I talk a lot about creating all manner of fun charcuterie projects. Things like sausage and confit and pate are lovely on their own, to be sure, but they’re raised to a new level with the inclusion of a few well-prepared condiments. One of my new favorites to serve with a succulent sausage or braised pork belly is Pickled Shallots.
Sean and I first got to try out these shallots at small gathering at la casa del Nose to Tail at Home. They served as a very tart but also subtly-spiced counterpoint to a wicked-rich (and rib-sticking delicious) pheasant and pig’s trotter pie (and also a pork belly if I remember correctly, b/c Mr. Nose to Tail at Home doesn’t do anything halfway).
The recipe is from Fergus Henderson’s The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating. This book is considered the must-have cookbook when it comes to offal cookery. I’ve not yet been brave enough to try too many of the recipes – mostly because I have a somewhat unreceptive audience to cook for – but the Pickled Shallots are divine and, as mentioned, do a lovely job of counterbalancing the richness of many of the charcuterie dishes of been practicing. Most recently, they served as a side to the turkey-cranberry sausage and turkey leg confit served at our Thanksgiving feast.
The below recipe diverges from Mr. Henderson’s thusly: because I have a rather subdued palate (one that needs to be kicked in the head to notice it is tasting cinnamon in that pickling brine), I elected to make a half-batch of shallots but use a full batch’s-worth of seasonings.
Also I re-purposed a pasta sauce jar (yeah, I sometimes use jarred pasta sauce – only one of many dirty little secrets in my kitchen) for this project. If you’re going to seal and preserve your shallots, this practice is inadvisable.
Stir the salt with about 3 ½ cups of water till salt is dissolved; this is the brine. Cover the prepared shallots with the brine and leave to soak in a nonreactive container in the refrigerator for a week. I found it easiest to keep the shallots submerged if I used the jar in which I’d be storing the final product. Also, it’s handy for knowing exactly how much liquid will be necessary to fully submerge the shallots.
Once the week is up, rinse the shallots thoroughly (as well as the jar if it’s what will be housing the pickling shallots). Remember the amount of liquid it took to cover the shallots? Pour that same amount of liquid in a small saucepan, half malt vinegar, half white wine vinegar. To that, add all the spices listed above and bring to a simmer. Add the rinsed shallots and simmer for about five minutes.
Remove from the heat and pour into jars. (If you’ll be canning these, make sure the jars are properly sterilized and have sealable lids.) Then store in the refrigerator (assuming you’re not canning) for about a month. At this point, the shallots are ready to use.
Here’s what Mr. Henderson says about the liquid that’s left over once all the shallots have been eaten, “The leftover spiced vinegar is very good for dipping cooked whelks in. In France they are called bouleau; they look like sea snails.”