The last week of June has got to be the favourite week for every frugal cook. This is the week where all spring produce is at peak season, so cheap to buy and most of all at its best, flavour wise. It’s all downhill from here on as the heat picks up spring vegetables and fruits will shrivel away and make room for the summer inhabitants, who after all deserve their few weeks in the limelight too.
I have vivid memories of big jars filled with all sort of pickled food, ranging from the small bullet like green olives to peppered goat cheese. My grandmother would start pestering everyone she knew to get her as many empty glass jars as they possibly could, buying new jars was out of the question and to tell you the truth new glass jars are quite hard to get in Malta, so by the beginning of June her kitchen would be full of old Nescafe and Comforto jars, they were great for pickling as their lid was fashioned in Plastic therefore the total vinegar reacting with the metal lid situation was totally avoided, however I suspect that rust was the last worry on my grandmother’s mind.
The small Maltese olives were amongst the favourite item to pickle, their season is quite short, and she would get the really small ones which almost looked like capers, their taste was raw and bitter in the best possible of ways.
Visiting the beach was a way to acquire capers, buying capers was also out of the question, and I do feel like such a pussy whenever I need to buy some from the supermarket nowadays, a part of me dies every time I pay the two euros for the 50g miniscule jar. After about ten hours at the beach we would climb the gazillion of stairs leading to the Riviera Martinique, where we would raid the caper bushes growing on the cliffs, we would have a bagful of the beautiful green berries growing attached to ear like leaves which also taste so good, our grandma who never visited the beach because of a phobia she had of the sea would be ecstatic with the stash on our return home, and the capers would be simply washed and pickled in vinegar and salt.
All pickle jars would go out to cure in the July sun on the balcony, they used to be so colourful and mysterious looking, the small goat cheeses covered with black pepper and submerged in vinegar and sugar smelled so funky, but tasted so good on top of bread with oil and tomatoes. We never got sick from eating them, and although they would give an instant heart attack to the tight assed sanitised individuals ruling food regulations today, there will never be anything as rewarding and delicious as those jars, which would enter the house in mid-August, we would enjoy them slowly so they could last as much as possible … The onions, the capers, the eggs, the peppered cheese, the tomatoes, the olives.
I am giving a recipe for pickled strawberries, because for some reason all the pickles I try from my childhood never seem to equal in taste as the ones I used to eat at my grandmother’s house, maybe death and loss tarnish the taste buds, maybe more time needs to pass before I can recapture the mystery that lied in those jars, so instead of insisting on making pickles same as my grandma I am making my own, and anyhow strawberries are so good at the moment that it’s worth the adventure.
- 1 kilo Ripe but firm strawberries
- 500 grams white sugar
- 1 vanilla pod
- 500ml white cider vinegar
- 16 pepper corns
- Laurel leaf
- 50grams salt
- 50grams honey
Wash the strawberries, and let them dry on some kitchen towel.
In the meantime bring to the boil the mixture of Vinegar, sugar and spices
Place the drained strawberries in a glass jar and top with the vinegar mixture.
Let ferment for at least three days before eating.
These strawberries are great on salads, or with beef dishes, they also work really well with desserts where there is ice cream of any sort involved.