Summer in Ireland drifts in quietly, each day lengthening by a few minutes, the sunshine becoming brighter before melting into the darkness later each evening. I once took summer for granted. I grew up in Western Australia, in almost perpetual sunshine. I learnt to cook in the Swan Valley in a kitchen which sourced its produce from the region. It was less an ethos than a matter of practicality. Asparagus grew in fat green stems a kilometre down the road, the next paddock over from the restaurant was filled with trees heaving with stone fruit and the air hung thick with the smell of ripe citrus from nearby trees. It didn't make sense to look further afield when we had such a bounty on our doorsteps. It was a simple ethos and one that my own restaurant kitchen now cleaves to, albeit with different produce.
The flavours I now associate with summer are local and Irish. The plush skin of a raspberry, vivid red and velvety, the sweet tang of summer lamb, straight from the field, the lush cream of soft goat's curd and the sweet oiliness of rare breed Irish pork. These flavours are a snapshot of a moment in time never to be repeated, the culmination of a season of toil for the farmer. The environment, weather and the ups and downs of the harvest are all captured. Late rain, dry spells, a fodder crisis are reflected in the flavour. Summer is fleeting, and by preserving its produce we try to capture a little bit of the season, to hold in the larder and enjoy once the season passes. The taste of foods when preserved, whether dried, pickled or smoked, brings a new depth to the flavours and textures. Adding a judicious dash of whisky brings another dimension to enjoy.
Cherries preserved in whiskey
This recipe is less of a recipe than a guideline to be tweaked. You can use any whiskey you have to hand, but I adore these made with Black Bush, a whiskey that already boasts a touch of cherry sweetness, or Rittenhouse Rye which amps up the spice factor. We source honey from local hives which adds another layer of flavour. It is worth seeking out honey from your own locality for this recipe. Of course, maple or orchard syrup could also be used in its place. INGREDIENTS
- 500g cherries, washed, pitted and stems removed
- 150ml water
- 120g honey
- 1 strip of orange peel, pith removed (optional)
- 250ml chosen whiskey
- spice of your choice, see below for combination suggestions
- A 1L mason jar, or 2 smaller ones
Place a heavy bottomed pot over medium heat and combine water, honey, chosen spice and orange peel (if using). 2.
Bring to a simmer and add cherries. Cook for 5-10 minutes. Add in the whiskey, and stir to combine.3.
Remove from heat and let the mixture come to room temperature. Place into jars, ensuring the spices are evenly distributed. Will keep for 2-3 months. I refrigerate mine, but it is not necessary. 4.
Use these cherries poured over ice-cream, or in cocktails. My favourite use for them is strained, threaded on a skewer and dipped in dark chocolate served alongside a glass of whisky after a BBQ.
Whiskey and spice suggestions
- Black Bush and half a split vanilla pod
- Powers John’s Lane and 2 star anise
- Bulleit Bourbon and 1 cinnamon quill
- J & B and 3 allspice berries
- Rittenhouse Rye and 2 cloves
This will make quite a lot, but it not only keeps well, but improves with age. It is fantastic with hard cheeses, cooked meats and for enjoying on a picnic.INGREDIENTSBrine
Fruit and veg
- 15g fine sea salt
- 1.5L water
- 1 bay leaf
- 300g cauliflower florets
- 200g silver skin onions, peeled
- 150g gherkins
- 250g courgettes/zucchini
- 200g red peppers/capsicum, seeds removed
- 150g fine beans
- 1 green apple, cored
- 1 red chilli, with seeds
- 1 green chilli, with seeds
- 600ml apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 25g cornflour
- 35ml whisky, I used Compass Box Asyla, but any good Scotch blend will lend heft and a touch of smoke
- 1 tbsp mustard power
- 2 tsp ground dried turmeric
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- 45g white wine or champagne vinegar
Make a brine by heating the water and salt, stirring until the salt is dissolved. Add bay leaf and remove from heat, allowing brine to cool. Empty brine into a large non-metal container allowing space for the vegetables. 2.
Cut all fruit and vegetables into a small dice and place into brine in the fridge for 24 hours, using a plate on top to keep vegetables submerged. Place apple cider vinegar and cumin into a large stainless steel pot, bring to boil. Lower heat and cover pot, allow to simmer gently 10-15 minutes and then cool. 3.
In a large bowl, combine cornflour, turmeric and ground ginger. Gradually add the white wine vinegar to make smooth paste, and then add the whisky, then the boiled and cooled vinegar and mix until smooth. Return to the pot and stir over low heat until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.4.
In the meantime, remove vegetables from brine and drain well (I leave them sitting in a colander over the sink while I make the sauce). Add vegetables to the thickened sauce in the pot and return to heat. When the mix reaches simmering point, simmer for thirty seconds then remove from heat and cool. 5.
Store piccalilli covered in the fridge in non-metal container or place into small mason jars, sealed tightly.