Entertaining | Cheese and Pickles: Take your cheese board to the next level with homemade pickles

Entertaining

Cheese and Pickles: Take your cheese board to the next level with homemade pickles

When we think about what to put with a cheese board, we often turn to chutneys, artisan crackers, and maybe some fresh fruits but you can make your cheese board extra special and even more interesting with homemade pickles.

Monica Shaw, the writer and food producer behind Eat Sleep Wild, offers some tips as well as a recipe for spiced blackberry pickles that you can make with foraged blackberries.

"Have pickles will travel. I’ve been on the road most of this summer, travelling through Scotland and Wales, exploring the outdoors, camping, hiking, and researching potential areas for my business’s future HQ. I’ve also been meeting up with other foodie folks I know – it seems these days we’re all over the country, and it’s such a treat be able to finally hit the road and reunite in person. And so it was that I arranged a stopover at Kavey (of Kavey Eats) and her husband Pete who’ve set up an awesome home and Airbnb near Abergavenny.

When I asked Kavey what I should bring she asked “what have you been pickling lately?” Music to my ears. I have long been captivated by various methods of food preservation – fermenting, canning, and dehydrating to name just a few things. However pickling has been my mainstay, and the technique I come to time and time again for preserving the gluts (usually vast quantities of foraged food I find, but also things I’ve grown in my garden, or can get a deal on in the grocery store).

Unlike chutneys, which are decidedly sweet, pickles tend to have a greater dimension of sour, and are the perfect compliment to cheese (not to mention other savoury foods, especially barbecue, burgers, or hot dogs).

On this occasion, Kavey had curated a selection of Welsh cheeses so the pickle question was appropriate. I don’t think she was expecting I’d arrive in my van with quite this many homemade pickles on board:

  1. Chicago-style giardiniera, which literally translates to “vegetables under vinegar” and is often made using whatever vegetables happen to be in abundance in the moment.
  2. Zydeco beans – crispy runner beans pickled in a garlicky brine
  3. Pickled wild garlic bulbs – these are particularly great with charcuterie
  4. Pear aigre doux, a sweet and sour pickle flecked with fresh vanilla and peppercorns
  5. Raspberry & cranberry jam – the only non pickle, but fantastic with cheese!
  6. Pickled blackberries, the star of the pickle show – you can find the recipe below

We were lucky to have some amazing cheeses from the Welsh Cheese Company on our cheese board - Kavey had been working with them to source cheeses for a private tasting event, and I was grateful to be on the receiving end of a sampler. We all agreed that the pickles took the whole cheese board experience to the next level, with the pickled blackberries being the outstanding winner, pairing particularly well with soft goat cheeses.

Pickling may sound like a dark art – and indeed many pickles involve a multistep process including brining and ageing. However there are plenty of quick pickles you can make that can be eaten almost straight away (most pickles benefit from at least a day or two of resting to let the flavours come together). Zuni café’s zucchini pickles come to mind, particularly for those of you experiencing a glut of courgettes (it also works with marrows). Or get stuck into any one of these fantastic books on pickling:

A great pickle to make in late summer / early autumn is these pickled blackberries, particularly if you have wild brambles growing nearby (it works with store-bought blackberries, too, but it’s way more rewarding when you can pick your own). I love these pickles with soft goat and sheep cheeses, but they’re also great with venison, or even on top of ice cream.

Pickled Blackberries

Ingredients

  • 500ml blackberries
  • 250ml white vinegar
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp allspices
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 pinch ground mace
  • 250 grams sugar

Instructions

  1. Soak the blackberries in vinegar overnight with all the spices, but keep back the sugar.
  2. The next day, strain the spiced vinegar into a saucepan, and put the blackberries into a large clean jar.
  3. Add the sugar to the vinegar and slowly bring the mixture to the boil. Stir frequently so that the sugar dissolves. Continue to simmer until the liquid is syrupy and has reduced slightly.
  4. Pour the hot syrup over the blackberries and seal."

Photo © Monica Shaw

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