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A Magazine for Sheffield

"A collaboration between humans, plants, yeast and bacteria"

Social Pickle tell us more about the positive power of social fermenting and pickling and how it can help preserve the best of season, ahead of Pickle Fest 2023 later this month.

Social Pickle community
Social Pickle

We caught up with Lucy Marriott from Social Pickle to find out why bringing people together to share fermentation and pickling skills helps improve food sustainability and our creative culinary skills. The team also told us more about the annual Pickle Fest, coming soon on Saturday 18th November.

What is unique about Social Pickle and how did you get started?

Social Pickle brings people together to share the joys of foraging, preserving, pickling and fermenting food. Following the seasons and the surplus of Sheffield, we channel the flavours of the city and share it out in jar-sized portions.

We explore food preservation as a collaboration between humans, plants, yeast and bacteria to create better access to nutritious, sustainable food.

We started three years ago as a group of volunteers at Foodhall, a community venue which has sadly closed down. Whilst cooking at Foodhall, we often shared fermentation recipes we were trying out at home and thought: why don’t we do this collectively?

This collective sharing of recipes and knowledge runs throughout all our projects. This includes our annual Pickle Fest, where everyone has the opportunity to submit their homemade creations into a community-judged competition.

As well as Pickle Fest we run regular sessions for community groups in Sheffield alongside our Glut Clubs. These continue to bring people together to share knowledge and process seasonal gluts.

How can working together as a food community make a difference in Sheffield?

We want to improve and champion a local, sustainable food system for Sheffield, tapping into networks that already exist across the city. Keeping things local allows people to connect to their environment, community and local food histories.

Our aim is to empower people by giving them the knowledge and skills to make choices outside of the supermarket system, where often we have no idea of where our food is grown or how it reaches us. By learning more about how food is made and grown locally, it shines a light on what these corporations try to make invisible and frees us from reliance on them.

Almost all the food we use is local – for example, from the growers at Sheffield Organic Growers, Moss Valley Market Garden and Beanies farm. This is really important as it’s responding to seasonal gluts without having to travel far to access them.

Pickling carrots
Social Pickle

What exciting things have you been fermenting recently?

Every autumn we use the abundance of apples growing around the city to make apple cider vinegar. We then use this in our pickles, chutneys and sauces all year round. We have also had lots of cabbage, carrots and kohlrabi from the farms that we’ve turned into a kimchi and a classic sauerkraut.

All of these will be available at our market stall at Pickle Fest this year, where we operate a pay what you can model, asking for donations towards the project in exchange for a delicious pickle or ferment!

What do people who get involved with Social Pickle take away from the experience?

Here’s a few examples of the lovely feedback we have had from our Glut clubs:

I love to see so many people come together sharing their own, homemade pickled, fermented and preserved creations! Sometimes preserving can sound a bit strange or even pretentious, but people coming together at Pickle Fest quickly shows that it’s a simple, fun and sustainable way to share food.

Alex, Pickle Fest volunteer

I came to SP [Social Pickle] because the extent of food waste is criminal, community is lacking, and people don't know how to make nutritious and tasty food. Social Pickle addresses all these things at once.

Ciarán, Glut Club member

Can you share why pickling is something we should try and any pickling advice for newbies?

We often see bacteria as something harmful and scary but with food fermentation, when we create the right environment in a jar, we allow all the good bacteria to do its work, transforming the vegetables into super nutritious ferments, which in turn feed our gut health.

My advice would be to trust your gut! We are built to know when something is rotten and bad for us, so I would say experiment, play and trust your senses. Once you start, you realise how simple it can be and how many different ways there are to preserve your food.

On to Pickle Fest – what can people expect and get involved in on 18th November?

Pickle Fest is an event for people to try their hand at food preservation and share their creations with the community, as well as taste wild creations by others.

Due to the success of last year we will be hosting the festival at a bigger more accessible venue, SADACCA’s G-Mill space. We will be kicking off at 3pm and running on until 10pm.

The main event of Pickle Fest is, of course, the now world-famous – or Sheffield-famous, at least – community-judged pickle competition. The competition is open to all, from people who ferment everyday to those who want to try their hand at making and tasting.

If you are new to the world of preserving food, there’s a communal drop-in sauerkraut making workshop run by seasoned facilitators and picklers. There’s DIY screen printing, so don’t forget to bring your old t-shirts and tea towels. Social Pickle are also running their own market stall, where you’ll be able to buy some of their latest creations.

They will also bring together a glut of local artists for the evening's entertainment, with performances by local bands, artists and DJs and a special guest to announce the champions of Pickle Fest ‘23.

Pickle Fest is hosted by Social Pickle but run 100% by volunteers. They operate a pay what you can model, so no one is turned away through lack of funds. The event cannot run without donations, so suggested donation for entry is £5 waged or £3 unwaged. Any funds left over will go straight to Social Pickle to support the work they do in and around Sheffield.

Access information

SADACCA's G-Mill space is accessible for wheelchair users. There is a disabled toilet that can be opened by request in a seperate part of the building which involves going outside.

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