You may remember in a previous guest blog how I had made my vegetable garden larger, partly to help with the war effort over at Team Pugh. The new part of the garden has been very productive and as virgin land it has produced very good crops. There has been a fair amount of grass coming up as weeds, seeing as this was turned over lawn, but once a week with my hoe has kept it tidy. The carrots under fleece are especially good as there was no manure or compost spread on my carrot patch and the soil is very deep. The Japanese onions which I planted as sets have just matured and have made good solid onions, most tennis ball sized or larger and the seed grown onions which I transplanted in March are bigger and still growing. One of the real successes on the new plot has been my shallots. I bought these not as ‘sets’ but just as a reduced item at a supermarket (yes I know but I am a Team-Pugh supporter not an actual participant) I got a 500 gram bag for 50p.
I whacked them in straight away and got two good rows. The applied wisdom with shallots is to set them on the shortest day and harvest them on the longest day. I think it was near Christmas when I planted so it could well have been the 21st Dec. By March they were all greening up and after a couple of re-plants because of our friendly Jackdaws I had 100% take. They weren’t quite ready to harvest in June but the recent hot weather finished the foliage off and I was able to lift them. Each bulb had made 6-10 shallots so I had a bumper crop. I always like to keep the biggest ones to use as whole onions, amazing in winter stews or just as a side vegetable. The rest are brilliant as pickled onions, so on Friday night it was a mini-food factory at Chez Gray. My wife is a great collector of useful items so she was able to supply me with some suitable jars. These were washed and put in the oven to dry and sterilise.
One of my tips is to buy cheap malt vinegar and spice it up. This is much cheaper than ‘pickling vinegar’ and much more tasty. I melt 4 teaspoons of brown sugar in a little boiling water in a jug. Pour in the pint of vinegar and stir. To the empty bottle add 10 black peppercorns, 4-5 bayleaves, some marjoram flowers a sprig of rosemary and one sage leaf. Leave to infuse for at least a week. I try to leave mine a month or more.
Having peeled the shallots, wash and pat dry and then sprinkle with salt on a large plate. Leave for an hour and then fill the clean jars with as many shallots as possible. I do a mixture of sizes this way you can get as many in as possible. The more shallots in the jar the less vinegar you use. Now pour on the spiced vinegar, seal and leave a couple of months, then enjoy. Try not to eat a whole jar at a session, very difficult.