Pickled vegetables taste totally delicious. I'm going to give you my personal favorite vegetables and herb combinations - damn simple and they make great presents. Much cooler than turning up with a bottle of wine. Once you've had success with them, have a go at your own variations. You can use one large jar or lots of smaller ones (I prefer smaller ones because once a jar's been opened it will only last for a week or so in the refrigerator).
For the pickling liquid:
For the pickling marinade:
- 2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
- 5 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
- 1 fresh red chili, deseeded and chopped
Choose 1 of the following vegetable and herb options:
- 2 pounds mixed mushrooms and a few sprigs of fresh thyme, rosemary and sage
- 2 pounds firm eggplant and 2 tablespoons dried oregano
- 2 pounds firm zucchini and 6 sprigs of fresh mint
- 2 pounds fennel bulbs and their herby tops
- 2 pounds small onions and 4 bay leaves
- 2 pounds red and yellow peppers and a few sprigs of fresh thyme
Make sure you have some small sterilized jars ready to go. Bring the pickling liquid ingredients to the boil in a big pan. Put the pickling marinade ingredients into a large bowl with your chosen herbs and mix well. Slice up your chosen vegetables any way you like, but if it's a larger vegetable try to get the pieces around 1/2-inch in thickness. This way, the flavors and pickling liquid will penetrate sufficiently. Smaller vegetables, like mushrooms or very small onions, can be left whole.
Place the sliced vegetables in the boiling pickling liquid and leave for around 3 minutes - they'll probably rise to the surface, so keep pushing them down to ensure they are all immersed. Lift the pieces out with a slotted spoon and place them into your bowl of pickling marinade. Toss together - it will smell fantastic.
Pretty much straightaway, put the hot vegetables and pickling marinade into your sterilized jars, filling them to the very top. Cover the vegetables completely with the marinade and put the lids on tightly. Put the jars aside until they're cool. Clean the jars, attach sticky labels and write the date and the contents on them. Store the jars somewhere cool and dark - it's best to leave them for about 2 weeks before opening so the vegetables really get to marinate well, but if you absolutely cannot wait, you can eat them sooner. They'll keep for about 3 months - but they're so bloody good I'm lucky if the jars last for a couple of weeks in our house!
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* Sterilizing Jars
Properly handled sterilized equipment will keep canned foods in good condition for years. Sterilizing jars is the first step of preserving foods.
Jars should be made from glass and free of any chips or cracks. Preserving or canning jars are topped with a glass, plastic or metal lid, which has a rubber seal. Two-piece lids are best for canning, as they vacuum-seal when processed.
To sterilize jars before filling with jams, pickles or preserves, wash jars and lids with hot, soapy water. Rinse well and arrange jars and lids open sides up, without touching, on a tray. Boil the jars and lids in a large saucepan, covered with water, for 15 minutes.
Use tongs when handling hot sterilized jars, to move them from boiling water. Be sure tongs are sterilized too, by dipping the ends in boiling water for a few minutes.
As a rule, hot preserves go into hot jars and cold preserves go into cold jars. All items used in the process of making jams, jellies and preserves must be clean. This includes any towels used, and especially your hands.
After the jars are sterilized, you can preserve the food. It is important to follow any canning and processing instructions included in the recipe and refer to USDA guidelines about the sterilization of canned products.