If there is one thing you need at your Christmas cheeseboard, my cucumber pickle is it, and there is still time to get a batch ready for the big day as although it constantly improves in the jar, it only really needs a week to mature. And once life goes on after the festive period, your hotdogs, veggie burgers and bacon sandwiches will never be the same. If you enjoy the odd pickleback then, well, look no further.
This sweet gherkiny mix first came to being when I was looking for something savoury to add to my menu during a short lived career as a food festival vendor. Cucumber was a good option as they were cheap at the time and frankly who doesn’t like gherkins??? Apparently quite a few people it turns out, but forget those people. My experiment shifted reasonably well in those stall holder days, being especially popular with grumpy looking chaps waiting for their kids to stop fingering all the free fudge samples that were the bulk of my business. My leftovers went to my family, where this particular item immediately became a must have. At least three of the Boomboom fam get the look of a jittery addict in their eyes when making their enquiries as to whether or not there will be pickle this year. I do love dishing this stuff up into my sandwiches and I love it even more because everyone else does and it’s not a desperately common thing to find an edible that gets an enthusiastic reception from everyone in my extended family. I honestly believe that this is down to the simple fact that it is bloody delicious! It is sweeter than your average gherkin produce with a pleasing amount of crunch, gently spiced with mustard and a hint of seasonal cloves backed up with the gentle punch of cider vinegar. It literally goes with any dinner from posh plates to doorstep hangover sandwiches. It will transform your Christmas cold cuts just as it will elevate your summer BBQ and it is well worth the half hour of slicing faff to get it prepped. It is vegan too and you will easily eat enough of it to hit one of your five a day!
This is my baby. It’s incredible. And after a few years of tweaking and another year of promising I will write it up, here it is, my Christmas gift to your stomach: the Boomboom Cucumber Pickle.
Boomboom Cucumber Pickle
Makes roughly 2 kilos
700g strong, white onions.
500ml cider vinegar
350g caster sugar
5 tsp mustard seeds (either all yellow or a mix of yellow and black)
Cloves to taste (I use 7 in a batch this size but add a few more if you’re a fan)
1/2 tsp turmeric
Salt (I like Maldon sea salt)
You will also need clean jars, a large preserving pan, a slotted spoon, a large colander, a mandolin (or a very sharp knife and a steady hand).
Wash but don’t peel the cucumbers then slice them finely (one up from the thinnest section on the mandolin). Depending how skinny your jar necks are you might want to halve them lengthways first. Halve then slice the onions to the same thickness. A note on the onions- good strong white onions or shallots are best for this don’t be tempted by red onions or the large, milder white ones.
Rest your colander over a bowl/ pan then spread a layer of cucumber in there. Salt this liberally. Use a decent sea salt or a ground rock or himalyan salt, not a granulated table salt. Now add a layer of onions, salt again. A layer of cucumber then salt, you get the idea.
When the colander is full place a small plate over the veg and weigh down with a bag of sugar or some full jars to put pressure on the cucumber mix and force out the water.
Leave for at least 2 hours.
Thoroughly wash your jars and place them into a cold oven. When you are ready to start the next stage put the oven on to 90 degrees.
Discard any liquid that has run out of the cucumber/onions then thoroughly rinse and drain it all.
In a large pan mix together the sugar, vinegar, mustard, cloves and tumeric and bring to a simmer. Please use a decent cider vinegar it really does make a difference- I like Aspall’s Organic Cyder Vinegar.
Once this is simmering carefully transfer in the cucumber and onions with a slotted spoon to avoid taking any extra water with them. You want to blanch rather than cook them, so bring it up to boil again for roughly three minutes, gently stirring the veg to keep it even. The onions will take on the yellow of the tumeric and the cucumber will darken slightly so the slices look more like gherkins and less like a fresh cucumber.
Get your hot jars out of the oven and use a slotted spoon to fill them with the cucumber mix, draining it as much as possible before going into the jars. It is worth it to take your time here and avoid too much liquid going into the jars at this point. Once all the veg is out, bring the liquor left in the pan to a rapid boil and reduce by half (maybe 10 minutes). I must warn you at this point that your kitchen will stink for a day or so afterwards.
Use the reduced liquor to cover the veg in the jars then seal immediately and leave in a cool, dark space to mature for at least a week, then eat it with everything.