At this time of year many of us make pickles and relishes. Pickling food was a very important household job in the past, and great care was taken to make sure that the food was pickled correctly.
In The Female Instructor (1812) pickles are described as ‘necessary to be kept in all houses’. The reader is advised to purchase stone jars, rather than ’earthen jars’, due to the fact that as they are less porous, air will eventually spoil food which is stored ‘any length of time’. There are also words of caution about using a spoon when taking any pickles out of the jars – ‘never to do it with your fingers, as that will spoil the pickle’.
Alongside recipes for pickling Gerkins (the recipe calls for 500 gerkins!), Cucumbers, Red Cabbage, Onions etc, there are recipes for pickling that are not so familiar to modern readers:
‘Parsley pickled green’ – contains parsley, shallots and horseradish.
‘Codlins’ – small green apples.
‘To pickle Salmon’ – a rather interesting recipe for pickling a 12lb salmon in beer and salt, with the addition of cloves and sliced ginger. According to the recipe ‘This will keep a year’.
In Domestic Cookery (Maria Rundell, 1806), there is a recipe for pickled ‘English Bamboo’ – peeled young elder shoots – which were ‘a great improvement’ to Indian pickle.
Clusters of unopened elderflowers when pickled were described as ‘a delicious pickle to eat with boiled mutton’.
So, the humble elder appears to have even more uses than just elderflower cordial and elderberry wine!