I've had another tentative go at pickling this year; first, sliced beetroots from the allotment, and then some of the more diminutive specimens from my onion and shallot harvests.
Pickling beetroot is really easy - just cook the beets in their skins, peel, and cover with vinegar. It's important not to cut or pierce the beets in any way before cooking - cut the stalks to a couple of centimetres and wash them gently, then boil or roast until just soft. (I boiled mine, but I think I'll roast them next time as a lot of colour and aroma seemed to escape into the water even with their skins intact.) Allow them to cool enough to handle comfortably, then rub the soft skins away. Have plenty of paper towel at hand - this is a messy job! Slice the beetroots (or you could leave them whole if they're small) and pack into sterilised jars. Bring the vinegar to the boil with a few spoonfuls of sugar and some pickling spices (mustard seeds, allspice berries, peppercorns, mace, coriander, cloves, etc. to taste) and then pour into the jars, to cover the beets, and seal. I won't share my recipe here because I'm not quite happy with it - less spice, more sugar next time, for me. But I'm enjoying my beetroots all the same, usually in sandwiches with ham, mayo and lettuce. Yum!
Pickling onions and shallots takes a bit longer - they must be marinated in a handful or three of sea salt (or a strong salt solution) overnight first. They'll smell just like pickled onions after marinating! Then they are packed into sterilised jars and covered with vinegar in just the same way. Again, these are a bit punchy for my taste, and I'll use more sugar next time, but Dad loves them so they're still going to good use!
I'm rather sad I didn't get to pickle some courgettes too - I really enjoyed these last year - but the courgettes haven't been up to much this year and the usual glut never happened. Ah well, maybe I can get some more beetroot chutney made with the winter crop soon...