Farmhouse Piccalilli

04 Nov 2012

In a pickle. (idiom): experiencing a difficult situation

You could say that I was faced with a difficult *kitchen* situation this weekend. I was planning to use up some of the last harvest veg from the garden and could not decide if I should go with preparing a sweet pickle spread, a tangy piccalilli relish or our family sauerkraut recipe. I eased ahead with some sauerkraut (uncle Jim would be proud), but then it was still a toss up between the two pickles. It was little bit like deciding what to wear to the farm on a daily basis. Do I go for the sweet and wholesome country look, stir it up a bit with something more spicy, or do I go for the old standby traditional? Oops. I keep forgetting. It really doesn’t matter what you wear to the farm as long as it’s functional and waterproof.

But, I digress. Pickles. I have always had an affinity for pickles. Sweet and sour. Bread and butter. Neon green Chicago dog relish. Dill. Jumbo. Kosher. Miniature. But, never, ever came across the marvelous, plain and simple “pickle” until moving to Ireland.

You see, they mean something different by “pickles” here. Pickles are not necessarily the cucumber-y gherkin-y pickle that we are used to in America. No, no, no. Think malty, cider vinegary, zesty, sweet, savoury, spicy, chunky, cloyingly tangy. Often there are no cucumbers involved at all. Pickle can be a gorgeous sandwich spread. A Ploughman’s lunch. Or, better yet, a piccalli on a grilled dog. The only thing that could make piccalilli on a charred sausage better is if it was blanketed on a Wisconsin bratwurst. These pickle recipes came to Ireland via the UK, but Britain borrowed them from India. Whatever way you look at it, piccalilli is true {fermented} perfection in a jar.

While both pickle and piccalilli are positively divine, I had to choose only one, so I went with piccalilli. Piccalilli is essentially crispy vegetables pickled with vibrant and aromatic Indian spices in a velvety sauce. My first taste of piccalilli was so exciting that I wanted to tell the world “Extra, extra, read all about it!” style.  I now can’t imagine life pre-piccalilli.

If you’re in a pickle {or even if you’re not}, make yourself some pickle.

Here’s the recipe:

Farmhouse Pickle (lilli)

Makes 6 x 340g (12oz)jars

Select, wash, peel  2kg (2.5lbs) of 5-6 of the following vegetables: cauliflower, swede, asparagus, radish, green beans, cucumbers, courgettes, green or yellow tomatoes, carrots, small pickling onions or shallots, peppers

100g (1/2 cup) fine sea salt

60g (1/2 cup) cornflour

2 tbsp ground turmeric

2 tbsp English mustard powder

2 tbsp ground ginger

1 tbsp caraway seeds

2 tsp cumin seeds

2 tsp coriander seeds

1.2 litres white or cider vinegar

300g (2.5 cups) granulated sugar

100g (1/2 cup) honey

1. Cut the vegetables into small, bite-sized pieces. Place in a large colander over a bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Mix well, cover with a tea towel and leave in a cool place for 24 hours, then rinse with ice-cold water and drain thoroughly.

2. Blend the cornflour, turmeric, mustard powder, ginger, caraway, cumin and coriander into a smooth paste with a little of the vinegar. Put the rest of the vinegar into a saucepan with the sugar and honey and bring to the boil. Pour a little of the hot vinegar over the blended spice paste, stir well and return to the pan. Bring gently to the boil. Boil for 3-4 minutes to allow the spices to release their flavours into the thickening sauce.

3. Remove the pan from the heat and carefully fold the well-drained vegetables into the hot, spicy sauce. Pack the pickle into warm, sterilised jars and seal immediately with vinegar-proof lids. Leave for about 6 weeks before opening. Use within a year.

Slan Abhaile,


PS.  {farmette} has just made the esteemed “Sites We Love” by Saveur magazine! Obviously, I peed my pants when I heard.  Have a look at the profile, and also take a peek at the others listed……just make sure you have some extra time because there are many brilliant blogs to enjoy!

Photos and styling by Imen McDonnell 2012


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16 Responses to “Farmhouse Piccalilli”

  1. Susie Wyckoff says:

    Your piccalilli recipe sure brought back memories. Growing up, on a regular basis my mom would cook beans for my dad. Not the usual white navy beans for bean soup but the large red kidney beans cooked with a slab of salt pork. I hated them, by the way but my dad loved them with piccalilli relish on them. He was raised in Maine, USA and they must have been a staple in his house.
    We used to be able to find piccalilli relish at the grocery store with no problem but it’s gradually been discontinued and hard to find. What fun it would be to present him with my own handmade version! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Brenda says:

    I’m curious…. It’s suggested this is a fermented pickle yet I see it is done in a hot vinegar brine… Will that not stave off the lacto-fermentation?

  3. Carri says:

    Hi there, where would I find the Tres Leches Cake recipe?
    Thank you, Carri

  4. As always, lovely post and beautiful pictures.
    I really want to make my own too, this weekend it’s chutney time at our house 🙂
    Congrats on the Saveur feature, you and your blog deserve it big time!
    Fabulous! And thanks for the mention *blush*
    Take care x

  5. Pat M says:

    I love your site – such endearing pictures of vegetables – wow they are like little pieces of art

  6. […] Farmhouse Piccalilli. Even if the recipe doesn’t appeal, you should still click over to look at the pretty pictures. […]

  7. […] Farmhouse Picalilli. Even if the recipe doesn’t appeal, you should still click over to look at the pretty pictures. […]

  8. […] She is clearly enjoying Autumn as well. […]

  9. Rike says:

    not only that I love the recipe – I’m so in awe of your photos 🙂

  10. Tim Magnuson says:

    Wow! That… Looks amazing. We will have to give it a shot this weekend, an d make a batch…!

  11. Mairead says:

    Imen – One grocery-shopping amazement that awaited me here in America was my first encounter with the shelves of pickles and relishes. Pickles were just not part of my Cork mother’s menu, when I was growing up in Dublin. I confess, I have grown to love the taste and texture a good crunchy pickle adds to a sandwich, and my burgers now get spread with relish. Thanks for this great vegetable pickling tutorial. I may get brave and give it a try.

  12. Congrats Imen on the feature love love it xoxo
    Thank you for the recipe looks delicious I have wanted to make it now I have the recipe thanks beautiful photos as always
    Best wishes

  13. Krista says:

    I loved reading this post, Imen! 🙂 The Aussies are the same with their pickles. I’ve eaten some strange and wonderful things since coming here, and am totally in love with them now. 🙂 Thank you SO much for this recipe. Now I can try it too. 🙂

  14. I agree with Beth– this is lovely. I love the light and the simple depth in the first photograph. It totally drew me in. Happy pickling to you!

  15. I’ve just been looking around at pickle recipes because it’s deviled egg season around here. I bet this would make a smashing addition! And such lovely photos too.

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