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Mrs. Bug’s Piccalilli from The Fiery Cross

Mrs. Bug’s Piccalilli from The Fiery Cross

The Fiery Cross

He laughed, handing her a biscuit filled with ham and Mrs. Bug’s piccalilli.

“How Pizza Came to the Colonies,” he said, and lifted the cider bottle in brief salute.  “Folk always wonder where humanity’s great inventions come from; now we know!” 

He spoke lightly, but there was an odd tone in his voice, and his glance held hers.

“Maybe we do know,” she said softly, after a moment.  “You ever think about it — why?  Why we’re here?”

“Of course.”  the green of his eyes was darker now, but still clear.  “So do you, aye?”

She nodded, and took a bite of biscuit and ham, the piccalilli sweet with onion and pungent in her mouth.  Of course they thought of it.  She and Roger and her mother.  For surely it had meaning, that passage through the stones.  It must.  And yet…her parents seldom spoke of war and battle, but from the little they said — and the much greater quantity she had read — she knew just how random and how pointless such things could sometimes be.  Sometimes a shadow rises, and death lies nameless in the dark.

Roger crumbled the last of his bread between his fingers, and tossed the crumbs a few feet away.  A chickadee flew down, pecked once, and was joined within seconds by a flock that swooped down out of the trees, vacuuming up the crumbs with chattering efficiency.  He stretched, sighing, and lay back on the quilt.

“Well,” he said, “if you ever figure it out, ye’ll be sure to tell me, won’t you?”

Diana Gabaldon, The Fiery Cross, Chap 20

Some pretty deep thoughts there, Bri & Roger, considering it’s only cider with lunch and you haven’t even started drinking the strong stuff yet…

When I think of piccalilli, my thoughts tend to wander away from earth shattering topics like time travel and more towards Christmas gift giving.

Tie a red-velvet ribbon around a mason jar full Murdina Bug’s piccalilli, and you have a beautiful (and sharply delicious) Outlander-themed gift straight from Fraser’s Ridge.

After all, if I made treats for Rollo, then I had better come up with something for friends and family, aye?


Indian Pickle, an earlier name for Piccalilli, gives you an insight into this golden-coloured, mustard flavoured condiment’s origins in Britain’s colonial past.  Also known as Paco-Lilla and Piccalillo, it makes an appearance in a number of 18th Century cookery books.

Here’s an excerpt from an early receipt for Indian Pickle from Cookery, and Pastry. as Taught and Practised by Mrs Maciver, Teacher of Those Arts in Edinburgh.  (1774):

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I left the cabbage out of this version, and decided on a simple mix of cauliflower, onion, green beans and cucumber.  I added a bit of grated carrot for colour, and left the sugar out altogether.  I’m so glad I did — the sharp tang of the mustard is foiled perfectly by the sweetness in the onion, cucumber and carrot — no sugar required.

I had also planned to use pearl onions, but when I got to the store, they were so expensive that I balked and chose plain old yellow ones instead.  Another decision that worked out well.  Pearl onions are sweet and lovely, but they’re a pain to peel and also very bulky when you’re trying to put together a sandwich. I chopped all of my vegetables on the small side for the same reason.  If you like it chunky, cut everything a little bigger, use pearl onions, and cook it for an extra couple of minutes.


(Click on the title below for a printable version of the recipe.)

Mrs. Bug’s Picallili

Yield: approx. 2 Quarts (2 Litres)

Pungent, sweet, festively golden, and slightly addictive.  The perfect addition to any holiday potluck table or gift basket, especially alongside some ham, a wedge of strong cheese and a bottle of artisan ale.

1 Medium Cauliflower, trimmed, cored & divided into small florets – 5 Cups (400g)
½ English Cucumber, deseeded & chopped in ¼” dice – 1¼ Cups (175g)
1 Medium Yellow Onion, peeled & julienned – 1½ Cups (175g)
3 Handfuls Green Beans, trimmed & chopped in ¼” dice – 1¼ Cups (175 g)
1 Medium Carrot, peeled & grated – ½ Cup (75g)
Coarse Salt – 1½ Tble
Turmeric – 1 Tble
Mustard Powder – ½ Cup (60g)
All-Purpose Flour – ½ Cup (60g)
Ground White Pepper – ½ tsp
Ground Nutmeg – ½ tsp
Cider Vinegar – 1 Cup (240g)
Malt Vinegar – 1 Cup (240g)

Mix together the vegetables and salt in a large bowl.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Drain the vegetables.

Mix the turmeric, flour, pepper and nutmeg in a medium bowl.  Add ½ cup water and stir until smooth. Slowly stir in the cider vinegar.  Pour the mixture into a large saucepan with the vegetables and malt vinegar.

Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching on the bottom.  Simmer 5-10 minutes.  The sauce will begin to thicken — you should have vegetables coated with a thick, but not gloopy, sauce — add a little water if the sauce seems too thick. Remove from the heat.

To can, ladle the piccalilli into hot, sterilised canning jars, cap and process in a water bath for 10 minutes.  New to canning?  You’ll find detailed information and instructions here.

