The Fermentation Generation makes a fizz

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

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9 thoughts on “The Fermentation Generation makes a fizz

  1. Hi Martin, in your medlar chutney recipe, you specify “1 top chilli powder”. What’s a ‘top’? I’m assuming you meant ‘tsp’ (teaspoon). Is that correct?

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      • Thanks for clarifying. I’m also assuming – apologies – that the coriander in the recipe is fresh coriander rather than coriander seed? And that the apples should be diced quite small? (I’m not an intuitive cook, as you can see hehe). We have a medlar tree in our garden and this year it produced a bumper harvest. We’ve made medlar jelly and now, thanks to your very simple – and apparently excellent – recipe, we’ve embarked on chutney. Yours is the most straightforward chutney recipe out there, and I notice that someone else used it to great effect. I’ll let you know how ours turns out.

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      • It was actually coriander seed but why not try the herb? Has someone else filched my recipe without credit? The spicing is pretty free and easy so omit or add your favourite. It has been a bumper year for medlars. I don’t have a tree but know the location of six in my neighbourhood.

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      • I think there’s a post on the medlar blog from someone who tried your recipe and had great success with it. Not sure whether anyone else is passing it off as their own! Actually, I’ll stick with coriander seed – I’m not sure about gelatinous leaf bits in a chutney! And yes, it was a great year for medlars it seems. Our crop last year was meagre, but this year it was off the scale. The only other tree I know of is next to the university library (Durham), but I’ve lived in Iran and Turkey, where medlars abound in the wetter, more forested areas. It’s one of the great unknown fruits, mentioned, as you probably know, by Chaucer and Shakespeare, so clearly it has a long pedigree in the British Isles. Anyway, can’t wait to try out your recipe. I appreciate that one can improvise with spices, to an extent, but we’re planning to stick rigidly to your recipe this first time round, given how much you liked it, and how much the other poster enjoyed it.

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      • And, yes, the smaller the apples are cut the quicker they will cook.
        I’ve just spotted medlar liqueur recipes while googling so you might want to give it a go. I will be doing a bottle with leftover medlars.

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  2. We’re teetotal, but it’s a nice idea as a gift, I guess. There’s also medlar ‘cheese’ and medlar jam, i.e. just medlar and sugar, which is rather nice too. I’m sure some enterprising soul somewhere is as we speak devising recipes for medlar face cream, medlar shampoo and medlar back scrub. On a more serious note, I’m planning a medlar cheesecake, and I know there’s a medlar tart recipe doing the rounds. Happy meddling!

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