Food for Fort: Gherkins, enamel roasting dish and onion confit

Can you eat gherkins as a vegetable or raw in a salad ? If pickled, is it better to do so in brine or vinegar? How long till they're OK to eat?
You can eat gherkins raw, although they can be bitter; you can cook them, too, if you fancy. When it comes to pickling, salt them overnight, rinse, pack into a sterilised jar and cover with spiced vinegar. I like a gentle, slightly sweet pickling, so use rice vinegar and add a teaspoon of caster sugar. Effectively, that both brines and pickles the gherkins. The brining helps keep them firm, the pickling keeps them zippy. Leave for a week or so before tucking in. Essential alongside terrines, very good with pork pies or ham. Or chopped and mixed with mayo to slather over cold potatoes.

I've inherited an enamel oval roasting dish and lid. It was cream, but is blackened with years of use. I've tried scouring pads, but they make little or no impression. I was told the problem could be solved with meat tenderiser. Any advice?
I know it's hard to throw away a much-loved kitchen friend, but it could just be that now is the time to invest in a new enamel roasting dish. But if you want to rehabilitate it, I'm not sure chemical meat tenderiser is the ideal solution. There is an Institute of Vitreous Enamellers and the Vitreous Enamel Association, which recommend Aga proprietary enamel cleaner, although I'm not sure it will be heavy-duty enough. You could try popping it into a plastic bag along with a cup of ammonia and leaving it overnight.

I'm having trouble finding a definitive recipe for onion confit. Larousse Gastronomique doesn't list it and every recipe I can find online seems to contradict the next: some say the onions should caramelise, others that they should not. Please help!
Technically speaking, confit means to cook something in fat (goose or duck) for a very long time until it's soft and emollient. In that case, all you need do is slice onions, pop them into a very low oven (275F/140C/gas mark 1) with a load of duck or goose fat, and leave for a very long time (ie overnight) until they turn into a divine sludge. I don't think it matters whether or not they're slightly caramelised. However, I think we may be talking about confiture d'oignons (onion purée) here, in which case the great original version of Michel Guérard in Cuisine Gourmande can't be bettered. Take 700g onions; 120g butter; 1½ tsp salt; 1 heaped tsp pepper; 160g caster sugar; 7 tbsp sherry vinegar; 2 tbsp grenadine cordial (or blackcurrant cordial); 250ml coarse red wine. Peel and slice the onions thinly. Heat the butter in a saucepan until it's a deep nut-brown, but do not let it blacken. Throw in the onions, add the salt, pepper and sugar, cover, and leave over a gentle heat to soften and brown gradually. Keep an eye on them, and stir from time to time with a wooden spatula. Add the vinegar, grenadine and wine, and cook uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring regularly. The purée must cook very gently. Serve warm or cold.

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