The Brits love their preserves. From briny ketchups to fruit chutneys to mustardy piccalilli, the flavors of the East have inspired a plethora of sauces and condiments. Not the least of these is Branston Pickle, a kind of relish that has been called spicy, tangy, sweet, sour, and crunchy. Who said British food was bland? 


This chunky brownish pickle is almost completely foreign to the American palate. I had never tasted anything like it in my life, and if you’ve ever had it you can only imagine the face I made after putting a spoonful in my mouth.

It’s called Branston Sweet Pickle, but it has a definite vinegar tang. The ingredient list made my family’s collective jaws drop: Carrots, Rutabaga, Onions, Cauliflower, Marrows, Gherkins, Sugar, Malt Vinegar, Spirit Vinegar, Salt, Chopped Dates, Apples, Modified Maize Starch, Tomato Paste, Colour, Spices, Concentrated Lemon Juice, Onion Powder, Garlic Extract. Whew! That’s a mouthful.

I eventually got used to the lively concoction, but I wondered what on earth one could do with it. Do you eat it straight from the jar? Spread it on crackers? Bake with it? I’ve discovered quite a few brilliant recipes since then, and I thought I would share them with you, just in case you’re in a pickle.

The one thing I’ve tried so far is the cheese and pickle sandwich. You may be skeptical, but England invented the sandwich, right? So who could be better qualified to determine what makes a good one? The “cheese and pickle” is a pub grub mainstay. A quick and easy meal with vibrant flavors, this sandwich may be a bit off-putting at first, but I can attest to its addictive nature.

Classic Cheese and Pickle Sandwich

Ingredients:
  • White bread
  • Sharp Cheddar Cheese (preferably English)
  • Branston Pickle
Method:
  1. Cut your cheddar into thick wedges and completely cover one slice of bread.
  2. Smear the other piece of bread with generous spoonfuls of pickle. Branston also makes a more easily spreadable sandwich version with smaller chunks.
  3. If you’re not interested in being traditional, you might add slices of ham and tomato at this point. But don’t even talk to me about mayonnaise. 
If you’ve had your fill of cheese and pickle sandwiches, maybe it’s time to get a bit more adventurous. Here are 20 other ideas for using up that monstrous jar of Branston Pickle:

  1. A Ploughman’s Lunch is a cold meal usually consisting of bread and cheese, a salad, maybe some hard boiled eggs, and something pickled. Eat a few spoonfuls of your Branston Pickle along with this lovely picnic spread.
  2. Use it instead of sweet pickle relish in deviled eggs.
  3. Use it as a veggie dip.
  4. Spice up shepherd’s pie.
  5. Put a twist on homemade sausage rolls (these are great eaten cold and could be packed as a school or workday lunch).
  6. If you’re up for a flavor challenge, try it in tuna salad.
  7. Use Branston Pickle in a cold sausage sarnie, with lashings of sharp English mustard.
  8. Heat things up with a toasted sandwich, melting the cheese on top of crispy toast.
  9. Put it on pizza! It’s been done before.
  10. Mix a spoonful or two into your favorite meatloaf recipe.
  11. Add a kick to hearty meat stew.
  12. The Bride's Posy in a Pickle Jar by lorraineemmans
    The Bride’s Posy in a Pickle Jar, a photo by lorraineemmans on Flickr.
  13. Put it in coleslaw to accompany a plate of fish and chips. Try mixing cabbage, malt vinegar, dark brown sugar, stoneground mustard, Branston Pickle, and a touch of molasses, then let it marinate overnight.
  14. Whip up a Corned Beef and Branston Scone (better than it sounds, I’m sure).
  15. Jazz up your pickle sandwich with roast beef and melted blue cheese.
  16. Make tartar sauce with Branston Pickle and mayonnaise.
  17. Mix it with sour cream for a cracker or chip dip
  18. Slather it over your baked potatoes and butter.
  19. Make a healthy wrap with pickle, mayonnaise, shredded lettuce, chicken, and peppers in a tortilla. 
  20. Try something new with a Chicken and Branston Stir-Fry.
  21. Use the jar as a flower vase!
P.S. If you’re a Britophile living far from Britain, try making your own Branston Pickle! Here’s a recipe.

How do you use Branston Pickle? I want to know!

Sources:
boards.straightdope.com
en.wikipedia.org
cooksinfo.com
foodrepublic.com

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Written by Abigail Young

I've had a passion for everything British my entire life, despite being raised as a small-town girl in the American Midwest, After years of dreaming, I got the chance to live and work in England for an entire year. Now I write about my favorite country, and hopefully inspire my fellow Britophiles to get over there and experience it for themselves.

This article has 16 comments

  1. Belle Reply

    I use Branston very simply! Nothing weird and wonderful like a branston pizza – ewww!

    -Cheese and pickle sarnie
    -On the odd occasion I have a ploughmans
    -Used in a sarnie where relish is appropriate
    -Branston baked beans

    And probably the most popular use
    -At Christmas! On boxing day when we have a big meal of left over meats with bubble and squeak. Bubble and Squeak is a fantastic dish I thoroughly recommend you try if you haven’t already!
    It has also been known in my family to have left-over boxing day leftovers on 27th December – for breakfast with Branstons and other pickles.

