I have always loved the word piccalilli. I have always loved the condiment too. I like the many variations of the word, but am particular about the actual recipe. My preferred form of piccalilli is thickish, bright yellow, mustardy, and has slightly crunchy vegetables. It is close to a chutney, except not so sweet, and my personal version is definitely not a clear pickle.
Historically, there are almost as many variations of the actual pickle as there are of the word itself – which is of ‘uncertain origin’, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. I love words of uncertain or obscure origin. There is the air of mystery, for one thing, plus the sneaky delight that the wordsmiths don’t know it all after all, and of course there is the secret hope that I myself might discover a new clue.
Piccalilli has been known as paco-lilla, peccalillo, piccalillo, pickalilly, and pickylilly – to name but a few. The OED defines it as ‘A pickle made from a mixture of chopped vegetables, mustard, and hot spices’, and tells us that it was ‘formerly also called Indian pickle.’ The first reference given by the OED is from Hannah Glasse’s Art of Cookery (1758 edition), but today I am going to give you a version from The Court and Country Confectioner, published in England in 1770, because I love the description of the author – ‘An Ingenious Foreigner, now lead confectioner to the Spanish Ambassador in England’
TO MAKE PICALILLO
Take colliflower, radish pods, white cabbage, cucumbers or any fruit in season, put them on a sieve , throw salt on them and set them in the sun or before the fire two or three days to dry; when the water is out, put them in layers in a pot, and between the layers put a handful of mustard seed; take as much vinegar as you think will cover them, to every four quarts put an ounce of gum arabick boil them together and pour it on them quite hot; let it stand ten or twelve days upon the hearth, or till it is all of a bright yellow and the liquor soaked up; then take two quarts of vinegar, one ounce of mace, one ounce of white pepper, a quarter of an ounce of cloves, a quarter of an ounce of long pepper, and a quarter of an ounce of nutmeg beat together; boil it ten minutes and pour it hot on your pickle, with four ounces of garlic peeled.
Quotation for the Day.
The next time you feel like complaining, remember that your garbage disposal
probably eats better than 30 percent of the people in the world.