Saturday, September 20, 2014

Betsy Challenge 8: East India Pickle

I have never really enjoyed the process of making jams or jellies. There were a couple autumns I went to town on my parents' crab apple tree and made crab apple jelly, but that lost its appeal quickly. So I knew I wasn't going to do a traditional fruit preserve for this challenge, and instead decided something I'd never done before - pickling.

I am generally too anxious for canning, so I knew I wanted to try one of those old pickle recipes that you can keep in the fridge and keep adding to, rather than sealing it up and storing it away. I also wanted a pickle recipe that didn't have to sit for weeks on end - I wanted quick results. And, straight vinegar is not my favorite scent, so I didn't want to have to cook a whole bunch of vinegar either. I know, I have a lot of requirements for pickles.

Enter the recipe for East India Pickle from our old pal Eliza Leslie, in her Directions for Cookery. Normally I would put up a screenshot of the recipe, but it's spread out over a few pages, so I'll just direct you to page 227. No cooking of vinegar? Check! Pickles ready within a month? Check! She even says that you can keep adding to the pickle, though I will caution you that I highly doubt her "go ahead and keep it for two years" directive - I'm going to figure on these being similar to refrigerator pickles with a shelf life of about three months.

The Challenge: In a Jam (or Jelly, or Preserve)

The Recipe: East India Pickle, from Directions for Cookery

The Date, Region: 1844, American (Philadelphia); a similar recipe with the same name exists in the White House Cookbook from the 1880s

How Did You Make It: First I created the vinegar pickle well ahead of time. I used white vinegar, mustard seeds, shallots, garlic, turmeric and ginger. I could not find long pepper besides ordering it online, so I used black peppercorns instead. This time I doubled the recipe, put it all into a gallon jug, and let it sit in a sunny place (the best I can get to "a warm place") for ten days.

Next, I processed the vegetables. I cut up a head of cauliflower, three bell peppers, three medium-sized carrots, a handful of pearl onions, a whole bunch of green beans and two small cucumbers. I threw in a handful of green grapes, because I had them on hand and I was intrigued by the idea. I put them in a brine and set them in a fridge for a week. (Do note that I let the vinegar and the veggies sit longer than Mrs. Leslie directs - life got busy.)

I took the vegetables out, drained them, and rinsed them with more vinegar. I divided them up into jars. For someone who has real difficulty with spatial reasoning, I actually had the perfect amout of vegetables to fit twelve pint jars. I then strained the vinegar over the vegetables. I was honestly surprised by how good it smelled - I'm not a huge fan of turmeric, but I smelled the mustard, garlic and ginger more than anything. I put the covers on, and stuck them in the fridge.

Time to Complete: Ten days for it all to sit. Processing the vegetables probably took an hour (thank you, mandolin slicer), prepping the vinegar took half an hour (mostly peeling/slicing shallots, garlic and ginger). Canning took about half an hour.

Total Cost: 'SPEEEENSIVE. I ended up with 12 pints of pickles, but the cost for all the spices and some of the more expensive ingredients like the pearl onions and the shallots, plus the cost of the jars, really added up.

How Successful Was It? TBD! I'm going to let them sit for a while before I taste test, obviously. They look and smell good, so I have high hopes?

How Accurate Is It? As usual, I did not have access to heirloom varieties. I also used white vinegar, because I like it better than cider vinegar, but cider vinegar may be more accurate and it would be worth trying with other kinds of vinegar to see the tastes. As mentioned, I also had issues finding long peppers.


The vinegar...look at all the mustard seed at the bottom!

Draining the veggies after soaking in brine

Veggies, ready to be vinegarized!

The finished product


  1. Looks good. Keep us updated on the flavor.

    1. Will do! I will be passing some out to friends next weekend, and the Gentleman Friend is going to taste test early this week.

  2. This looks a lot like piccalilli, just thinner!

    1. I had to look up piccalilli! Based on the Wikipedia article, there are some etymological similarities, so I would guess that they probably are related but have no conclusive evidence of that of course. This is also heavily seasoned with turmeric and mustard seed, but there's also quite a bit of garlic and ginger in there as well. Also the vegetables are big chunks/spears/florets, rather than chopped up, and the vinegar is definitely very thin (a pickle juice rather than a sauce).