Although piccalilli is one of Britain's favorite pickled dishes, surprisingly, its origins remain something of a mystery. Perhaps due to its international influences and many variations in former English and Dutch colonies, this yellow dollop of veggies and spices is a must for buffet tables, plates of cooked ham, cold beef, and the famous Ploughman's lunch. It's easy to make and will keep for several months in sealed jars.
Measuring the ingredients with a kitchen scale will ensure the best results and maintain a balanced flavor.
- For the Brine:
- 130 grams table salt
- 7 cups water (cold)
- 300 grams cauliflower florets
- 225 grams pearl onions (peeled)
- 225 grams cucumber (seedless; cut into large chunks)
- 2 teaspoons capers (in brine; drained and well-rinsed)
- For the Spiced Vinegar:
- 7 fluid ounces dark malt vinegar
- 7 fluid ounces white wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon pickling spice
- 56 grams caster sugar
- For the Pickling:
- 56 grams butter
- 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons turmeric
- 1 1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
- Black pepper (to taste)
Note: while there are multiple steps to this recipe, this piccalilli is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for preparation and pickling.
Make the Brine
Gather the ingredients.
In a bowl large enough to hold the water and all of the vegetables, dissolve the salt in the water.
Add the cauliflower, pearl onions, cucumber, and capers. Stir.
Put a plate on the vegetables to make sure they stay submerged in the brine.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours.
Make the Spiced Vinegar
Gather the ingredients.
In a large stainless steel pan, place the dark malt vinegar, white wine vinegar, pickling spice, and sugar. Bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat and cook for 15 minutes.
Transfer to a ceramic bowl and leave to cool overnight in the fridge.
Pickle the Vegetables
Gather the ingredients and remove the brined vegetables and spiced vinegar from the fridge.
Drain and rinse the vegetables well.
In a large pot, place the rinsed vegetables. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for 10 minutes.
Drain the water and reserve the veggies.
In a pan, melt the butter and add the flour, stirring thoroughly to avoid clumping.
Cook over low heat for 5 minutes, being careful not to burn the flour.
Strain the spiced vinegar.
Slowly add the vinegar to the butter and flour. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until the mixture has thickened.
Add the turmeric, mustard powder, and black pepper while stirring well. You now should have a brightly colored, thick sauce.
Pour the thick sauce over the drained vegetables and stir well, making sure all the vegetables are coated in the sauce.
Pour into sterilized clamp jars and seal. Preferably, wait at least 1 week before opening to allow the flavors to intensify. Once opened, the jars must be kept in the refrigerator. Unopened jars will keep for at least 6 months in a dark, cool place.
Enjoy with cold dishes, sandwiches, or use as a side dish for summer lunches and picnics.
Add Piccalilli to Your Recipes
Piccalilli is usually used as a side dish and to complement cold dishes, but it can also be added into other recipes:
- Omelets: Add a spoonful of piccalilli per each egg you're using in your omelet. Chop and sautee spinach, kale, or mustard greens; add the egg mixture; and grate some cheese like feta or ricotta for an out-of-this-world lunch.
- Savory Muffins: Add a spoonful of piccalilli per cup of batter of your savory muffin recipe (try our cheddar cheese muffin). If the batter seems too runny, add spoonfuls of flour, one at a time, until the batter seems good enough to bake.
- Meatballs: Add 1/2 cup of piccalilli per 1/2 pound of meat. Because the pickled veggies bring moisture into the mix, have some bread crumbs at hand and add one handful at a time until the texture seems right to roll the meatballs.
- Empanadas: Make empanadas from scratch adding 1 spoonful of piccalilli per cup of stuffing.