ash key pickle

Pick the very young green ‘keys’ of the common Ash tree. The old saying goes “if you notice the Ash Keys…then its too late” – basically they get too fibrous and stringy. This recipe is over 300 years old and is a great alternative to capers and goes well with some after dinner cheese. Take your pick on the pickling spices (or what you have in the cupboard) – the basic premise is sour (vinegar), salt, sweet (sugar), piquancy (peppercorns or chilli) and warm spices. make now and leave to mature and soften for at least 12 weeks.


  • half pint of Ash Keys (no stalks)
  • 1 stick of cinammon
  • 1 tsp  cloves
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 8-12 peppercorns
  • 8-12 coriander seeds
  • 8-12 mustard seeds
  • 1 dried birds eye chilli
  • 4-5 bay leaves
  • 3-4 tbsp brown sugar
  • half pint of cider vinegar


  1. Put the spices, salt and sugar into a saucepan (stainless steel) and add the vinegar and bring slowly to the boil.
  2. Simmer for 5 minutes, then leave to cool and infuse for a few hours.
  3. Wash Ash Keys
  4. Place in a pan covered with cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  5. Strain off water
  6. Add some fresh water, bring back to boil and simmer for 5 minutes.
  7. Drain off the water well until partly dry and then pack into warm dry jars. Allow an inch of space at top of jar.
  8. Strain the spicy vinegar liquid and pour over the Ash Keys right to the brim. Drop a few peppercorns in and if you have, some mustard seed.
  9. Screw on the tops
  10. Store for 3 months to let the pickle ‘mature’.


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