gifts, etc, for you over the next few weeks. Homemade chutneys and pickles. The ones my Mum genuinely makes, year after year.
When I was growing up, up until fifteen at least, I loved Christmas. I loved the whole build up, the many weeks of planning, present buying, and all that jazz. After sixteen, I started to not enjoy it. I do still like it though, just not as enthusiastically as before. I am not sure as to explain it really, so I shan’t even try to.
Some parts I still do enjoy, like the present buying, although I am more inclined to make most of mine. Time permitting, of course. Even if I only make two or three things, I am happy. I feel like I have contributed to a meal if I make a food gift for someone.
For years I’ve watched my mother make jars of pickles and chutneys for Christmas hampers and school bazaars. I remember there was also plenty of baking for such events too. Loaf cakes being a particular favourite, you only have to look at this blog to see that this still applies today.
Balsamic Pickled Shallots – adapted from 101 Delicious Gifts from Good Food magazine
A relatively new addition to the repertoire, Mum likes to serve this alongside cold cuts and cheeses. The batch in the above photo was made about about four years ago.
(makes 3-4 jars)
1.5kg small shallots
1 litre white wine vinegar
150ml olive oil (not extra-virgin)
140g caster sugar
1tsp black peppercorns, cracked
2 handfuls fresh basil leaves
100ml balsamic vinegar
First of all you have to peel the shallots, tip them all into a large bowl and pour over a kettleful of boiling water. Leave to stand for one minute, then drain carefully. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Once cool, peel them. It’s best if you have a couple of helpers for this, and loads of tissues, because one and a half kilos of shallots is a lot to peel.
Once all the shallots are peeled, set them aside. Into a large pan (Mum has a pan specifically for pickling) pour in the white wine vinegar, olive oil, water and sugar, along with the salt and peppercorns and the basil leaves. Bring this to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for three minutes. Add the shallots to the pan, and simmer for 8-10 minutes, until just tender.
Using a slotted spoon, scoop the shallots and basil leaves into sterilised jars, and return the pan to the heat. Boil the liquid vigorously for five minutes, then turn off the heat and stir in the Balsamic vinegar. Pour the vinegar mixture over the shallots to cover. Seal the jars and leave them for at least three days before eating them.
These will keep for up to three months.