Having lifted the garlic last week and put it in a dry, dark place to cure a bit (the boiler shed, in our case), it was time to preserve the harvest. The best 10 heads of garlic are stored in the shed ready to be planted in the autumn, to give us next year’s harvest, and the rest are now pickled.
We do this very simply – just top, tail and skin the cloves, then put them into a pan of cold water (stops them reacting with the air and changing colour while you’re busy). Choose the jars, wash and dry them, then put them in the oven at a little over 100 degrees Centigrade (this makes sure there’s no nasty sudden changes of temperature that’ll cause the jars to crack).
While the jars are heating up (we usually give them 30 minutes in a pre-heated oven, standing on the wooden breadboard), work out how much vinegar you’ll need and bring it to the boil. I always over-estimate the amount that’s required – it’s better to have some vinegar left over than to have not enough and your pickles exposed to the air to go off!
When the vinegar is boiling, bring the jars out of the oven (be careful around hot glass – it looks perfectly normal but if you brush against it with an arm or hand, it’s very painful!) and spoon a little of the vinegar into the bottom of each jar, this just stops the garlic burning when it lands in the bottom of the jar. Fill the jars up to about half an inch below the top with garlic, then pour in enough vinegar to cover the garlic completely, leaving quarter of an inch of headspace. Put the lid on the jar and tighten, then leave to cool. As they cool, the contents form a partial vacuum, sealing them tight. Once they’re cold, put them away in the cupboard and admire the sight of your year’s food security on the shelf!
I wait until the left-over vinegar is cool, then pour it through a coffee filter paper in a funnel, back into the jar it came from, ready for the next lot of pickling that needs doing.
That’ll be eggs, later today – the chickens are getting ahead of us again and we have about 5 dozen eggs in the cupboard…..
I use pickling vinegar, which is stronger than ordinary table vinegar and thus preserves things better. It’s easy to get in the local shops and we aways have a few quarts in the cupboard – plus the jars it comes in are designed for pickling themselves once empty.