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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