A proper homemade piccalilli is a superior being. It pairs with foods that other pickles can only dream of and is everything that shop bought factory versions are not. It’s crunchy, vibrant, tangy, powerful, clean, spicy and it’s yellow.
Now stop me if you’ve heard this before, but being a 17th century rip-off of an Indian pickle, Piccalilli is, naturally, high in spicing, most notably turmeric and mustard. Cauliflower is also a given, and some would say marrow, but I find marrow rather ineffectual and a tad old-hat, so I opt for a more modern approach, which is courgette.
So why am I all het up about Piccalilli all of a sudden? Well firstly it’s on the menu at the moment with the Potted Rabbit and secondly it comes in darn handy at Christmas…either as a gift (after-thought) or more to the point with ham and cold meats, cheese, leftovers, sprout pie and baubles. The possibilities are endless.
(This recipe will make enough for 4 or 5 average jam jars)
1.2kg of mixed veg – in its final resting state, i.e. peeled and chopped
225g of table salt, dissolved in 4.5L of cold water
For the paste:
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 tablespoon mustard powder
½ teaspoon ground white pepper
1 ½ teaspoons ground ginger
50g plain flour
125g caster sugar
5 tablespoons of cider/white wine vinegar
150ml cider or white wine vinegar
250 malt vinegar
This recipe has three quick and easy stages. That’s all there is to it.
Brine the vegetables overnight, make the sauce, add the veg.
So the night before, prepare the veg. Apart from cauliflower the other vegetables are interchangeable. Personally I go for a quarter each (300g) of shallot, courgette, carrot and cauliflower.
How big or small you prepare them is up to you - piccalilli is not supposed to be a spreading pickle so larger chunks are acceptable, but don’t go so far as needing to take a knife and fork to it. Imagine, you’ve got your pork pie in one hand, the piccalilli on the plate….
Find a jolly big bowl, add the salt and water and stir to dissolve. Add your prepared vegetables to it and shove it in the fridge overnight. If you can’t physically fit it in the fridge, don’t worry. Leave it in the coolest place in the house, covered with a tea towel.
The next day, rinse the vegetables, be swift and to the point but be thorough. Leave them to drain in a colander.
Place all the paste ingredients in a pan and whisk together to make a paste.
Pop it over a low to medium heat and keep stirring whilst you slowly pour in the two vinegars which you’ve mixed together in a jug, whisking all the time. Chuck in the veg and now stir with a spoon – not the whisk (you’ll just trap all the veg in between the wires).
Now keep stirring, gently but with meaning, for 10 maybe 15 minutes until the sauce is hot and thickening. It only needs to be as thick as tomato ketchup for example.
It will continue to thicken after you take it off the heat, and as we don’t want the vegetables to cook, less is more. Taste for seasoning, add a little salt and a few grinds of black pepper - although don’t be surprised if you don’t think it needs any.
Spoon it into clean, sterilized jars* whilst it’s still hot and the jars are still hot too.
It’s ready to eat the next day, or later the same day even if you can get it in the fridge for a few hours, and of course being a preserve, they’ll keep in a cool dark place for a few months no problem.
*Sterilizing jam jars is not just a WI initiation test, it’s a fundamental part of preserving. Sure you can get by without it if you intend to eat your whole batch of piccalilli in the next couple of days, but if you want to preserve your pickle you need to make sure you’ve eliminated all microscopic stowaways, and the only way to do this is to sterilize your jars. Having said that, it can be as simple as running your jars through the hot cycle of your dishwasher. You can take a more traditional approach if you like, there are even methods for microwaving, but if I were you, just shove ‘em in the dishwasher and be done with it. Use the hottest option there is.