BACK IN the Sixties as a young reporter for the Beccles & Bungay Journal I would be sent to cover village shows.
There would invariably be a tent or at least a table full of homemade jams and jellies, pickles and preserves, usually made by stout matrons from the Women’s Institute.
All very motherly and middle class but never for one moment did I guess this might one day be hip.
Then it was raspberry jam and pickled onions, these days it’s more likely to be a kombucha or kefir (fermented drink) bubbling up for prizes.
I am at Hideaway, a dishevelled former factory, the White Rose Works, in Eyre Lane, Sheffield for the city’s second Pickle Fest.
I can give 30 or 40 years on the next oldest person there, and rather less hair, as people gather for workshops, talks, browse a few stalls, buy food or enter one of the several categories to have their prized jam, chutney, sauce, pickles or ferments to be judged in a mass taste test later that day.
I bring along three entries, two for the non- hot sauce category: Pontack, made with elderberries, and a brown fruit sauce from prunes and apples, plus a chutney from foraged windfall apples in my neighbourhood.
I’m delighted to find these are the first entries if you don’t count the jar entered last year which no one could open and has been resubmitted this year. Tough competition.
The festival is organised by a loose group of people called Social Pickle, explains Lisa Marriott, one of the organisers who, like other young women, is wearing a fetching sash with the organisation’s name.
It gives the event, for an old-timer like me, the slightly disconcerting air of a Sixties beauty contest with Miss Pickles on display although of course the real beauties are the jars of Green Bean Chunky Ketchup and evil- looking Carrotchanga for sale at the pay-as-you-feel stall.
“We started during Lockdown preparing surplus ingredients for meals for our Food Hall Project ( on Brown Street) and realised there was a lot of energy around,” she says.
What couldn’t be used immediately was pickled and preserved.
“Cider vinegar was our first project, sold in local shops, and we’ve expanded into weekly Glut Clubs.”
I’m impressed. They are not just sitting back and waiting for surplus food to come in. Some are going out and foraging for it.
With things like sauerkraut, kimchis and kombuchas the Fermentation Generation is a lot more adventurous and sophisticated than its grannies. In fact, they’re making a bit of a fizz.
I couldn’t stay for the judging and I’ve been waiting at home for the telephone to ring and tell me if I’d won a category ( not that they were overwhelmed with entries ).
To pass the time I took home one of the jars of Carrotchanga. ” We fermented the carrot to make a Ketchup then added other stuff,” someone said. It tastes how it looks, wicked.
And did they have a serving suggestion? ” Put it on your chips.”
# For more details see http://www.socialpickle.co.uk