VIDEO: The London Review Cake Shop Pickle Competition

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Sometime in the summer of 2014, it became obvious that we would have to hold a pickle competition. After Terry, the manager of the London Review Cake Shop, got her hands on a copy of Sandor Ellix Katz’s The Art of Fermentation, we found ourselves swept up in a microbial mania for pickling and brewing. As we researched the rich traditions of pickling across the world - kombucha and kvass from Russia, kimchi from Korea, tsukemono of all kinds from Japan - we became increasingly perplexed by the relative lack of a fermentation tradition in our city. We decided to try to unearth London’s unique pickling culture for ourselves. On a rainy night in November, we invited Londoners to bring their pickles, brews and ferments to the Cake Shop for what was to be our first Annual Pickle Competition. We assembled a panel of judges, and a selection of prizes: rosettes, copies of our treasured Sandor Ellix Katz books (contributed by Chelsea Green Publishing), and wooden spoons. And we waited to see if anyone would turn up.

Turn up they did: amateurs and purists; city workers and squatters; health-nuts and members of the Women’s Institute. Despite the contestants’ considerably different backgrounds, the evening had the cosy community atmosphere of a village fete (though it was admittedly somewhat boozier than your average church hall). Our winners are representative of the diversity of entrants: first prize was awarded to a selection of vegetable pickles featuring two types of kimchi, delicate pickled mulberry leaf and Vietnamese kale; a home-brewed IPA took second prize; and third prize went to a truly remarkable chutney, made annually to a family recipe.

In fact, we learned a tremendous amount from every one of our contestants. What they all shared was a taste for experimentation; a willingness to go against the grain and take food production into their own hands. Freshly inspired, we’ll be building our skills over the next months, waiting for harvest when there will be an abundance of produce to pickle. Join us again in Autumn 2015 for our second Annual Pickle Competition...

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