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May 21, 2007 08:12 PM

Ploughman sandwich?

I'd like to know how to make a proper ploughman sandwich, and have found Google fairly unhelpful. My boyfriend is half British and really likes them when he's over there.

I bought some Branson's pickle, some really good English cheddar at our recent cheese festival, and made him a sandwich on good crusty bread with butter, lettuce, tomatoes and the above ingredients. He said it tasted delicious, though it wasn't quite a ploughman's. Not being an ingredient-aware type (more a "yum, that was good, whatever it was" type), he couldn't tell me what was different.

He says not to worry, but I'm curious what I might do differently to make an actual ploughman's sandwich. Aside from, of course, handing it to someone with a plough.

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  1. Perhaps the sandwich is were you got it wrong? "Ploughman's Lunch" is actually more traditional and may provide a better search term. It is usually an unassambled platter with cheese (cheddar, etc.), pickle (branston or homemade, etc.), softish roll or bread, and butter. Sometimes served with salad on the side.

    You do sometimes see a ploughman's sandwich which is all of the above but it less common. In which case it would fairly slim and plain by American standards, and without the tomato. For instance, plain thin slices of white bread, buttered, with a single layer of cheese and a thin layer of pickle. Nothing else.

    1 Reply
    1. re: JudiAU

      I've also always had some good mustard with a ploughman's lunch. I've had beet on it (see purple goddess note below) when I've been in Ireland.

    2. I second the Ploughman's lunch/platter..

      I like mine with pickled onions and a whole pickled gherkin.. the sour variety, not the sweet.

      Beetroot is common over here..but that might be an aussie thing.. we eat beetroot on everything!!!

      All served individually on a platter with a scottish bap and maybe a boiled egg.

      1. I did find a lot of things about a ploughman's lunch online, and not so much about a sandwich, but I've even had a ploughman's sandwich. They're often sold in the cheap grocery sandwich section, even.

        I wasn't sure about the tomato but I asked him while he was making it and he wanted tomato.

        The Branston's pickle I bought had decent sized chunks in it; do you break those up to spread it think?

        1 Reply
        1. re: seattledebs

          The Branston's is a must... along with pickled onions and some uber sharp cheese...everything else seems to be subject to taste... Don't break up the chunks, they give a nice texture and crunch to it

        2. You forgot one key ingredient: A pint of ale.

          1. Sorry, this is not helpful, but just wondered if someone could tell me what Branstons' pickles are? I assume they have a specific flavor?

            7 Replies
            1. re: alex8alot

              Yes, it's a very chunky relish, and this description from another CH thread should give a better idea: <<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>>
              Wonderful stuff!

              1. re: MsDiPesto

                The chunky relish we always called "Mustard Pickle" or [name escapes me]. I remember the cheese being a Stilton. Am I just getting old and nutty, or do these ring a bell also with someone else?

                1. re: WBDavis01

                  My 85 year old mother still makes mustard pickle...cauliflower, and whole pearl (is that what they're called? I forget) onions, chunks of onion, celery, green pepper...can't remember what else....and it was always a fight in the family, who got the cauliflower and the onion!


                  1. re: WBDavis01

                    You probably mean piccallli. Mainly cauliflower and onion. Thick mustard flavoured sauce.

                    Other posters are correct. There is no Brit ploughman's sandwich but there is a ploughman's lunch. Allegedly invented by our cheese industry in the 1960s as a marketing ploy.

                    At its simplest and best, it's a plate of good strong cheese, good bread and butter, pickle (Branston would be the classic brand - I make my own) and pickled onions. You could add to the plate a tomato or an apple.

                    It's classic pub lunch food. And, unfortunately, often done very badly by pubs using cheap bland ingredients and insufficient care. Such a meal can be a great disappointment. Get it right and it's winderful.

                    1. re: Brit on a Trip

                      Not invented in the '60s, as I've read about "ploughman's lunch" in English books from the '20s and '30s. Angela Thirkell mentioned it a few times, and I think Lord Peter Wimsey had one in a story or two. I'd assume a "ploughman's sandwich" WOULD be a latter-day invention, attempting to fold the prime ingredients into some cheap balloon bread and selling it pre-wrapped from Tesco or whatever. I'd expect it to be about as authentic and good as canned haggis...

                      1. re: Will Owen


                        In which case, the Oxford English Dictionary would certainly like to hear from you.

                        The Wordhunt Project (and it's related BBC programme) only managed to date the phrase back to 1960 with documentary evidence of the minutes of a meeting of the English Country Cheese Council. The phrase was previously generally credited to its chairman, Richard Treherne, and the BBC programme obviously supports that. Prior to the project, the OED had only dated the phrase to 1970 in the sense of how we know it. Its earliest actual reference to a "ploughman's lunch" was from 1837 but this was in the sense of "lunch for a ploughman" if you see what I mean.

                        You're right about the sandwich though. Tesco would take some pappy white bread, add tasteless cheese and cheap pickle - and call it a "cheese & pickle" sandwich.


                  2. re: MsDiPesto

                    Branston Pickle
                    1 medium carrot, cut into 1/8 inch cubes
                    1 cup rutabaga, cut into 1/8 inch cubes
                    2 cloves garlic, minced
                    6 dates, pitted and cut into 1/8 inch cubes
                    3 cauliflower florets, finely chopped
                    1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
                    1 medium apple, finely chopped
                    1 medium zucchini, finely chopped
                    5 sweet gherkins, finely chopped
                    1/2 lb dark brown sugar
                    1 tsp salt
                    juice of a lemon
                    1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
                    caramel colouring or "Kitchen Bouquet"
                    Combine all ingredients except caramel colouring in a saucepan.
                    Heat to boiling;
                    reduce heat to a simmer and cook until rutabaga is cooked but still slightly crunchy.
                    Add enough caramel colouring until colour is dark brown.
                    Bottle and seal.