in a pickle

pickling spice

Well, not really in a pickle, as the spices in the picture are not yet even tied up in muslin. And, anyway, they were to be used to make chutney.

Which leads me on to wonder what the difference between chutney and pickle actually is. The top results in Google don’t help much; I think they are biased towards the States, where things like gherkins, which are preserved without cooking, are classed as pickles, while vegetables and fruits cooked in vinegar with spices are called chutney or relish.

This doesn’t seem an altogether satisfactory explanation: what about the traditional sweet pickle we use here in the UK in cheese and pickle sandwiches and ploughman’s lunches? I can’t believe it’s not cooked, which would make it a chutney according to the above categorisation. Have Branston really been lying to me all my life?

While pursuing this need-to-know topic, I found a recipe for piccalilli, the spicy yellow mustard pickle. (Again, I know it as a pickle, although the recipe definitely involves cooking.)

This opens up a new train of thought: I loathed piccalilli as a child and thought it was even worse than Branston. (I was a difficult child who thought cheese and pickle was only slightly less disgusting than cheese and tomato, so my poor mother used to make date sandwiches for my school lunches.) But tastes change – or tastebuds die – and I wonder whether piccalilli might now be just as nice as I have realised sweet pickle is. Maybe I’d better add that recipe to my to-do list.

As an afterthought, I will add that much as I enjoy reading fiction – historical novels, romances, detective stories, fantasy, sci fi… almost anything with a good plot – there are two other sorts of book that are high on my list of favourites as they’re great for whiling away the time and providing inspiration and ideas: recipe books and dictionaries. And I’ve consulted both in the research for this blog post.

Author: don't confuse the narrator

Exploring the boundary between writer and narrator through first person poetry, prose and opinion

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