At the moment, there seems to be a good supply of onions and shallots at the various marchés gourmands in the neighbourhood. Particularly fine and sleek are the shallots called either échalions or cuisses de poulet (chicken thighs). I'm going to make Shallot Confiture, adapted from Hilaire Walden's Sensational Preserves. It makes just over a kilo of preserve. It's a four-day job, but very simple. As with all pickles involving vinegar, you need a stainless steel pan to cook it, and a non-metallic bowl to start with.
You will need:
100g/3.5oz sea salt
1 litre/1.75 pints cider vinegar
1.5 teaspoons cloves
2 cardamom pods, crushed
1.5 teaspoons caraway seeds
1 long strip of lemon zest
1 cinammon stick
2-4 dried red chillies, crushed
a good pinch of ground chilli or cayenne
Peel the shallots, leaving the root end intact. Put the shallots in a glass, plastic or ceramic bowl, sprinkle over the sea salt and add enough cold water to cover (they float!), stirring carefully to dissolve the salt. Put a plate on the shallots to submerge them, then leave for a day in a cool place.
Drain and rinse the shallots thoroughly and dry on paper towels. Pour the vinegar into a pan and stir in the sugar. Place the spices, except the ground chilli, on a square of muslin and tie into a bag. Add to the pan with the ground chilli and heat gently, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Raise the heat and boil fairly hard for 10 minutes. Remove any surface scum with a slotted spoon. Add the shallots and simmer very gently for 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, cover and leave overnight.
The next day, slowly bring the shallots to the boil, then simmer gently for another 15 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover and leave overnight.
The next day, slowly bring the shallots to the boil once more then simmer gently until they are golden brown and translucent. Pack into warm, clean, dry jars, pour on the syrupy liquid to cover and shake to remove any air pockets. Cover with vinegar-proof lids and seal. Store in a cool, dark, dry place for at least 2 months before eating.