I had a text from my mate Ian the other day to say that the had just closed the lid on his jar of Pickled Ash Keys.
I’d heard about them, but never seen keys that looked particularly luchious, but then I saw some on Friday evening hanging in great buches like grapes, so it must be a good year for them.
Ian swears by the very good, but under-publicised ‘Country Harvest’ book (the only issue I have with it, is that instead of presenting plants in order of seasons or anything else easy they are in alphabetic order by Latin name, so every single time you want to find anything it has to be via the index – just slightly annoying!) So, anyway, this will have been the recipe Ian used –
Pick the immature ash keys when they are hanging in little green bunches and if you bite one raw they are crisp and not stringy. Clean the keys of their stalks and put them in a pan covered with cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for 5 mins. Drain and repeat. Drain thoroughly and pack into warm jars to within 1″ of top. For each 1pt of cleaned ash keys mix together 1 tsp ground cloves, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp allspice, ½ tsp ginger, 3 blades mace, 2 bay leaves, 6 peppercorns, 1 tsp salt, ¾ pt cider vinegar and 3tblsp brown sugar. Place this mixture in a bowl, cover with a plate and put the bowl into a saucepan of water. Bring the water in the pan to the boil for 5 mins. Remove the bowl and allow to stand for 2-3 hrs until quite cold. Strain and pour over the ash keys until the jars are completely filled. Cover with ‘vinegar proof’ lids and store for 3-4 months.
Ian reckons he will bring his pickle along to Green Drinks in September and poke fun at anyone who won’t try them!!
(Oh, and watch out if you try this, as the process of picking the stalks off the ash keys will turn your fingers black like soot, I suggested to Ian that this maybe why they are called ‘ash’ trees, but he wasn’t having any of it!)