An Englishman living in Slovakia once asked me why Slovaks eat bottled fruit and vegetables in the winter when there is raw produce available in our shops all through the year.
True, we can now buy bell peppers, tomatoes, pears and grapes in December or January, but they are imported to Slovakia from the other side of the globe and, believe me, they don’t taste the same as the organic produce from your or your friend’s garden that you preserved in the summer.
It is therefore quite common to see Slovaks pickling cucumbers or bottling apricots in June and July. The local varieties of most fruit and vegetables differ from those imported from abroad, and when a large amount of quality produce is bestowed on you, you won’t let it go bad, will you?
When the pickling season in Slovakia starts at the turn of May and June, all shops fill up on Deko, Zelko, Zeko and Nakladač to provide pickle-zealous Slovaks with dry pickling mixes. These are made up of salt, ground black pepper, allspice, bay leaves and cloves, with added mustard seeds.If you want to preserve your locally grown vegetables Slovak-style, and you don’t have any pickling mixes available in your country, you can make one from scratch, as in this recipe for pickled gherkins.
Pickled Green Peppers
- 1 kg green peppers
- a few tablespoons oil
- 700 ml water
- 200 ml white vinegar
- 3 heaped tablespoons granulated sugar
- 40 g pickling mix (Nakladač, Zelko, Zeko or Deko in Slovakia)
- Wash the peppers under running water, cut off both ends and cut lengthways into halves. Remove the core and the seeds. Slice the peppers into strips.
- Pack the pepper strips into clean, dry jars laying them lenghtways. Stand the jars on the worktop and pour a tablespoon of oil in each of them.
- Pour the water and the vinegar in a cooking pot and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, then add the pickling mix and the sugar. Stir well and let simmer for 5 minutes. Put aside.
- Pour the warm pickling liquid in the jars, filling them up to the grooves. Shake gently to get rid of the bubbles and screw on the lids.
- Transfer the jars to a baking tray and space them out. Preheat the oven to 100ºC and put the jars inside. Let sterilize for 10 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 85ºC and continue sterilizing for another 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the jars cool down slowly in the oven.
- Take out of the oven and store in a cool, dark place. Once opened, use the contents of the jar or refrigerate for up to two weeks.
You are very likely to be left with a surplus of the pickling liquid. If that happens, let it cool down and pour in a clean, airtight container. Store in the fridge and use for another pickling session.
If, on the other hand, you have more vegetables than stated in the recipe, multiply the amounts of the other ingredients accordingly.