The word ‘pickles’ usually describes coarsely chopped fruits and vegetables which are preserved in brine or vinegar. Home-made pickles add flavour and variety to all sorts of foods and, with chutneys, belong to the tradition of the English kitchen; the art of making them should not be allowed to die out.
They are, in a way, a legacy from the days of the British Raj in India, when they were a very welcome addition to English food, especially to simple cold meats. The British welcomed these exotic spicy products with open arms, and there was hardly a cookery book of the 19th century which didn’t include recipes for relishes, pickles, chutneys and sauces. At the same time, silver cruet sets filled with glass sauce bottles were introduced and became a standard utensil on every table.
There is no special equipment needed for making pickles, but because of their acidity, be sure to use stoneware, pottery, glass or plastic bowls for brining. Saucepans used for pickling should be unchipped enamel or stainless steel. Use clean, wooden spoons for stirring.
Store pickles in sterilised glass jars, preferably with glass lids. Plastic-plated metal lids can be used but never use metal ones. Glass coffee jars with plastic seals are also good.
For sterilising jars and storing preserves see Jams.
A special mixture of spices is prepared as pickling spice, containing many of the necessary spices.
You can chop the vegetables for relishes coarsely or finely, according to your preference. Use a food processor, if you have one, to save time and effort.
See also Chutney.