Pam’s piccalilli, a wonderful mixture of vegetables, pickled with spices. Delicious served with crusty bread, cold cuts and a cheeseboard.
In time for Christmas every year Michelle makes piccalilli. Her family love it, my family love it and our friend Laura’s Dad stops Michelle is the street to ask when his jar will be ready!
What is piccalilli?
Piccalilli is probably one of Britains favourite pickles. Crunchy vegetables in a sauce thickened with cornflour and laced with turmeric, mustard powder and other spices.
It is uncertain where piccalilli originated. It has been suggested that piccalilli is the English interpretation of Indian pickles. This sounds plausible given the ingredients and spicing.
One thing for sure is it’s not Canadian! I asked Michelle what started her making in the first place? Quite simply it was her husband Steve, a Yorkshireman who loves piccalilli but can’t stand shop bought .
Piccalilli is ideal over Christmas time as there is an abundance of cheese, ham and other cold cuts and it pairs perfectly. Michelle also loves it with her traditional Christmas meat pie.
Laura’s Dad happily eats it off a spoon and Michelle’s daughter Becca only eats the cauliflower. This recipe is not Michelle’s own but it is the one she goes to every year, it’s Pam’s piccalilli from the River Cottage website.
What vegetables should I use?
Traditional piccalilli uses cauliflower florets, cucumber, onions, and green beans. While I sometimes stick to those vegetables, each year my batch depends on what I have grown in the garden, but always includes cauliflower and onion.
You can choose to adapt the vegetables to what you prefer. I use courgettes instead of cucumber as I grow my own. I have used Romanesco broccoli in the past, along with ordinary broccoli instead of green beans.
Homemade piccalilli is a great way to use small amounts of vegetables that would otherwise be wasted.
How long does it take to make the pickle?
It is important to allow yourself 2 days to prepare the piccalilli properly. The first day is spent chopping and prepping the vegetables into bite sized pieces. Sounds tedious but when serving you want to have small bites rather than large chunks of vegetables.
Once all your vegetables are prepared they must be salted and left to sit for 24 hours. This process draws the water from the vegetables and leaves them with that all important crunch as they are added to a hot paste before being jarred.
Missing this important step will leave you with excess moisture in the jars and soggy vegetables, not appetising at all.
I prefer to use my large salad spinner as it allows me have a basket in which the moisture can drip from. If you don’t have a spinner then a sieve used over a large bowl and covered with a tea towel works just as well.
The wonderful signature yellow colour for piccalilli comes from turmeric and mustard powder. Once your vegetables have sat for the full 24 hours you will see there is a large amount of water from them. Follow the steps to drain this and rinse the vegetables under cold water to remove the salt.
Next up gather the spices and prepare your jars as its a quick process from here. For more information on sterilising the jars you can check our apple jelly for more details on how to do this.
While the jars are sterilising mix the spices according the recipe below to begin the cooking process.
Ensure all your spices and cornflour are mixed well with a little bit of the vinegar, just enough to form a paste to look like the image above.
Next up I suggest you open a window! Your kitchen will have a strong smell of vinegar for the next step. While I love this process, some may not. Add the vinegar and sugar to a pan and bring to the boil before adding in the spice paste.
Once the vinegar has boiled a few minutes I like to add a bit of the boiled liquid to the paste to loosen it before adding the paste to the hot vinegar. I find this allows it to distribute more evenly as the cornflour will thicken the mix quickly.
Once the paste has been loosened add the rest to the pan of boiling vinegar and whisk quickly to form a sauce like above.
Now it’s time to take the pan off the heat and add in the vegetables. I like to have my sterilised jars and a jam collar to hand so this process is done quickly. Ensure the vegetables are fully covered in the sauce before adding to the jars and sealed.
Fill the jars and push the vegetables in with the back of a spoon. The less air in the jars the better and longer they will keep unopened.
While its tempting to use these straight away a pickle like this takes time for the flavours to infuse into the vegetables. At this stage it will taste “vinegary” and not balanced.
Allow the jars to sit in a cool, dark space for at least 6 weeks before opening. I always label with the date made and the date ready to enjoy.
Piccalilli is always on my mind in October when I am at the end of my vegetable growing season, making it an ideal time to be ready for the Christmas cheeseboard and leftovers!
We are always changing recipes to suit our tastes however, we are sharing this link with you as it needs no adjustments and works perfectly every time. It’s well worth it and just in time for Christmas – it also makes the perfect foodie gifts for family and friends.
Pin the recipe to make later.
If you like this recipe then try some of our other preserves and recipes during our time at River Cottage:
More delicious chutneys perfect for a cheeseboard
- Spicy Courgette Chutney – Farmersgirl Kitchen
- Caramelised Onion Chutney – Curly’s Cooking
- Homemade Fruit Chutney – Recipes Made Easy
Pam’s Piccalilli (from River Cottage)
- 1 kg mixed vegetables (wash & peel vegetables – select 5 or 6 from the following: cauliflower or romanesco cauliflower; green beans; cucumbers; courgettes; green or yellow tomatoes; tomatilloes; carrots; small silver-skinned onions or shallots; peppers)
- 50 g fine salt
- 30 g cornflour
- 10 g ground tumeric
- 10 g English mustard powder
- 15 g yellow mustard seeds
- 1 tsp crushed cumin seeds
- 1 tsp crushed coriander seeds
- 600 ml cider vinegar
- 150 g granulated sugar
- 50 g honey
- Cut the vegetables into small, even bite-sized pieces. Place in a large bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Mix well, cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave in a cool place for 24 hours, then rinse the veg with ice-cold water and drain thoroughly.
- Blend the cornflour, turmeric, mustard powder, mustard seeds, cumin and coriander to 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.
- 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. Set aside in a cool, dark place and leave for 4–6 weeks before opening. Use within a year.
• Please note that the nutrition information provided above is approximate and meant as a guideline only •