That Most English of Sandwiches

“Monday, it’s Cheese & Pickle”. So said the young detective Endeavour Morse about his mentor’s lunch. I had not had this most English of sandwiches, so I recently bought the ingredients and gave it a try.

The cheese part of this traditional fare is usually a good English cheddar. The bread is typically what’s called Farmhouse Bread (a sliced, white loaf) but it can be just about any style. Butter or mayo is also used.

Now for the pickle, also known here and in the U.S. as chutney. It’s completely unrelated to American-style, cucumber-based pickles and is a condiment adopted from India during the British Raj period. The iconic Branston brand is well-known here and in the U.S. market Major Grey’s leads the market. There are several flavor variations, but I opted for the “original” recipe.

The ingredients include Carrot, Rutabaga, Onion, Cauliflower, Sugar, Barley Malt Vinegar, Water, Spirit Vinegar, Tomato Purée, Date Paste (Dates, Rice Flour), Salt, Apple Pulp, Modified Maize Starch, Colour (Sulphite Ammonia Caramel), Onion Powder, Concentrated Lemon Juice, Spices, Colouring Food (Roasted Barley Malt Extract), Herb and Spice Extracts.

The vegetables are cut in fairly large cubes (1/2”) though I understand a “finer grind” is also available.

What’s it taste like? Well, that’s hard to say. It’s savory and sweet, vinegary and tart. Wouldn’t want to eat much of it by itself.

But, in my sandwich, it was pretty good, with the pickle balancing the strong cheese taste nicely. I liked it. I made a second sandwich (just to be sure) and it was good, too.

Bread, cheese, and pickle are all parts of what’s know here as the Ploughman’s Lunch, which conjures up images of hearty farm workers enjoying lunch in Victorian era in the shade of their tractors. Sadly, not. The term was created by a British cheese marketing association in 1957 as part of a program flogged to pubs. The Ploughman’s Lunch is still featured on many pub and restaurant menus here and around the world.

My mother used to serve chutney over a block of cream cheese, with crackers, as a canapé at parties and the taste of pickle brings back those childhood memories.

I don’t think I’d have this sandwich often, its flavors are too strong, but it would be nice for lunch now and then. Why don’t you give it a try?

2 thoughts on “That Most English of Sandwiches

  • Wow, thanks Lee, what a fun post! Years ago my friend Martha D insisted I learn to make chutney as part of a summer of improving my palate and expanding my cooking skills. The old homemade recipes (probably from the NY Times International Cookbook or a Time Life world foods series) were alot of work. I remember being up to my elbows in Mango mush. There was a brand of chutney that came in a little tin called Major Grey’s. It is seemingly still around as a brand but doesn’t look like the stuff I remember ingredient-wise. The ingredients you list in your pub sandwich sound ahem, modernized too. Pat J

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