The Cottage Smallholder

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Christmas piccalilli recipe


Photo: Piccalilli

Photo: Piccalilli

For years I was tempted by the cheap jars of yellow piccalilli on the supermarket shelves. I’d take one head clearing taste and the jar would be put smartly at the back of the cupboard to wait until it was swept away in a hearty Spring clean.

Last year we tasted Magic Cochin’s homemade piccalilli. It was everything that I’d imagined piccalilli could be and more. It is so good that they are only allowed a jar a month to salve that certain piccalilli yearning. And I’m ashamed to say I had two helpings from the January jar.

This year I just had to make my own using our own home grown vegetables. In fact I made three batches as it was so good. So we are rationed 3 jars a month until next summer. My inspiration came from Oded Schwartz recipe for Chow Chow which I’ve tweaked to suit our taste. I added much more turmeric as both our brains and bodies could do with a bit of coddling.

You can use almost any crisp vegetable that you like. Choose a selection of colours to make the piccalilli attractive. Try and chop the vegetables into an assortment of shapes and sizes. It takes about a month to mature so make it soon and it will be ready to serve with cold meats and cheese at Christmas.

Christmas piccalilli recipe
50g of calabrese florets (broccoli)
250g of green tomatoes (or hard red ones) chopped
300g of cucumbers sliced lengthwise and then sliced into half centimetre half moons
250g of French beans topped and tailed and chopped in half (if you are making this in summer – use your own fresh runner beans)
225g of courgettes chopped
1500g of cauliflower florets
320g of carrots chopped
1 head of celery (destring and slice)
2 red Romano peppers (deseed and chop into 3 cm lengths)
300g of small pickling or baby onions or shallots (skinned and cut in half if they are chunky
100g of salt

Spicy pickling mixture:
375g of light soft brown sugar
1.5 litres of cider vinegar
80g of mustard powder
1 tsp of celery salt
2 teaspoons of mustard seeds
3 tablespoons of turmeric powder
120g of plain flour


Wash and prepare all the vegetables. Put them in a large bowl.  Sprinkle on the salt cover the vegetables with cold water and mix everything well to dissolve the salt. Weigh down the vegetables using a plate and leave to stand over night.

The next day drain the vegetables and rinse quickly.  Then blanch them for two minutes in boiling water in batches I  – used a sieve for this stage. Plunging them immediately into cold water after blanching so they stayed crisp. Leave them to drain while you make the pickling mixture.

Mix the mustard powder, turmeric, celery salt and flour together and gradually add some vinegar (about 300ml) to make a thin paste.

Put the rest of the vinegar into a non reactive saucepan and add the sugar. Bring slowly to the boil stirring to dissolve the sugar. When this is done add the paste a little at a time to the vinegar and sugar. You should end up with a thickened spicy sauce – if it’s bobbly blend with a stick blender.

When you are happy with your sauce, put in the vegetables and the mustard seeds and return to the boil and immediately take the saucepan off the heat.

Bottle in hot sterilised jars with plastic lined metal lids. Don’t use cellophane as the vinegar will absorb through these.

Leave for a month to mature in a dry, dark place.

  Leave a reply


  1. claire addison

    All the pickling onions I’ve seen lately are huge, could you use onion sets as they are so much smaller? May be a daft question but I was just wondering!

  2. can I use organic unfiltered cider vinegar ?

  3. Mandy Aldridge

    How much doea this make please. I’m needing to make 6 x jars (jam size jars)

    Thank you

    • I got about 12 jars out of mine. But trust me, they don’t last long when they’re open.

  4. Still the best recipe I’ve found, friends and family ask me for this every year :0

  5. Liz Fielding

    At last, a piccadilli recipe that doesn’t boil the vegetables to mush! Thank youi. 🙂

  6. Paul L. Dallender

    My other half’s 77 year old mother has been quite ill over the past year but happily is on the way back to recovery. Recently she has been bemoaning the fact how she cannot get really good tasting lemon curd (the shop bought is too sweet and not lemony enough) or traditional piccalilli, like her mother used to make.

    I managed to find a really good and very quick and simple lemon curd recipe (Nigel Slaters as I couldn’t find one on here) which she absolutely loves and I have to admit when trying it myself, it knocks anything bought in the shops into a cocked hat; being so lemony it makes the mouth water but with just a hint of sweetness.

    So now I’ve been searching for a traditional piccalilli recipe like the one her mother used to make over fifty odd years ago and yours looks to be exactly what I need.

    I noticed someone else has asked if corn flour could be used instead of ordinary flour and you have replied it can. Would it still be the same amount though? I wouldn’t want it to have the consistency of wallpaper paste.

  7. Robin R.

    I know it’s been a long time since your last comment but I had to write. My gran made piccalilli her whole life. She died 12 years ago and I haven’t had any since. We called it Chow Chow but her recipe card said Piccalilli. I didn’t get the recipe card but from what I can remember yours is as close as perfect. I can’t wait to try my hand. I know mine will never come close to my granny but just maybe my grandsons will grow up loving mine. (Yours!)

    Thank you for bringing back happy memories.

  8. Hi,
    I’m new to preserving/pickling, and I’m wondering if using metal lids lined with wax discs would be ok for this recipe?
    It sounds delicious and I can’t wait to try making it!

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Laura

      Metal lids that have a plastic lining are fine – I’d avoid unlined metal lids though.

  9. bonbonz69

    This was the first recipe I had tried of The Cottage Smallholder, which has lead to a whole new way of life. I go through the supermarkets looking for the reduced fruit and veg bring it home and then look on here to see what I can do with it!! last night I got mango’s 2 for 69p and two trays of blackberries for 59p each, already had some cooking apples so today its mango chutney and apple and blackberry jam, ironing and housework put on hold as there are so many recipes to work through, but its not really work is it!!!!

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Bonbonz69

      Thank you so much for such a heartening comment. Delighted that you are enjoying the site!

  10. Gill Lawrence

    Hi, I Live in Spain now, and am finding it difficult to purchase shallots, can you use normal onions or would red onion be better.

    Would appreciate any thoughts please.


    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Gill

      I reckon that red onions would be better as they are milder and sweeter.

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