Share this article on Social Media
Setting aside an afternoon with a basketful of fresh herbs and vegetables, a stack of empty jars and a couple bottles of vinegar.
The art of pickling was an important necessity in wartime Britain where food was scarce and it was imperative to let nothing go to waste.
The government-led ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign during the harsh rationing of WWII encouraged the public to grow their own fruits and vegetables. Open space throughout the country was turned into vegetable patches to help the cause, even the lawns outside the Tower of London.
A number of ‘Dig for Victory’ guides were then released instructing how vegetables could best be used and preserved, and pickling was brought to the fore of British consciousness. The sharp acidic flavours of homemade pickled vegetables offered a welcome change to the blandness of a wartime diet.
The art of pickling began to fall out of fashion in post-war boom times where a reliance was built on fresh produce and the struggles of rationing became a relic of the past.
However, in today’s world of environmentalism and sustainability, pickling has seen a resurgence in recent years.
No longer only the domain of grandparents and Women’s Institute groups, gastronomic books like Mark Diacono’s ‘Sour’, the emergence of the Cottagecore fashion aesthetic and the global spread of New York City’s infamous ‘Pickleback’ shot (where a shot of whiskey is chased with a shot of pickle brine) attests that pickling has become the ultimate of on-trend pastimes.
As a concept, Cottagecore embraces a simpler, sustainable existence that is more harmonious with nature. Aesthetically, it’s a nod to the traditional English countryside style, romantic and nostalgicDavina Ogilvie, founder of design company, Wovn Home
Indeed pickling and fermentation is at the heart of the cuisine served at famed Copenhagen restaurant, Noma. Having been crowned the World’s Best Restaurant four times and awarded two Michelin stars, Noma is at the peak of its performance and is relying on the art of fermentation to introduce complex flavours into its dishes.
The Parsley Box Garden to feature at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show Sept 2021 was also inspired by the restaurant and its focus on fermentation.
Not only is pickling a fantastic method of ensuring excess food does not go to waste, it is a true art form. Just run a quick Google search to appreciate the vibrancy of colours, the subtlety of balance and the endless creativity in flavourings that pickling can offer.
Have a look at the beauty of this pickled rhubarb from esteemed writer, cook, gardener and expert on the art of pickling, Mark Diacono.
Pickled foods are well-loved in many food cultures for their sharp acidic flavour which offers a satisfying contrast to richer, heavier meals. (Think how well a sour, acidic pickle cuts through and complements the richness of a cheeseburger, or how pickled ginger is the perfect zingy palate cleanser to your sushi roll).
Jars of homemade pickles also make wonderful, sustainable gifts for family and friends.
As well as being a taste sensation and an effective method to combat food waste, pickled foods are also good for you.
One of the chief health benefits of pickling is that the pickling and fermentation process creates probiotic bacteria. This is healthy bacteria that helps to maintain digestive balance and promote gut health.
As well as these added bonuses, the pickled food will maintain many of its original nutrients.
Maybe it’s been a while since you pickled and you might be thinking of getting back into it or encouraging the grandchildren to get involved.
Here’s a quick rundown of the basic items you need to create delicious pickled offerings.
Either a flip top jar with a rubber seal or a mason jar with a two piece lid are best for pickling. Both of these lid designs allow excess air to escape the jar, particularly important if pickling via the longer fermentation process.
The perfect pickling brine is created through a mixture of salt, sugar, water and vinegar.
The general rule is for brine to be comprised of equal parts water and vinegar and salt and sugar are added to taste.
Pickles can be flavoured with a wide variety of herbs and spices allowing for limitless creativity and the development of personal style and preferences.
Commonly used additives are: chilies, jalapenos, peppercorns, mustard seeds, garlic, cloves, ginger, dill, tarragon and bay leaves.
We would love to know what some of your favourite flavour combinations are when pickling.
4. Food stuff
As with the flavourings, it seems the only limit to what can be pickled is the imagination.
A brief list of food stuffs that can and have been pickled with success are: onions, peppers, beetroot, mushrooms, cauliflower, jalapenos, olives, cabbage, mussels, cockles, winkles, fish, rollmops, eggs and even strawberries, pineapple, cherries and watermelon.
Inspired by Noma, Parsley Box is showcasing the art of pickling from our Artisan Garden, The Parsley Box Garden, exhibiting at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
We are keen to highlight the premise of self-sustainability at the heart of our garden, which will feature an outdoor kitchen, borders brimming with edibles to forage and ferment as well as home-grown vegetables, and wooden cantilevered pergola.
We’re also on the lookout for experienced picklers to win tickets and showcase their talents and wares in our garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
Read more about our Parsley Box garden and find out how you can be involved
Does this inspire you to get back into pickling?
Or maybe you’ve never stopped.
We would love to hear any tips or recipes you have to share and see photos of your wonderful pickled creations.