When recently asked about my plans for the evening, I almost told a little white lie for fear of ridicule. Before you start chastising me, the thought might have crossed your mind too if you were in my shoes and remembered that time a colleague of a similar age was teased for admitting he makes chutney. But I didn’t lie, and as expected some eyebrows were raised. A pickling class?! For clarity’s sake, vegetables were getting pickled, not the attendees – this was not some advanced masterclass in sustained drinking.
I could tell my colleagues were still far from convinced when they said they were sure it’d be fun while exchanging knowing looks between them. Well they were right; about the fun part – it was! And as a genuine pickle enthusiast, it was quite a tasty class too. I might be going out on a limb here but I think pickles are making a comeback… I’ve noticed pickled elements popping up on restaurant dishes across the spectrum of styles and cuisines, and I am a fan. So my theory is, if it’s good enough for the Michelin star kitchens, it’s good enough for mine.
Turns out I’m the not only one with this mindset as the UK home pickling market is currently worth around £1.6 million and is still growing each year. Sounds like it’s not just your kooky aunty who’s into pickling these days as enthusiastic home cooks, young and old, are getting into art of pickling. This resurgence was proof enough for Sarson’s who have jumped on the bandwagon and created a new Speciality Blend to complement their existing range of pickling vinegars.
Before we put we put both the Speciality Blend and the Malt Pickling Vinegar to work, we had to have a taste test – how else were we supposed to know which pickle we wanted to make, and what our end result should be? Denise, our teacher for the evening had prepared four different pickles – Vietnamese style carrot and mooli, cucumber and shallot, spicy red pepper, and garlic. Word of warning, pickled garlic is potent. Let’s just say that Buffy and I could be a double act after I consumed even just one of the cloves, definitely not for the faint hearted!
After the tasting, we had a quick lesson in the basics – use the freshest vegetables, make sure your jars have got good seals, sterilise the jars in either a water bath or dishwasher, sterilise the seals in boiling water… once you’ve got those things covered, it’s all quite easy. My favourite of the pickles was the cucumber and shallot so I headed straight to that station and got chopping. Once all the vegetables were prepped, we layered them into our gigantic Kilner jars with sprigs of dill and mustard seeds before covering with the boiled pickling liquid. We used the Malt Pickling Vinegar on this occasion but the Speciality Blend would work perfectly too.
Those making the other pickles essentially followed the same process – get your vegetables ready, add any extra flavourings, then pour in the liquid and seal. Told you it was easy… so easy, we were able to chat, snack, and have a drink in hand while doing it. Pickle party this weekend anyone?
All of the pickles, except the cucumbers will keep for months, which makes them perfect to have on hand for those charcuterie platters or as an added condiment for meals. I’d definitely pop the carrot and mooli pickles in my Asian-style pork belly steamed buns, or add the spicy red peppers to some crispy chicken wraps. But before I get to making a batch of those for myself, I’ve got a huge jar of cucumbers to get through!
If you’re keen to make your own pickles, check out Sarson’s vinegar range and recipes.
Thanks to Sarson’s for an entertaining evening of pickling, but as always, all opinions are mine and mine alone!