    Branston’s slogan is – bring out the Branston! For a blast from the past you can see an old advert here:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_qPFotc_7nE Branston advert starts at 2:11

    I have to say though my favourtie pickle of all time is pickled walnuts. Mmmmm they are to die for! Try them if you can.
    Belle
    -x-

    • Abigail Rogers Reply

      Those are some great ideas! For Branston baked beans, do you just add some pickle to the beans?

      I have had bubble and squeak before (Mrs. Beeton style), but haven’t tried it with Branston…yet! Mmmm, never tried pickled walnuts before. That’s another one to put on my to-do list 🙂

      -Abigail

  2. Belle Reply

    I empty the baked beans into a small frying pan, add a tiny amount of branston pickle, a smidge of diced dried chilli, smoked paprika, splash of tomato sauce, splash of soy sauce, tiny splash of red wine (if you have some), dash of pepper and a tiny amount honey. Then heat it up gently and let it reduce down slightly so all the flavours concentrate. And then…

    (a little birdy once told me Americans don’t generally eat ‘things’ on toast and find the notion a bit disgusting – I’m not sure if this is a general rule or just one American they happened once to try and serve something on toast to – but if this is the case I apologise for this next bit!)

    Serve it on toast! To be eaten with a knife and fork otherwise it all gets a bit messy!

    The above is generally- to adjust to desired taste. It’s equally good without adding Branstons.
    You can also add some (already cooked) sliced sausages to the above to make it a bit more hearty and filling. Even with the sausages I would still eat this toast. I would pair a glass of wine with this (cause I’m fancy like that (!) :-D)

    I don’t eat this very often at all but once you have had it, at one point during the year you will crave it!

    You definitely must try Bubble and Squeak with Branston and an array of other pickles and relishes (piccalilli, tomato relish, pickled beetroot, red onion chutney, pickled walnuts) It’s more than fine to have the whole lot on a plate and pick and mix between them! YUM!

    >>Belle

  3. Robert Bates Reply

    I had the cheese-and-Branston sandwich at the consulates home in LA: it was brilliant! I just purchased 2 jars on Amazon and will start making those delicious sadwiches. Great post and ideas!

  4. Your travel girl Reply

    I used to have a recipe for a delicious quiche. It had a shortcrust base, a layer of branston pickle then a light cheese souffle on top. If anyone has such a recipe (or can invent one for me!) then I would be eternally grateful!

    • Lindyb Reply

      My aunt’s recipe for cheese and pickle quiche. She says to mix the pickle in with the cheese mixture but I remember it being at the bottom sometimes too, so I guess you could spread the pickle onto the pastry case before adding the quiche-y mixture:

      Preheat oven to 190 degrees C.

      A pastry case, baked blind.
      5 oz cheddar cheese, grated.
      2 tbsp Branston pickle.
      2 eggs.
      1/4 pint milk.

      Mix everything together then put it into the pastry case. Bake in the centre of the oven for 35-40 minutes (or until set and firm). Cool.

      Can be frozen.

      The handwritten recipe I have (on a piece of fax paper because she faxed it to me about 18 years ago!) doesn’t specify a tin size for the pastry case but other 2-egg quiche recipes tend to use 20 cm tins.

  5. Richard lee Reply

    One of my favourite breakfasts Eggs on Beans on Cheese on Toast!-

    Heat some baked beans in a saucepan or microwave and while it is heating melt some cheese on toast under a grill/broiler. Remove, add a heaped teaspoon of Branston to each slice and place under the grill until Branston is warmed through. Plate the toast, pour the beans over the toast and add a couple of fried eggs on top. Yum!

  6. Richard Lee Reply

    On a main salad bowl.
    Particularly a Chef’s salad with the cold meats and cheeses but also chicken, eggs, tuna or whatever you can dream up.

  7. Richard Lee Reply

    Simple meal. Jacket/Baked potato, topped with butter, shredded cheese, coleslaw and a daub of Branston.

  8. Louise Reply

    Smoked ham and branston pickle sandwiches are really nice. Even just branston pickle and English mustard on toast is really nice (with lots of butter).

  9. Das Fantastico Reply

    on baked potato as you mentioned but also on a avocado sandwich, just had a couple of rolls and an avocado also had branston soooo…yum.

  10. Glen Candlish Reply

    Does anyone remember the Chilli Pickle that Branston did in the late 90’s. I can’t find a photo anywhere on Google. My wife can’t remember it . We’ve got money riding on this . It had the tag line ” The hot one ” . It was a lighter colour than normal Branston, and had a different colour label . Still big chunk though. Any help would be appreciated.

  11. Julie Reply

    My favourite, a Scottish favourite… with baked potato!

    – Bake a potato, cut it open lengthwise, and slice diagonal slices across the opening to break up the middle. Mix some butter into the potato
    – Put 2-3 tbsp of Branston pickle across the top (depending on your taste), then shred cheddar cheese (the older the better) on top.

    Totally simple and sooooo delicious!

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