Richard Bainbridge’s pickled samphire
Ahh, it is starting to feel a little more like summer, with baking days, warm nights, and the possibility of amazing thunderstorms, if we are lucky. The summer calls for day trips to the seaside. When I was young, we didn’t have a car, so days trips were instigated by my grandparents who had transport and were automatically deemed posh! The day would start with my mum trying to get us all packed up and ready to go, at what seemed like a ridiculously early hour of the morning, for the big road trip to the beautiful beaches of Cromer. As a little boy from the urban fringe parish of Hellesdon, this seemed a lifetime and a half away, but I can still remember the excitement building as we started to get closer to the coast. Then, with five of us packed into the Escort, our energies were best spent playing I Spy… to see who could spot the sea first. The volume would increase with the sounds of my sister and I arguing about who saw it first, but despite our squabbling, grandad always won in the end, anyway.
The day out in Cromer would unfold with ice cream, sand, crabbing off the pier, and pots of cockles. Towards the end of the day, we would make a quick trip to Morston Quay for the picking of samphire, something that my grandad would always tell us was poor man’s asparagus. With the hot summer day coming to a close and the heat of the sun withdrawing, we strode out onto the marshes to fill our bags with the sweet, salty samphire that was everywhere you looked. In no time, we would have a bagful, then off home we would go to have it for tea. Now, with my two daughters in tow, we can’t wait to go out picking the samphire every summer so we can carry on the tradition that, one day, I hope they will be able to do with their own children.
Here is a quick recipe to make that warm summer glow last that little bit longer. Pickled samphire is a great store cupboard staple to have on toast with a poached egg or with steak and chips for something a little different. If you prefer to eat the samphire unadorned, you can blanch it in boiling water for three minutes, strain, and then refresh it in cold water to stop the cooking process. It is naturally salty, so requires no extra seasoning, and it is particularly good with fish, potatoes, or just on its own.
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Makes 1 x 500g Kilner jar
Place all the ingredients apart from the samphire into a large pan and bring to the boil. Once boiling, remove from the heat and allow to cool completely.
When the pickling liquor is cool, place a large pot of boiling water on the stove and bring to the boil. Once boiling, place your samphire into the water and cook for three minutes. Then remove from the water and refresh in cold water to stop the cooking process.
Transfer the samphire into a clean, sterile jar and pour your pickling liquor on top and seal. Allow to sit for one week to mature.
Store in a cool, dark place. The pickled samphire will keep well for up to six months.