England's Cheese and Pickle Sandwich

Feb 8, 2012 11:31 am

From the country that brought you the sandwich

cheddar cheese
Photo: WordRidden on Flickr
I put ham in my cheese and pickle sandwich. Don't call Scotland Yard.
 

The last time I was in England, I had a sandwich I didn't even know was famous. It just sounded really good: aged or "mature" cheddar, chunky Branston pickle (a very popular spicy-sweet-sour condiment also known as chutney, or simply "pickle," loosely related to sweet pickle relish), and sliced tomato. The cheese and pickle sandwich. A beloved favorite for Brits of all ages, the cheese and pickle fills a lot of niches: cheap, filling, abundant, vegetarian and most importantly, striking the perfect balance of rich and fatty, and crunchy and acidic. 

This sandwich must feature thick, almost steaklike slices of aged cheddar. Cheddar cutlets, if you will. The aging adds tangy sharpness and a more crumbly rather than creamy texture. Then, a thick layer of Branston pickle, made from sweet gherkins, cauliflower, carrots, onions and rutabaga in a thick, sweet sauce which tastes somewhat like ketchup. We definitely don't have an equivalent stateside, but plenty of supermarkets stock the most ubiquitous British foods — malt vinegar, Cadbury's chocolate, tea biscuits and the like — and Branston pickle can often be found. Try the Indian store as a last resort, no joke.  

The cheese and pickle combo is so popular that Walkers, the largest manufacturer of chips/crisps in the UK, briefly released a potato chip flavor in honor of the sandwich. 

It's my belief that the cheese and pickle could easily become the trendiest new thing if some crazy Brooklyn homesteader would just whip up a giant batch of artisanal Branston, invest in a massive wheel of cheese and set up shop at a flea market that's somehow more expensive than regular shopping. Yup, that sounds like a late Sunday morning I could really sink my teeth into. 

And note, not once have I said the word "sarnie." Have some respect for the most proper noun there is. As in "Sandwich Save the Queen." 

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