The native Tasmanian Pepperberry (Tasmannia lanceolata) has not been a plant that I have managed to grow so it was a delight when blog reader, Lesley, offered some of her pepperberries and asked me to try to pickle them.
With some fruits and vegetables I check recipes and then make guesses about quantities and ingredients and I have always been satisfied with the result. However I was nervous about working with the pepperberries. Google as I might, I was not able to find one recipe for pickling but I did find some for vinegar.
A little over a month ago I boiled some apple cider vinegar and poured over the berries and sealed the jar.
The recipe probably suggested a particular vinegar but I had the apple cider variety in the cupboard and that was what I used. The recipe recommended leaving the mixture for two to three weeks before opening and straining the vinegar off. I left it for a month and tonight have separated the fluid from the berries.
During the period, the clear apple cider vinegar turned a rich deep purple colour.
The berries did not disintegrate and stayed whole.
The recipe told me to dispose of the berries but that seemed wasteful so I poured virgin olive oil to cover them then sealed in a jar. I imagine I might crush one at a time and use through stir fry.
Of course, in two separate moments, I tasted the vinegar and an individual pepperberry.
A third of a teaspoon of the vinegar offered potent heat that was hard hitting but not sharp. The pepperiness left my lips tingling but it wasn’t a painful heat. Nevertheless I suspect you would hospitalise a person if you forced them to drink a few tablespoon loads. I think half a teaspoon as part of a salad dressing would be sufficient to get the flavour and unique pepperiness.
When I popped the individual pepperberry into my mouth there was a sense of crystalised apple cider vinegar around it. This disappeared quickly and the powerful peppery nature of the berry took over. The heat and flavour grew on your tongue even once I had swallowed, and kept expanding with powerful pepperiness. I can only imagine its natural qualities will permeate the olive oil over time and then I might use the oil as a substitute for chilli soaked oil – a different flavour but a sense of similarity.
Thanks Lesley this has been an interesting experiment. Perhaps some of what I have done might influence you to attempt to invent your own pickling process. I suspect the power of the Tasmanian Pepperberry will always dominate.