Today is my baby brother’s birthday (I say baby – he’s 39). Being a fellow enthusiast in all things edible/quaffable and also a great cook, he is one of the easiest and therefore one of my favourite people to buy presents for. He’s not into anything flashy or grand; give him a two-bob speed peeler or a craft beer with a whacky label and he’s as happy as a pig in the proverbial. If it’s homemade, so much the better. This year he has been even more undemanding than usual, and asked not even for the end product, but for my recipe for piccalilli. He will be getting something else from me and also a pot of the real thing, but in the meantime I dedicate this post to him.
Happy Birthday bruv. Love you loads xxx
This is actually not my recipe at all, but one from River Cottage’s preserving expert Pam Corbin, with a few extra bits added by me. The difference between a good piccalilli and a great one, I think, is how small you cut up the veg. By chopping the veg evenly into bite-sized pieces, you’ll get a bit of everything on your fork when you come to eat and it will taste more refined. Here, the vegetables are brined so retain their crunch – a million miles away from that soggy yellow gunk you get in supermarkets.
Makes 3 x 340g jars
- 1kg washed, peeled vegetables. I use carrot, cauliflower, courgette or cucumber, onion or shallot, any colour pepper (but red looks nice) and green beans
- 1 red chilli finely chopped (add more for a hotter pickle)
- 2 bay leaves
- 50g fine salt
- 30g cornflour
- 10g ground turmeric
- 10g English mustard powder
- 15g yellow mustard seeds
- 1 tsp crushed cumin seeds
- 1 tsp crushed coriander seeds
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 600ml cider vinegar
- 150g granulated sugar (I add a spoon or two more than this for a sweeter pickle)
- 50g honey
- Cut the veg into small pieces – no bigger than about a centimeter squared if that makes sense. You can also use the stalk of the cauli – just finely chop to the same size as the other veg. Finely chop the chilli and add to the veg (leave seeds in if you like the heat).
- Place veg in a large bowl and mix in the salt (I use my hands to do this), cover the bowl and leave somewhere cool overnight. Next day, rinse the veg in cold water in batches and drain thoroughly (quite boring doing this).
- Blend the cornflour, turmeric, mustard powder, mustard seeds, cumin, coriander and ginger to a smooth paste with a little of the vinegar. Put the remaining vinegar in a saucepan with the sugar and honey and bring to the boil. Pour some of this hot vinegar over the spice paste, stir well and return to the pan. Add bay leaves then bring gently to the boil and cook for about 5 minutes until the sauce is nicely thickened. If you can bear it – it might make you choke – taste a bit of the sauce to see if you need to add more sweetness or heat (you can add a pinch of chilli flakes if it needs the latter). You won’t need to add salt because the veg is salty.
- Stir sauce through vegetables then decant into sterilised jars (sterilise by washing in hot soapy water, rinsing, then drying out in a moderate oven (150°C) for about 10 minutes). You’re supposed to leave this for about a month before eating, but I’m far too impatient to wait and it tastes great even after a couple of days. Will keep for a year, but probably won’t last that long.