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 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.