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In A Bit of A Pickle

Storm clouds are building on the horizon as lusciously cool winds blow through the gum trees. It’s been like this for the last few nights, and Bear and I have luxuriated in it, sitting on our back veranda watching animals and clouds, hoping for rain.

A couple of months ago I found myself in a pickle of my own making. In the glow of excitement at new opportunities, I said yes too much and ended up thoroughly, utterly snowed under, staggering through 17-18 hour works days, 6 days a week. I learned my lesson, and a few more along the way, and once my commitments were completed and I could go back to a normal work day, I implemented the boundaries that will keep me from getting in such a fix again.

I also learned that I have a vital need for a resting place. A spot to step away from everything and just be. Our back veranda became that place. Bear and I spent a couple of days moving furniture and transforming it into a little oasis of comfort and peace. It’s now our favourite space, and Bear knows that if he can’t find me around the house, I’ll be out there, curled up on the couch reading, writing in my journal, or just staring up at the trees.

Another thing I learned is the importance of creating things. I love making things. Really, really love it. Whether I’m doing wood-working with Bear or concocting things in the kitchen, other stresses are easier to bear as long as I have a creative outlet.

So last week I did something I’ve been wanting to do for months: Scandinavian-style pickling.

Growing up, whenever we had Danish food, salads were an essential part of the spread, mounded in glass bowls next to steaming platters of beautifully browned frikadellar (Danish meatballs) or hakkebøf (beef burgers swimming in a fried onion gravy). One of my favorites was agurkesalat, a cucumber salad with a sweet vinegar dressing.

These pickles are similar to that salad but instead of thinly sliced cucumber, I used thinly sliced beetroot (or carrots, parsnips, turnips, etc) quick pickled in a weak sweet and sour vinegar solution spiced with juniper, allspice, peppercorns, and whatever else I think to add such as fennel fronds, fresh dill, cloves, and mustard seeds.

I use a similar solution to make pickled fish, or rollmops, an essential part of the Danish Christmas I grew up with. We always had pickled herring, but they aren’t in season this time of year in Australia, so the fishmonger suggested I try barramundi and a particularly large type of sardine.

While the barramundi could be pickled fresh without any salting, the sardines required being buried in a hill of salt for 15 minutes or so to firm up the flesh. A good rinse afterwards makes it just right for pickling. Although cured fish can be pickled much quicker, I like using fresh fish. Once the fish is covered with the pickling brine and refrigerated, it’s ready for eating in 5-7 days.

It’s been so fun filling my fridge with delicious pickles. Although the hailstorms devastated most of my garden, the bay trees and root vegetables came through just fine, and it’s a great comfort to eat something I grew while I wait for the new seedlings to start producing.

bay leaf for pickling

Now it’s time to cozy in with Bear for ice cream and movies as we start this Yule weekend. 🙂

Quick Pickled Beetroot

2-3 chioggia beetroot, washed and trimmed
1 cup vinegar
1 cup water
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tsp salt
6 peppercorns
2 juniper berries
2 fresh bay leaves
2 allspice berries
1 clove

Directions:

  1. Using mandolin, thinly slice beetroots and pack loosely into clean, sterilized jars. Set aside.
  2. In medium saucepan combine remaining ingredients and bring to boil over medium high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves.
  3. Remove from heat and let cool. When cool, pour over beetroot to cover by 1/2 inch, gently tapping jar on counter to release air bubbles.
  4. Cover and refrigerate 2-3 days until ready to eat.

Pickled Fish

Ingredients:

2 fillets fresh oily fish (herring, sardines, barramundi)
salt
1 cup vinegar
1 cup water
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tsp salt
6 peppercorns
3 juniper berries
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
2 bay leaves
fresh dill or fennel fronds

Directions:

  1.  Cut fish into 1-2 inch pieces (roll if you like) and pack loosely in clean, sterilized jars.
  2. In medium saucepan combine remaining ingredients and bring to boil over medium high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves.
  3. Remove from heat and let cool. When cool, pour over fish to cover by 1/2 inch, gently tapping jar on counter to release air bubbles.
  4. Seal and refrigerate for 1 week.
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Karen (Back Road Journal) - I hope you and Bear enjoyed your Christmas and the New Year brings about better health and your lovely land returned to it’s former beauty.

Turkey's For Life - Always wanted to try the pickled fish!:) The sweet pickled beetroot look so light and colourful.

Have a lovely Christmas and New Year.

Julia

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