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Sharing the joy of fermentation

Social Pickle share their passion for bringing people together to enjoy the positives of foraging, fermenting and cooking.

Social pickle apple kitchen

Social Pickle are all about bringing people together to share the positives of foraging, fermenting and cooking.

The members met as volunteers of the Foodhall project, a community hub and social eating space in Sheffield. Foodhall aims to tackle the issues of food waste and social isolation by using surplus foods to create delicious meals, served in a cafe setting on a contribute-what-you-can basis.

During the pandemic, the project responded to the high levels of food insecurity in Sheffield by creating an emergency parcel delivery service. In the first five months of the pandemic, they fed more than 13,000 people across the city.

We chatted to the collective to learn more about the benefits of building connections through foraging and fermenting.

Why did you decide to start Social Pickle?

During the pandemic, a natural sharing of food tips developed between us and we began to bring in our fermentation babies to share, including kefir grains and kombucha scobys [a ‘symbiotic cultures of bacteria and yeast’]. We realised how keen we were to put our passion into action and Social Pickle was born.

Our aim is to encourage learning and community sharing through the fermentation and preservation of locally foraged foods. This year gave us a bumper year for crops in the UK, especially apples. However, a lot of food went unharvested or unsold due to travel restrictions on seasonal pickers and a lack of flexibility in our food supply chains.

Social Pickle apple cider vinegar

'Apple of My Eye' apple cider vinegar by Social Pickle.

We responded to what was happening around us and used apples to create our very first product, apple cider vinegar. It's now ready for purchase on our website.

What are your top tips for using vinegar in cooking?

You can use vinegar when poaching eggs to help them keep their shape, also as part of an egg replacer in vegan cakes. For example, soy milk, a little oil, a splash of apple cider vinegar and a pinch of bicarbonate.

Vinegar is good to use to get the best flavour from other ingredients, for example elderberries. We’re planning to do some workshops around this. Infusing vinegars is a fantastic way to add more nutrients to your diet whilst also being very tasty.

But really, when you have vinegar this good, we absolutely recommend drinking it. Put two teaspoons in warm water and honey in the morning to wake you up and aid digestion.

If you subscribe to our YouTube channel you will get more excellent tips – and not just for cooking.

Tell us about how you’ll be working with local artists.

There will be an element of collaboration for any Sheffield artist who might want to use these transformed foods as inspiration for image making.

The creative potential certainly won’t be limited to the labels. We made six short video adverts for the vinegar for the launch. The feedback was that these really showed our creative, DIY energy. This is exactly what we want the project to have.

Nothing is too DIY for us. Allowing everyone to creatively express themselves within the project without too much guidance, but with plenty of support, will keep the project fun.

Your foraging workshops sound restorative in these strange times. Why will they be beneficial?

By focusing and starting to both identify and use local wild plants, we begin to see the abundance growing right around us.

If we feel connected to where we’re from and what grows there, we develop a stronger sense of self which is beneficial to mental health. It’s a beautiful, symbiotic relationship that’s been so crucial for us in getting through tough times like the pandemic we are currently in.

We hope, through workshops, will be able to spark some of the joy and healing that we get from nature. Reading books and watching shows is great to start to pique interest. But actually picking, tasting and then transforming these ingredients will be key to our educational approach.

Whether it’s using wild herbs to flavour natural carbonated drinks, or creating sauces, pickles and ferments from seasonal plants, we hope there will be space for all kinds of experimentation and learning.

Sign up to the Social Pickle newsletter for recipes, ways you can get involved and other fun and interesting fermentation news.

Why is it important to make the most of our local and seasonal food?

We’re in the heart of a climate emergency. Recent research has found that food waste has a huge impact on the environment and accounts for around 6% of total global greenhouse gas emissions. In context, that’s about 3 times more the total emissions from aviation.

It’s our responsibility to use every bit of food that we do have here, or that’s in circulation. That’s why organisations like Foodhall and Food Works are so critical in the work they do to intercept food before it gets thrown away. We can utilise these huge gluts to create nutritious healthy and delicious products.

We need to support agriculture that has a regenerative approach to nature and takes soil health seriously. Organic, biodynamic and locally grown produce, away from giant monocultures, is one key way to take such a heavy impact out of our food system. It’s also more resilient to distribution disruption, like we’ve seen last year.

Food is community. When we grow together, cook together, eat together and share together, our communities become stronger and healthier. Above all, this is what we want to promote.

What does the future hold?

Right now we’re a small team of volunteers from Foodhall, who got donated some apples from the Abundance network, and otherwise just foraged and requested from neighbours and parks.

We were lucky enough to get our vinegar stocked in Beanies and Regather, and really love the fact that we can champion local independent business, adding to that fantastic network that already exists in Sheffield.

Some of the team are connected to such groups like the Social Art Network and would love to foster relationships with artists and gallery spaces as much as food and drink spaces.

We already have a list of amazing growing projects, food masters and independent businesses that we’d love to reach out to. Hopefully as the year goes on, those relationships will be easier to form - watch this space!

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