Mrs. Bug’s Piccalilli from 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):
image by textisles.com
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.)
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)
- 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.