Our Year in the Brine

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Our annual Pickle Competition takes place every autumn. Calling it a 'Pickle Competition' is a bit misleading - it's a broad celebration of preserving techniques; part country fair, part cultural exchange.

We had all kinds of entries this year - from Japanese rice bran pickles to hedgerow bramble jelly - and as well as tasting all the briny offerings, we also got the stories behind them: tales from the kitchen and the allotment, family histories, cultural insights.

Our panel of experts was made up of last year's winners, as well as some new friends - we were delighted to have Hackney-based preserving enthusiast Kylee Newton as head judge. Her beautiful book The Modern Preserver has been inspiring us in the Cake Shop all autumn.

As the judges huddled to debate, score and rank each entry, our audience imbibed home-brewed beer from Pickle Comp 2014 runners-up the Thirsty Boys, and feasted on pickle-infused dishes from the Cake Shop. As we explore preserving more and more ourselves, we can't resist serving up our discoveries in the Cake Shop - at the moment you'll find sweet pickled butternut squash on the menu.

Sweet Pickled Butternut Squash

300g shredded butternut squash
230ml boiling water
125ml white balsamic vinegar
7 tbsp sugar
2.5 tsp coarse sea salt
1 tbsp mustard seeds

Combine the water, vinegar, sugar and salt in a jug and stir until the sugar dissolves.
Pack the shredded squash into a litre container.
Pour the brine over the squash, cover and refrigerate.
Best after 3-4 days and will keep for a month.

Our pickling passion is always leading us in new directions, and we've got exciting plans for 2016: this year's Pickle Comp winner, Sayuri, happily coincided with my growing interest in Japanese preserving techniques, and we're working on ideas for a pickling workshop in the new year. Watch this space…

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