In the U.K., the Branston Pickle adds crunchy, savory kick to sandwiches

 
Updated 1/26/2016 11:05 AM
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  • The pickle is a key ingredient to the classic British cheese and pickle sandwich consisting of medium or sharp cheddar cheese between two slices of soft white bread, along with a healthy schmear of Branston Pickle, served hot or cold.

    The pickle is a key ingredient to the classic British cheese and pickle sandwich consisting of medium or sharp cheddar cheese between two slices of soft white bread, along with a healthy schmear of Branston Pickle, served hot or cold. Courtesy of Penny Kazmier

You can find Branston Pickles in the U.S. at some Mariano’s, World Market stores, at Amazon.com and other online retailers. Call your grocer to first ask if the store carries Branston Pickles.

By Penny Kazmier

Daily Herald correspondent

When you hear the word pickle what comes to mind? Sweet gherkins, dill spears, bread and butter or maybe the green slice you put on top of a burger? Me too, but to my British friend Natalie, pickle is a sweet and savory condiment added to sandwiches like you and I might add mustard. She loves it, so after much encouragement I sampled the sweet and savory brown spread full of miniature diced vegetables and liked it so much I feel it would be unfair it I didn't also share it with you, because I'm hooked!

Branston Pickle is a brand, but is the preferred "pickle" of choice for most who enjoy its crunchy tang, selling more than 17 million jars a year across the pond in England. According to the company website, they haven't changed the recipe since they started making the slightly chunky brown sauce in 1922.

The label lists such ingredients, in various proportions as carrots, rutabaga, onions, cauliflower, marrows (a squash found in the UK similar to our zucchini), gherkins, sugar, malt vinegar -- from barley, spirit (white) vinegar, salt, chopped dates, apples, maize (corn) starch, tomato paste and spices. A very interesting combination. If you have ever enjoyed chutney, or steak sauce, the flavor will be interestingly familiar.

In England, Branston Pickle is most often part of a traditional British ploughman's lunch, a cold meal usually consisting of bread and cheese, a salad, maybe some hard-boiled eggs, and a small side of pickle, and often slices of cold meat such as ham. When meat is included it could be described as the British version of what we might refer to as a charcuterie board.

However, it is also the key ingredient to the classic British cheese and pickle sandwich consisting of medium or sharp cheddar cheese between two slices of soft white bread, along with a healthy schmear of Branston Pickle, served hot or cold. Imagine a grilled cheese sandwich with a kick! Like the ploughman's lunch, these sandwiches are as common in England as a hamburger is in the United States.

A desire to find other ways to use my new favorite ingredient brought me directly to http://bringoutthebranston.co.uk/, the companies official website, where I found recipes incorporating pickle into traditional dishes like lasagna, pizza, bruschetta and tacos, but it was the cheese and pickle bread recipe, along with my own experience of eating the cheese and pickle sandwich that started my wheels turning.

Inspired by a familiar appetizer I have made for years consisting of finely grated sharp cheddar and topped with raspberry jam, I set to work creating my own version topped with Branston Pickle instead of jam.

Freshly grated extra sharp white cheddar cheese is combined with a little mayonnaise and stirred well until the consistency is almost that of a cheese spread. While my original recipe calls for the addition a small amount of grated onion to the cheese mixture, I think the pickle will add the savory side of this dish making the addition of onion unnecessary and this appetizer especially easy to make. When ready to serve, spread cheese onto a serving platter to roughly a 1-inch thickness and top with some Branston Pickle, spreading to within about ½-inch from the edges of the cheese. Serve with your favorite sturdy cracker; my favorite for this is a Triscuit.

I tested this recipe over the holidays on a group of friends without telling them what the "pickle" portion was and before I knew it, the jar was out of the refrigerator being passed around for examination, with the most common question being "Where can I buy this?"

So, if by chance you are asked to bring a dish to an upcoming Super Bowl party, consider my take on a British cheese and pickle appetizer, because even though football is much different in the UK, Branston Pickle still tastes good here.

• Penny Kazmier, a wife and mother of four from South Barrington, won the 2011 Daily Herald Cook of the Week Challenge.

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