A completely revised and updated edition of the popular pickle handbook.
Delicatessen and farm shop shelves are crammed with pickles, as well as salsas, vinegars, pastes, and chutneys; these spiced-up specialties are all the rage and have become the in-vogue accompaniments of the moment. It’s easy to understand their attraction: they are assertive and potent, but can also be subtle; sometimes they assault the palate, sometimes they tease with their piquancy. Cooks at home know they can add a buzz to quite ordinary food. Farmers’ markets are also a fruitful and profitable prospect for small-scale pickle and chutney makers, who are able to sell their wares without having to negotiate needless “food miles.”
Legions of enthusiasts are bringing pickling back home—and they also understand how to succeed in business. The world really is our larder and pickles are back where they belong—on the front row. This much-in-demand handbook includes recipes not just for fruit and vegetable pickles, but also for pickled meats and fish.
OLD TRADITIONS, NEW FLAVOURS
When the six-part Perfect Pickle Programme TV series was first transmitted in 1988, we confidently predicted that 'pickles had a future'. What has happened since then has been little short of a revolution. Supermarket shelves are crammed with pickles old and new, as well as salsas, vinegars, pastes and chutneys of every description; these spiced-up specialities are all the rage and have become the in-vogue accompaniments of the moment. It's easy to understand their attraction: they are seductive, assertive and potent, but also subtle; sometimes they assault and devastate the palate, sometimes they tease with their piquancy. Cooks at home know that they can add a buzz to quite ordinary food, and any restaurant chef worth his or her salt also knows that they need to have these up-front flavours in their repertoire.
Fresh produce has always been at the heart of good pickling, and homegrown is best of all. Increasing numbers of clued-up allotment holders are subscribing to the notion of 'plant it, pick it and pickle it', precisely because it makes economic as well as culinary sense. Farmers' markets, which are spreading their tentacles far and wide, are also a fruitful and profitable prospect for small-scale pickle and chutney makers, who are able to sell their wares without having to negotiate needless 'food miles'. And we mustn't forget those staunch and valiant members of the National Federation of Women's Institutes, who continue to fly the flag for all things honest and homemade. Hopeful signs, indeed.
In restaurant kitchens, Britain's hot young chefs are attracted to pickles and other vigorous condiments because they are big on taste and vibrancy and can add a new dimension to their gastronomic adventures. Fifteen years ago they were thinking about mousselines and cream sauces; these days their minds and energy are on other things. Take a look at virtually any serious restaurant menu these days and the chances are that it will be peppered with pickles and preserves for the twenty-first century: consider pickled shallots to go with home-smoked duck, marinated beetroot and walnut salad, or escabeche of mackerel accompanied by rhubarb chutney, or tuna spring rolls jazzed up with pickled ginger and coriander salsa.
Peasant cooking and 'cuisine de terroir' are on everyone's lips: you need look no further than the Italian culinary renaissance or the gastro-pub phenomenon to see evidence of old traditions and new flavours. Pickles are part and parcel of that tradition – although the talk is now all about invention and new ways of working magic with centuries-old homespun enterprise. Add to that the wild and wacky crossover ideas generated by the trendy 'fusion' boom, the explosion of interest in Indian vegetarian food and the current emphasis on all things regional and seasonal and it's easy to see why pickles are back on the plate with a vengeance.
But it isn't simply fashion: the number of city restaurants and country pubs now offering home-pickled red cabbage, pickled walnuts and piccalilli (which can be served with anything from deep-fried goats' cheese or ham hock terrine to seared scallops) is astonishing. Cooks and chefs have also discovered a new passion for domestic industry (what the nineteenth-century radical William Cobbett dubbed 'cottage economy'): in the early days it was enough to bake your own bread, now full-scale home production is what counts. The world really is our larder and pickles are back where they belong – on the front row.
Twenty years ago our rallying call went out loud and clear. Today the message is still the same: get pickling!
David Mabey and David Collison