Despite being rather overworked of late, I've still found time to fit in some of my favourite pastimes, such as pickling for example.
Last weekend was time to lift the garlic from the mum-in-law's garden. It's been happily growing away there since I planted it last October, with very little intervention required. I wasn't really sure how well it would do - the soil is very dense and has a high clay content - but took my usual attitude of 'what's the worst that can happen?' and planted it anyway.
When I first started digging it up I was a bit disappointed, the bulbs seemed rather small. But not all of them were the same size - I had planted two different varieties - and some were very respectable. Seen here next to the beetroot, I'll just point out that this is a MONSTROUS beetroot, to help you better appreciate the scale!
My aim in growing garlic was a singular one - to replicate the wonderful jar of pickled garlic cloves I bought a couple of years back from the Isle of Wight Garlic Farm. These particular cloves were pickled in a classic vinegar, sugar and spices mix but with curry powder added. Crunchy and sweet they were incredibly moreish, eaten straight from the jar, perfect with a cold beer or even a cup of tea (yes I know perhaps I'm a bit weird...).
I'd already had a practice run with a couple of bulbs I dug up prematurely about a month ago. They were way too small but I peeled and pickled them, learning a few useful things on the way (eg you still need to take the skin off the green cloves, even though it's still fleshy and moist. Otherwise it will just come off when you pour the hot vinegar over it! Also that some cloves turn blue when pickled - absolutely nothing to worry about in terms of taste, although they do look a bit strange.)
Pickling garlic is very easy, it's the peeling that takes the time. And makes your fingers smell for several days afterwards!
I adapted a recipe out of the River Cottage Preserves book by Pam Corbin.
Approximately 20 bulbs of fresh garlic, cloves separated and peeled (apparently plunging them briefly in boiling water makes the peeling easier)
400ml cider or apple vinegar
200g of sugar
Sterilise your jars then pack them with the peeled garlic cloves, throw a few of the spices and bayleafs in between the layers.
Heat the vinegar and sugar, stir in a spoonful or so of curry powder. I guess you could add a bit of chilli if you like.
When all the sugar is dissolved, pour into the jars so that the cloves are covered.
You can eat them within a few days, but I would suggest leaving them for a month or so to let the flavours really improve.
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