A pretty pickle

I’m in a pickle:  I have been revamping a post from a while ago.  About carrots.  After creating a variation of a salad I’d done before and I wanted to add it.  I discovered not only that it had disappeared, but the references to other posts no longer worked.  Not because they were wrong, but rather because the posts no longer existed. Like this one.

A bit of a pickle.

And pickles need time.  And revamping posts take time.  Especially when one realises how far one has come in the nearly five years since the original post in 2016.  Water under the bridge, as they say.


The McGregor Board offering at the 2015 McGregor Food and Wine Festival

Another reason for revisiting this is keeping my promise to “pretty up” the recipes and make them available to download in a printable format.  The pickle (the real one) that’s the subject of this post, has become one of my “signature” products at the local market.  I first made them for the McGregor Food and Wine festival in 2015.  It no longer happens…and which is only partly attributed to the dreaded C-lurgy.  Since that first effort, I’ve adapted the recipe slightly and learned a few things.

Colourful Pickled Vegetables

The 2021 fennel seed harvest

When I decided to have a stall at the Food and Wine Festival that year, I wanted to do something different.  But something that would work on a ploughman’s platter and, of course, with wine.  I was not going to do picalili.  I’m not a fan.

I’ve adapted this from a quick pickle recipe and, to be honest, the end result is better because, well, at the risk of repeating myself:  pickles take time.  The brine includes a number of different herb and spice seeds, like cumin, coriander, mustard and fennel.  This last comes, in abundance, from the garden.  Among other essential ingredients are garlic, ginger onions and apple cider vinegar.  And turmeric.

Which vinegar, and why

I’ve used both white wine and apple cider vinegar for this pickle.  I now tend to stick with the latter:  it’s a softer vinegar and better flavoured.  Oh, and also this brine makes a great addition to a vinaigrette if you retain it after you’ve eaten the pickles.


One of the challenge of this pickle is that not all the vegetables one needs are in season at the same time. Here, carrots are available and grow all year round;  the cauliflower is a winter crop and the bell peppers, spring and into summer.   Consequently, and  sometimes, I do fiddle with the ratios and with the cauliflower is the base vegetable.  The turmeric turns it a lovely golden colour.

The quantities are hard to work out exactly, but there is more cauliflower than other bits – the ratios are more important.

Packing the jars

Although I often mix the vegetables, I do monitor the distribution of vegetables between the jars.  I have ended up with a tail-end jar of mostly one vegetable which ends up on our table rather than in my market stock.

Don’t be afraid to press and pummel the vegetables into the jars.  They shrink a little during the pickling process,  anyway.

Once the jars are packed, pour over the hot brine.  This is a messy process and if you’re worried about turmeric stains, take the necessary precautions.  Distribute the seeds and other solids between the jars, making sure that there is sufficient “space” for expansion when they’re sterilised.  Before putting the lid on, make sure there are no lurking air pockets:  tap the jar and poke a plastic or wooden (not metal because of the vinegar) skewer, kebab stick or swizzle stick down the sides to liberate any bubbles.

Do not over tighten the lids: when the jars cool, they will seal, forming a vacuum.

Processing and sterilising

Place the jars in a large (stock) pot and fill with water (do this on the stove – don’t try to lug the full pot and the jars from the sink to the stove and give yourself a hernia … or worse…)  Oh, and before you begin, put a tea towel at the bottom of the pot so that the jars don’t rattle around.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove from the water and allow to cool.  The lids should all pull in and form a vacuum at the top of the jar as they cool.

These pickles keep their crunch and can be stored for a good few months.

What else I’ve learned

For this batch, we had lots of red onions and some beautiful heirloom carrots, from the garden, and I thought that they would add to the colour of these pickles.  They did.

But only for about a week:  the vinegar bleached the colour out so that the red carrots ended up just being orange and the red onion lost its blush and went slightly yellow from the turmeric.  The flavour is not affected and the pickle is just as pretty because of the red of the pepper, the gold turmeric which is absorbed by the cauliflower and, or course, the orange of the carrots.

This time, and because they were baby carrots, I left a bit of the stalk on them and then quartered them longways.  Just adds to the character and texture of the pickle.

The full, recipes are available to download here.

Oh, and if you do download the recipes, buy me a coffee. Or better yet, a glass of wine….?

Finally, the post that links back to this – with the carrot salads – will be out soon.

Until next time, be well
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

Post script
If this post might seem familiar, it’s because I’m doing two things:

  • re-vamping old recipes. As I do this, I am adding them in a file format that you can download and print. If you download recipes, buy me a coffee. Or better yet, a glass of wine….?
  • and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts.

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Original artwork: @artywink
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Sensational sandwiches

A sandwich is a sandwich, is a sandwich – or is it?

Since mid-January, I have forsworn bread and potatoes.  I thought that it would be difficult, but it hasn’t been.  I think that the main reason for this is that I made a decision that this was a choice rather than a rule.  It was also my choice and no-one else’s.  Why do I make this point?  Well, I figured that if I allowed it to govern every meal I cooked, particularly over the weekend, I’d make everyone miserable.  The upshot is that it’s the 5:2 approach – as far as possible….

We have a wonderful pop-up market in McGregor.  You don’t always know what or who will be at the market.  That means that you can’t be guaranteed bread, but when there is bread, it’s beautiful, often really healthy.  There are a few bread makers in the village.  One is Hester, who sadly doesn’t bake bread as often as she used to.  Her potato Ciabatta are fantastic, wood-fired chunks of tasty bread.  In addition to being great when fresh, they also make the most fantastic crostini that you can top with almost anything to make a really easy, sexy sarmie.  To make crostini, heat the oven to about 200 Celsius and lightly brush each slice on both sides, place on a baking sheet and place in the oven for 10 – 12 minutes.

2014-02-02 15.35.54

A spread of pesto, with tomato, cheeses, gherkins, pickled bell peppers and fresh herbs, in different combinations make a feast!

Corlie is another baker in the village.  She makes a few lovely breads, and one we are particularly fond of, is a part rye bread.  She makes it with molasses which gives it a lovely soft, spongy texture with a delicious malty flavour.  I made this sarmie – unplanned – with what I had in the fridge:

On a slice of thin-ish bread, layer slivers of Camembert or brie, a warm, quick-fried slice of brinjal (warm is important – it begins to melt the cheese, and brings out its flavour), and top with a slice of fresh tomato and salt and pepper.  Now spread a generous dollop of pesto over the second slice of bread and put the lid on your sandwich!100_2881These (even if I say so, myself) sensational sarmies are favourite Saturday or Sunday afternoon late lunches for us – in the garden – with a glass of wine from our lovely valley!