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Nov 1, 2006 03:54 AM

Guide to English Pickles, Relishes, condiments

There is a 'British' section at one of my local grocery stores and I am always checking out all the interesting condiments. I finally picked up some picadilli -which looks like a mixed veg pickle in a mustard sauce.

Anyone familiar with the specifics of this niche in British cuisine?

Historical information would be greatly appreciated as well.

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  1. I think its piccalilli - great on a sandwich. My mom would make it every year when green tomatoes were in abundance. Malt vinegar pickled onions were also a favorite of my parents, but were a bit strong for my undeveloped palate at the time.

    1 Reply
    1. re: LStaff

      picalilli is an excellent accompaniment to fried eggs.

      mm.. childhood.

    2. Branston pickle is to die for! I love to make "cheese and pickle toasties" with it (bread, Branston, nice Cheddar, toasted in a pie iron.

      4 Replies
      1. re: MsDiPesto

        Mmmm...Branston with Stilton on fresh, crusty bread. With PG Tips tea.

        1. re: MsDiPesto

          Many years ago I did my junior year of college near London. The college dining hall was atrocious--everything I'd ever heard about bad British food, and then some. For most of that year I lived mainly on cheese, RyVita crackers, and Branston Pickle. And amazingly, I still love the stuff!

          1. re: MsMaryMc

            Do you know the ingredients of Branston pickle? I remember it being brown.

            1. re: kare_raisu

              Yup, it's dark chocolate brown. From the label of the jar in my cupboard: vegetables in variable proportion (carrots, cauliflower, gherkins, marrows, onions rutabaga, tomatoes), sugar, vinegar, dates, salt, apple, modified starch, lemon juice, color E105d, spices, garlic extract

        2. Ooh I love this topic. Get yourself some Branston or any decent-looking pickle (the less commercial "farmhouse" and other pickles are amazing if you can find them), chutney, relish, etc.; some good British cheeses (stilton and cheddar); some cold leftover roast chicken, beef, or pork; and some good bread and go crazy. Sometimes for lunch I use crispbread instead of regular bread. Stands up nicely to strong cheese. Oatcakes are good too.

          Not sure about the historical aspect, but I always kind of assumed that pickles and chutneys are part of the Indian influence on British food. I love them. I can't pass by a market stand without buying a new chutney, and my fridge isn't big enough for them all.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Kagey

            Probably Indian influence and preserving techniques becoming incredibly boring.
            Bread, leftover cold meats/cheese and pickles (mine must include pickled onions) and you have what we (English) call a ploughmans. If I hadn't had fish and chips for lunch I'd be jealous!
            I like the sweetness of picalilli (NOT picadilli which is a place when spelt differently) but cannot stand brown pickles (Branstons). I will look for my picalilli recipe tonight and post it tomorrow if anyones interested.
            Now, if they have it, my parents swear by 'Sandwich Spread' (also by Branstons). I think it looks like something I won't mention, smells disgusting and I cannot even think about the taste!

          2. The one thing I dislike about travelling in the US is I can't find HP (House of Parliament) sauce. It's a sharp brown sauce that I love with eggs (scrambled, fried, poached - no matter) and with cheese. My mom and I used to cut up slabs of cheddar, put them on bread, and pop them under the grill, and then slather them with HP. What contrasts! Gooey cheese, crunchy bread, sharp sauce.

            They also make a "fruity" sauce (that's what it's called in Britain), but it's been relabelled "Chicken and Rib" in Canada.

            In the US, A1 Sauce is about the closest in taste, but it's much thinner and runnier than HP, which is a little thicker than ketchup. When I ask for it with my breakfast eggs, my waiter/waitress always looks at me like I'm off my meds.

            2 Replies
            1. re: KevinB

              those cheese toasts sound fantastic....actually i noticed the HP ($6 though)

              1. re: KevinB

                If you go to New York, I'm sure they have HP at Kalustyan's on Lexington. They have Marmite, PG Tips, Heinz Baked Beans with tomato sauce, and lots of other British comfort foods. Might be worth a phone call.

              2. If you're ever in Northern Virginia Kevin, (Aldie, VA)there is a small shop named "The British Pantry" that may possibly have the HP sauce you seek. I know they have Branston and things like Heinz beans for toast, etc. Also a lovely little tea shop/dining room. Their web site is, perhaps an e-mail to them would yield a jar being shipped to you?

                3 Replies
                1. re: MsDiPesto

                  Thanks so much for the tip; I live in Canada and HP is available in just about every grocery store in Toronto. As I noted, it's when I'm travelling in the US that I get frustrated. We're going to Chicago to experience American Thanksgiving in a few weeks (in Canada, we have to have Thanksgiving six weeks earlier because we have so much less to be thankful for, eh?) and I might bring a small bottle along, so long as I can get it past the border!

                  1. re: KevinB

                    In the U.S., the Whole Foods chain carries HP and other British condiments. I just noticed they have HP Fruity sauce, salad creme, piccallili, etc, as well as Heinz Beans, spaghetti, and creme of tomato soup.

                    1. re: monkeyrotica

                      Have you tried HPs curry or chili con carne sauces?