Friday 31 August 2012

My mum's gherkins

On first meeting you, people often ask what you do and where you come from. I dislike both those questions for different reasons. The "what do you do" question I feel limited by, because what I do in my day job isn't all that I do. And the "where are you from" question is difficult for me to answer. It feels inappropriate to go into the intricacies of where I really feel I come from on meeting someone for the first time. To keep it short and polite I tend to say "Poland" when I am in the UK, however when I come here it's immediately clear to me that although this place fills me with nostalgia, it's not home any more... That's not to say that I don't feel "at home" here, because I do. I love the place and I have never stopped missing it and, of course (as any ex-patriot will immediately understand), certain foods. Like home-made gherkins. We made these the first day that I arrived
You will need a leaf from an oak tree, and some horseradish leaves. We took the first from a tree in our garden and the other from the neighbour's garden, my mum making some elaborate excuse as to why this was OK (something to do with the original land ownership apparently) the whole time we were lifting the wooden fence in a way she's clearly well practised at. The gherkins need to be packed tightly together so you need to have lots of them and a container where they fit snugly together, you will also need a round, heavy stone that you can fit on top of this container (in a plastic bag) to squish them down. It sounds a bit faffy, but trust me -once you get all the gear together it couldn't be simpler

Lots of small cucumbers -  20-30
Dill that has flowered - lots
1-2 leaves from an oak tree
2-3 horseradish leaves
Garlic - 1 bulb, peeled
2 Tablespoons salt per 1 litre of water
Bring the water to the boil and add the salt. We used 2 litres for about 20 cucumbers. Place all the other ingredients in your container. Allow the water to cool slightly (about 15min) before pouring it into your jar. Make sure everything is covered with the water and put the stone on top. Normally, you will leave these for about 48 hours, but you can try them after 24 and see how pickled you like yours. Once ready, transfer the cucumbers and the garlic into a jar, pouring the brine over the top. You can eat these now for another couple of weeks, or keep the jar closed for a couple of months if you prefer to eat them at a later time. When you feel like a taste of another country and way of life, get them out and eat with buttered rye bread, grilled Polish sausage ("Mysliwska" for example), "Sarepska" mustard, and washed down with the obligatory Polish beer

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