Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Piccalilli – Picalillo, Part 2.

Some time ago I gave you a story about piccalilli, and in view of yesterday’s post, I looked it up again. It is here if you want to re-read it. In it, I started by saying that the word is, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, “of uncertain origin,” and that:

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 (6th ed., 1758.)

In that earlier post I did not give this “first known” recipe, which seems like a terrible oversight, so here it is.

To make Paco-Lilla, or India Pickle, the same the Mango's come over in.
TAKE a pound of race-ginger, and lay it in water one right; then scrape it, and cut it in thin slices, and put to it some salt, and let it stand in the sun to dry; take long pepper two ounces, and do it as the ginger. Take a pound of garlick, and cut it in thin slices, and salt it, and let it stand three days; then wash it well, and let it be salted again, and stand three days more; then wash it well and drain it, and put it in the sun to dry. Take a quarter of a pound of mustard seeds bruised, and half a quarter of an ounce of turmerick: put these ingredients, when prepared, into a large stone or glass jar, with a gallon of very good white wine vinegar, and stir it very often for a fortnight, and tie it up close.
In this pickle you may put white cabbage, cut in quarters, and put in a brine of salt and water for three days, and then boil fresh salt and water, and just put in the cabbage to scald, and press out the water, and put it in the fun to dry, in the same manner as you do cauliflowers, cucumbers, melons, apples, French beans, plumbs, or any sort of fruit. Take care they are all well dried before you put them into the pickle: you need never empty the jar, but as the things come in season, put them in, and supply it with vinegar as often as there is occasion.
If you would have your pickle look green, leave out the turmerick, and green them as usual, and put them into this pickle cold.
In the above, you may do walnuts in a jar by themselves; put the walnuts in without any preparation, tied close down, and kept some time.

“Greening them as usual” involved cooking in a copper pan. Cooking an acidic (vinegar) mixture in a copper pot results in the production of copper sulphate which certainly provides a nice green colour, but is unfortunately highly toxic. It is no longer recommended!

Here is the piccalilli recipe from the San Rafael Cook Book (1898) which gave us one of the recipes for chow-chow yesterday.

1 peck green tomatoes, 8 large onions chopped fine, 1 cup of salt well stirred in. Let it stand over night and in the morning drain off all the liquor, add 2 quarts of water and 1 quart of vinegar; boil all together 20 minutes. Drain all through a sieve or colander, put it back into the kettle again, turn over it 2 quarts of vinegar, 1 pound of sugar, I pint of white mustard seed, 2 tablespoons of ground pepper, 2 of cinnamon, 1 of cloves, 2 of ginger, and 1 of allspice, and ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Boil all together 15 minutes or until tender. Stir it often to prevent scorching. Seal in glass jars. A good relish with meat or fish.


Anonymous said...

I wonder if the great care taken to dehydrate everything in the first recipe is to be sure the brine isn't diluted. I can see doing that for the main ingredients, but is it really necessary for the ginger and garlic?


The Old Foodie said...

Hi Sandra - that is my take on it, and I agree about the ginger and garlic. But I also think that we do a lot of things just because we are told they are necessary by the people who teach us, and we dont question the wisdom. A friend who had never cooked red cabbage before was horrified when it turned blue. Her mother had always put soda in with green cabbage - she didnt know why so she did the same with the red. Hello Litmus Effect!