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Treasures in store

by
21 November 2014

by Simon Walsh

iStock

HERE, with Stir Up Sunday behind us and Advent on the doorstep, we find ourselves in the midst of Christmas preparations, so that we may stand as ready as we can for when the Lord comes.

Pickling onions have a short season, although shallots can always be found. There is nothing quite like Home-pickled onions, and, for a little advance labour, the Boxing Day reward of pairing these up with cold cuts is unbeatable. Make them now, and give yourself a gift this Christmas. The following method, auite adaptable, was used by the late Queen Mother's household.

1kg (2 lb) pickling onions

table salt, about six tablespoons

25g (1 oz) pickling spice

50g (2 oz) Caster sugar

500ml (1 pt) malt or cider vinegar

6 or more jam jars

Peel the onions with a paring knife, which is the most difficult element of this whole exercise, and place them in a non-metallic bowl. Cover all over with salt; you want each onion to be touched, and give it all a good mix to ensure this. Cover with a tea towel, and leave overnight. The next day, rinse all the salt off by washing the onions in the washing-up bowl or a colander, then dry them well with a tea towel.

Sterilise the jam jars (by using the warm cycle of the dishwasher, or 3 minutes in the microwave with an inch of water, or soaked in boiling water then a careful dry). In the bottom of each jar, place 1 dessertspoon each of pickling spice and sugar. Pack the onions into each, then top with the vinegar. Screw the lids on tightly, turn each jar upside down to make the seal, and give them a shake to dissolve the sugar and disperse the spice. Leave in a cool dark place for four weeks.

Not quite gone yet, apples are still with us. I read recently about Nabokov writing to his wife with a report of Apple mousse, which sounds quite old-fashioned and 1950s. Faithful to that, I have created this version - easy to remember, especially if you do Imperial measures, and the power of four.

4 apples (Bramley or Granny Smith)

pinch of cinnamon

4 eggs

4 oz (120g) caster sugar

4 fl. oz (120ml) double cream

Peel, core, and chop the apples. Stew them in a saucepan over a low heat with a tablespoon of water and the cinnamon, beating down gradually as they cook. Set aside to cool.

Separate the eggs. Beat together the egg yolks and the sugar first. Once pale and fluffy, fold in the apple purée. Lightly beat the cream into soft peaks, and fold this into the apple-egg mixture. With clean beaters/whisk, get the egg whites to the soft-peak stage in a clean bowl (that moment when you can tip the bowl over your head and nothing moves), and fold in 1 tablespoon first, then the rest of the mixture.

With all now combined, pour into your serving dish or individual glasses, and chill for two hours. Serve with some crystallised violets and a little whipped cream.

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