Traditionally, there are four types of pickles:-
Clear Pickle ( single vegetable)
Mixed Pickle ( mixed vegetables)
Mustard Pickle ( vegetables with a thickened sauce)
Fruit Pickle ( single fruit).
Pickles are best made in stainless steel or copper pans lined with stainless steel. Avoid any pan which may give a metallic flavour. I prefer to use plastic or silicon spoons when making or tasting pickles as metal spoons react with vinegar and fruit acids. To seal pickles, always use new, vinegar resistant lids.
To make vegetable pickles, choose young, very fresh, clean vegetables, prepared into suitably sized pieces for eating.The vegetables are soaked in a brine or dry salted, then rinsed and thoroughly drained. They are packed into jars, but not too tightly. Packing the jars evenly and attractively, requires patience and skill. Once the jars are packed, they are covered with cold spiced vinegar, for a crisp pickle ( onions, chillies, garlic, red cabbage) or boiling vinegar for a soft pickle ( beetroot).
To make sweet pickles, the fruit is cut into halves, quarters or cubes depending on the type of fruit. Damsons are left whole, and pricked before heating otherwise they shrivel. The fruit is cooked in a sweetened vinegar and simmered until the fruit is tender and ready for packing into jars. The sweet vinegar is re-boiled until it is thick and syrupy, then poured over the fruit. As a preservative, vinegar is one of the most important ingredients in pickles. It contains acetic acid which prevents the growth of bacteria, yeasts and moulds. The best vinegar has 5% acetic acid, if less, the pickle may not keep. I prefer to use white or distilled white vinegar rather than dark vinegar for pickling. Vinegar for pickle-making is first seasoned with spices and it can be prepared some months ahead, by leaving the spices in the jar of vinegar and shaking occasionally. Other ingredients which contribute to pickles are the salt used in brining and the sugar and spices used in sweet pickles.Use rock or cooking salt in the brine. Table salt can make the pickle cloudy. Sealing the jars correctly is important as most pickles should be matured for at least two months. Re-cycled lids might not seal and un-lined metal lids will probably spoil the contents of the jars, as the metal reacts with the vinegar and blackens the inside of the lid.
Piccalilli is a popular mustard pickle. Runner Bean pickle is another, often wrongly described as a chutney in older recipe books. The characteristic, bright, yellow colour of Piccalilli comes from two essential ingredients, turmeric and mustard. To make this quintessential British preserve, bite-sized vegetables are cooked in a sauce, creating a sweet, spicy flavour. Make it hot or mild depending on your preference.
The word Piccalilli became known in England during the eighteenth century. In 1709, a Mrs Raffald recorded a recipe for an “Indian Pickle or Piccalillo”. Mixed vegetables were salted and preserved with mustard seed, turmeric, vinegar and spices. The availability of spices, imported by the English East India Company provided culinary opportunities for the home cook to experiment with flavours in chutneys and pickles.
Popular ingredients for present day Piccalilli include cauliflower, marrow, green beans and pickling onions. The vegetables are cut or broken into dice, about 1- 1.5cm then soaked in a brine for 24 hours. Young, fresh vegetables are used, free from any damaged portions. Brining, extracts some of the water from the vegetables; use 450g (1lb) salt to 4.5litres ( 8 pints) of water. The prepared vegetables are covered with brine in a bowl with a plate or lid on top to keep the vegetables submerged. After 24 hours, the vegetables are rinsed and drained and ready for preserving.
Clear Pickles and Mixed Pickles should be crisp in clear, spiced vinegar. Sweet Pickles should be tender, but not mashed, in sweetened, spiced vinegar. The vinegar should be sparkling and syrupy, and the jars correctly filled; 12mm vinegar over the pickle and 6mm space over the vinegar, under the lid. Uniform pieces, careful preparation, and not too tightly packed. The flavour smooth and mature. When judging Piccalilli I look for evenly tender or crisp vegetables in a smooth, un-cracked, thickened sauce; a bright colour and sufficient sauce covering the vegetables throughout the jar. If the vegetables are not covered with sufficient sauce, they might dry out. The jar should be filled to within 5mm from the top, and sealed with a new, vinegar resistant lid. The flavour should be a blend of the vegetables and a spicy sauce; not be salty, often due to insufficient rinsing after brining, or vinegary, often due to being immature.
Beetroot Pickle RecipeSmall, young beetroots
Cold spiced, white vinegar
1.Wash the beetroot and place unpeeled in a saucepan and pour enough water to cover it. Simmer the beetroot until tender -45-90 minutes. Leave to cool then drain and rub off the skins.
2.Cut the beetroot into 5mm rounds and pack the slices, loosely into clean jars, filling them to within 12mm from the top of the jar. Pour in spiced vinegar to cover them by at least 6mm.
3.Seal the jars with new, vinegar resistant lids. Leave the beetroot to mature for at least a week and eat within 3 months of pickling. For longer keeping, dice the beetroot and cover with boiling vinegar If using this method, pack the beetroot into warmed jars.
Sweet and Hot Piccalilli RecipeMakes around 1.4kg
1.4kg mixed vegetables ( prepared weight)
20g mustard powder
20g plain flour
1½tsp powdered ginger
1tsp chilli powder
½tsp ground cardamom
175g granulated sugar
900ml distilled, white vinegar
1. Prepare the vegetables and leave in brine, in a non-metallic bowl for at least 24 hours, covered with a plate. Drain the vegetables and rinse them thoroughly in cold water.
2. Place the sugar, ginger, turmeric, chilli, mustard and cardamom in a large preserving pan with 800ml of the vinegar.
3. Add the prepared vegetables to the vinegar mixture and heat it slowly until boiling, stirring occasionally to ensure that the sugar dissolves. Simmer the vegetables until they are tender but still slightly crunchy, do not cook until soft. Place clean jars in the oven at 140C /275F/Gas 1 for 15 minutes
4. Using a slotted spoon, remove each type of the vegetables from the cooking liquid, as they reach the correct texture and place in a clean glass bowl. When the last vegetables are cooked, pack all the vegetables into warm jars.
5. Place the flour in a cup and gradually add the remaining vinegar, stirring continuously, to make a smooth paste.
6.The cooking liquid should still be in the pan, add the blended flour and bring to the boil. Stir continuously to prevent lumps from forming. Boil for 2 minutes before pouring it over the vegetables in the jars. A small, plastic spatula will help to remove any air pockets as the jars are filled. Slide the spatula down the sides of the jar, re- positioning the vegetables and move the sauce to fill the spaces in between.
7. Fill the jars to within 5mm from the brim. Make sure the vegetables are covered with the sauce at the top of each jar.To avoid spoilage, use new, vinegar resistant twist top lids. Leave the jars upright and undisturbed until cold. Store for 6 weeks before eating.
For more Preserves Recipes First Preserves: Marmalades, Jams, Chutneys or First Preserves: eBooks
Preserve Your Own – Strawberry Jam
Preserve Your Own – Rhubarb Jam
Preserve Your Own – Strawberry and Black Currant Curd
Preserve Your Own – Sweet Corn and Pepper Relish
Preserve Your Own – Tomato and Pepper Chutney
Preserve Your Own – Redberry Jelly Recipe
Preserve Your Own – Piccalilli
Preserve Your Own – How to Make Syrups and Cordials
Preserve Your Own – Fruit Butters & Cheeses
Preserve Your Own – Preserves as Gifts