Ith gu leòir! (Eat Plenty)

New-School Tips:

  • If you’re not up to canning, you should know that Piccalilli can also be kept, covered, in the fridge for several weeks.  It makes a great hostess gift!
  • If you prefer your piccalilli on the sweeter side, add a ¼-½ cup light brown sugar into the saucepan at the same time as the malt vinegar.
  • Too much piccalilli for you?  This recipe is easily cut in half (or even in thirds).

Old School Tips:

  • Fresh-grated nutmeg is so much better (and so much stronger) than the pre-ground stuff.  Reduce the amount to ¼ tsp if you are grating your own.
  • cauliflower-



  1. Kiri W.
    December 8, 2011 at 8:09 am

    Wow, that looks really flavorful and delicious! I’ve never had piccalilli, but would love to try 🙂

    • Theresa
      December 8, 2011 at 8:19 am

      From what I’ve seen, you like big, bold flavours, Kiri…I’m pretty sure you’ll love piccalilli…Theresa

  2. Lee Ann
    December 8, 2011 at 9:44 am

    Ooh…tumeric..good for the joints and digestion! I love the idea of this but not sure I’m up to the canning process!

    • Theresa
      December 8, 2011 at 9:59 am

      So cool to have an apprenticed herbalist weigh in…it`s almost like having Claire here!

      As for the canning process, check out the New School tips below the recipe, where I explain that you don’t have to can it — Piccalilli will keep for several weeks in the fridge without going through the canning process. If you`re not into canning, maybe just make a half a recipe? That will give you a couple of small jars to give away, and a big one to keep in your fridge! Theresa

    • Lee Ann
      December 8, 2011 at 10:03 am

      I aspire to be like Claire 😉 I really would like to try this…sounds delightful. I think the half recipe might be the way to go. Perhaps I need to re-adjust my gift ideas (I have been thinking about herb- infused honeys, oils and of course alcohol!) I think Claire would approve!

  3. No sugar needed in my piccalilli! This looks amazing. I love the color. I don’t know why I was originally surprised by it when turmeric is in the ingredient list. That original recipe is amazing. What an insight into how life once was.

    • Theresa
      December 8, 2011 at 10:07 am

      isn’t that little snippet great? all that pounding and salting…no worries in terms of finding things/tasks to fill you day, eh?

  4. ruaTimeTraveler2
    December 8, 2011 at 10:22 am

    This page just gets better and better!!!I LOVE IT!..Thanks again for sharing cool stuff!

    • Theresa
      December 8, 2011 at 10:31 am

      Thanks very much Vickie! Everyone out there should know about Vickie’s facebook group, Outlander Je suis Prest If you like to connect with Outlander fans to talk about the books, food, customs, Scotland and potential actors for the role of Jamie, check it out…we have a lot of fun.

  5. Bri
    December 8, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    This looks delicious (and beautiful)! I’m so excited that it’s vegetarian, too. I have a few friends that I always cook for as holiday gifts and this is the perfect recipe. It will also perpetuate my reputation as the crazy Outlander lady 😉

    • Theresa
      December 9, 2011 at 4:07 pm

      I’m glad to know I’m not the only with with that kind of reputation, Bri! Theresa

  6. deniz
    December 11, 2011 at 9:30 am

    Lovely! Piccalilli also reminds me of the All Creatures Great and Small books, where James Herriott was served a large slice of fatty ham by a farmer’s wife and couldn’t tell her he was on a diet, so he forced the stuff down by covering it in piccalilli!

    • Theresa
      December 12, 2011 at 10:46 am

      I grew up watching All Creatures with my mom & dad…thanks for the great memory, deniz!

  7. Laura
    December 17, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    Yum, I love pickled veges and mustard (memories of Indian chutneys I ate as a child). I’ve started giving away Bread & Butter Pickles that are just a tad sweet and very savory, but I’ve had a hard time growing cucumbers. I think this recipe would do well with some of the things I do have on hand: green beans, radishes, kohlarabi, garlic, corn…will bookmark this one to revisit during the next garden/canning season. Thanks!

    • Theresa
      December 19, 2011 at 8:20 am

      That`s the spirit Laura! Make it a local & seasonal piccalilli with the bounty from your own garden…

  8. sawcat
    August 8, 2014 at 4:03 pm

    I just bought a jar of this to try from the grocery store and while nice, the vinegar in it was overpowering. Is that traditional, or is your version more mellow? Are any other veg good in it, even if not traditional?

    • Theresa
      August 8, 2014 at 4:53 pm

      Most versions are vinegary, including this one, but it’s usually on a sandwich, so the other ingredients mellow that sharp taste. It’s not something I would eat straight from the jar, though my English husband does!

      I guess you could throw whatever veggies you want in there…experiment and have fun!

    • sawcat
      August 8, 2014 at 5:00 pm

      I had it on a sandwich, but I think the vinegar even overpowered the mustard (Haywards). But maybe its the type they use. But I’ve gotten into mustard lately, and it seems the thing for me.

  9. Clare
    November 28, 2015 at 9:33 am

    I made this recipe and just tried it after storing for a month. It is fabulous, better than Heinz and the veg is crunchier. Thanks a million for the recipe. Can’t wait for Outlander Series 2!!

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