At Dalriata, we love to sell products that are not just something to eat, but which our customers feel emotional connections to. You never quite know what will evoke that response in people. It could be Clonakilty sausages, or Lyon’s Tea, or almost any of the other delicious things we have to offer.
For us, it’s Branston Pickle. It conjures up memories of foggy, chilly days at university, sitting down to a nice bit of crusty bread, cheddar cheese, and a good slather of Branston Pickle to liven things up a bit. A Granny Smith and a glass of milk rounded out a cheap but tasty lunch. With four busy young men in the house, we got through buckets of Branston and piles of pickle sandwiches, and it’s held a special place in our hearts ever since.
Maybe you’ve got your own fond memories. One thing’s for sure, Branston Pickle is one of our most popular products. It’s also yet another product that we’re convinced the people of Germany would go crazy for, if only they’d give it a try. So our little shop is doing what it can to make German people bring out the Branston!
What is Branston Pickle?
Branston Pickle comes from the village of Branston in Staffordshire, not far from the home of that other British favourite, Marmite. There are many varieties of sweet pickle, but this firm family favourite is said to have been created by a local woman and her daughters. The official story is that their family recipe was first adapted for commercial production around a hundred years ago. Manufacturers Crosse and Blackwell were major producers of canned vegetables, and Branston Pickle was a great way for them to use up the leftovers from their canned products to make sweet, tangy Branston Pickle.
Although it was a hit from its the beginning, Branston Pickle’s popularity really took off during World War II, as it was one of only a few products which were not rationed. Because of this, people were allowed to buy as much of it as they liked, and before long everybody all over the country was bringing out the Branston whenever it was time for a sandwich.
It was first made commercially around a hundred years ago. These days it’s no longer produced in Branston, and instead is made in the picturesque town of Bury St Edmunds.
It’s made to a secret recipe containing variable proportions of fruits and vegetables such as apple, carrot, rutabaga (or swede), onion and cauliflower. These vegetable chunks are coated in a thick brown sticky sauce containing vinegar, date paste, tomatoes, and a little lemon juice, plus various spice extracts for flavouring. There’s a lot going on in there, but every ingredient brings something extra to the party.
What does Branston Pickle taste like?
There are those who would say that “Branston Pickle” is a misleading name for what is in fact a relish, and that anybody buying this expecting something like a dill pickle is in for a surprise. Others are adamant that it’s more akin to a chutney, and it certainly has a chutney-like consistency. For what it’s worth, we think this is all just splitting hairs. The main thing is that it’s delicious! Certainly, Branston is a complex and subtle thing. It’s sweet, sour, salty and even smoky. And that’s just the flavour! The texture also has a lot going on, with crunchy vegetables in a thick, tangy sauce.
How should I eat Branston Pickle?
Adding it to a cheese sandwich is a great place to start. It’s the perfect accompaniment to some tangy, sharp cheddar cheese, but it will liven up almost any sandwich. It’s also perfect with cold cuts, so you could add some to a charcuterie board. Or try the ploughman’s lunch, a light meal often served in British pubs, which usually features fresh crusty bread, salad, cold meats, cheese, and most importantly, Branston Pickle!
There’s a good reason why this stuff is the UK’s favourite pickle. Once you start putting Branston Pickle on your lunch, you’ll find you get through it quickly, so stock up!