Chilli Pickled Onions

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Pickled onions just say Christmas to me. It is the only time of the year that I eat them. I have not made my own for about 25 years but, this year, I had some kilner jars in the cupboard, from my failed experiment with salad in a jar, back in the summer, so I thought I would put them to good use. It is not easy to find pickling onions in Berlin and shallots are pretty expensive to buy in bulk. I was lucky to find small onions in Aldi last week for 99 cents per half kilo bag.

You can experiment with the vinegar you use. I used cheap white wine vinegar but you can use malt vinegar if you want a stronger flavour or even raspberry or balsamic. These latter options are more costly.

To make the onions easier to peel, cover them in boiling water and then pour off and cover with cold water. The skins come off more easily but it is still a labour of love. I sat at the kitchen table on Friday night watching Grand Designs on the Macbook and was quite content.

Quantities are not exact as the size of onions varies as do jars.

Makes about 3 litre jars

2kg small onions

2 litres vinegar

Teaspoon of black peppercorns

Teaspoon of coriander seeds

Teaspoon of mustard seeds

10 whole, small green chillies or more to your taste

300g sugar

100g salt

Peel the onions and place them in a large washing up bowl. Cover with cold water and add the salt. Stir to dissolve salt. Cover with a large, saucepan lid and weigh down with 4 large tins. Leave to soak overnight.

The next morning rinse the onions well and pat dry. Combine the vinegar, sugar and spices in a stainless steel or enamelled saucepan and bring to the boil, dissolving the sugar. Turn off the heat and leave to completely cool.

Sterilise the jars either with a sterilising tablet or wash in hot, soapy water, rinse well and place in a hot oven for 5 minutes to dry. Let the jars cool and pack tightly with the onions, adding the chillies as you go. Pour on the cooled vinegar. You can either remove or keep the spices in the vinegar, as you wish.

Seal the jars and store for 6 weeks before eating.

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Spicy Pepper and Apple Chutney

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Thoughts are turning towards Christmas. When I was a teenager we started making our Christmas pickles and chutneys in October to give them time to mature. Of course, back then, we ate them with turkey sandwiches or slabs of cheese. Pickles and chutneys go just as well with a cold nut roast. You can make chutneys out of many different fruits and vegetables. I used what was lying around the kitchen. Apples are plentiful and cheap at this time of the year. I only buy the local varieties. We like everything spicy in our house but you can leave out the chilli if you want.

Makes 2 half litre jars

2kg apples chopped

4 medium red or yellow peppers chopped

2 cloves of garlic finely chopped

4 small green chillies roughly chopped with seeds left in

375g raw sugar

500ml white wine vinegar

A teaspoon of pickling spices- mixed black peppercorns, coriander and mustard seeds

A piece of cinnamon stick

A teaspoon of salt

Place all of the ingredients in a stainless steel or enamel pan. A wide, shallow pan works best. Bring to the boil. Turn down slightly and keep on a gentle boil for about 50 minutes until the liquid has evaporated and the chutney has thickened. Make sure it does not start to burn or stick during the last 10 minutes. It is ready if you push it back with a spoon and it does not run back into the empty space.

To sterilise jars, wash in hot soapy water, and place on a baking tray in a hot oven for about 5 minutes, lids included. Fill jars while the chutney is still hot and seal. Leave for about 6 weeks.