These Sweet Mustard Pickles are an incredibly accurate replica of a retail-available East Coast Canadian Favourite... "Obsession", even!
Originally posted March 17, 2021, Updated on 5/14/2023.
It’s a recipe that I find SO violently offensive, I gag at the photos we took of it. I’m not even exaggerating.
Now, I am not a picky eater, and my tastebuds don’t offend easily.
I love haggis!
I routinely cook with chicken livers or hearts!
Also, I make amazing chicken stock with chicken feet (I don’t let hubby see them, as HE gets grossed out!).
Instant gag reflex.
I have to ask “sweet or not?” whenever I order a burger, a sneak-sweet-pickling will end badly. (Why do they often try to sneak bread and butter pickles in there??!)
Just an instant reject, before I even have a chance to realize what happened!
... and that goes at LEAST double for sweet mustard pickles... which are in a thick, starchy sauce.
Newfoundland Mustard Pickles
When I was living in Newfoundland, sweet mustard pickles were a BIG DEAL.
They were everywhere, and seemed to be served with everything. Jigg’s dinner, moose, rabbit, burgers, etc.
Newfoundlanders are SERIOUS about their mustard pickles.
Similar to a British piccalilli, these crunchy pickles are made up of a few different veggies, encased in a tangy brine.
In 2016, the main brand available on the island was discontinued, and people lost their minds.
It was referred to as "the great pickle crisis" - people rushed to grocers and bought up all they had.
Social media was flooded with photos of empty store shelves, there were mustard pickle scalpers - no, I’m not making this up! - and more.
As you may know, More Than Poutine: Favourite Foods from my Home and Native Land was written while I was living in the US, and was partially intended as a love letter not only to my country, but specifically to expats.
I knew how hard it was to access some Canadian favourites, and I knew how soul-lifting that access to those comfort foods could be, when living away.
... and I knew how much East Coasters loved these pickles.
The Mustard Pickle Recipe Development Adventure
My ability to replicate by taste came in handy when writing More Than Poutine, and the development of most of the book was an absolute pleasure.
Let me tell you... cloning something that you can't even keep in your mouth due to reflexes is an *adventure*!
There were tears, LOL.
It was the first and only time I’ve ever had to reproduce a food that I can’t stand. I remember sitting at my desk with a bottle of the source material, messaging a friend for the fortitude to just OPEN the jar.
I’d been stalling on working on that recipe, but had one of my problem-solving dreams (nightmare?) the night before, wherein I figured out how I would replicate the texture (*hurk*) and all.
... I woke up thinking I had the taste in my mouth. UGH. It was obviously time to just do it.
There were tears involved - Autistic food aversion is a big deal! - but in the end, I nailed it... and made some local Newfoundlander friends VERY happy.
She declared herself willing to take any and all future jars of sweet mustard pickles off my hands, right on the spot!
No matter my own personal feelings on these pickles, I always love helping people access the comfort foods they love, like this.
I hope this hasn’t come off like “Yucking someone else’s yum”, I just find the whole experience to have been hilarious!
Homemade Sweet Mustard Pickle Ingreditents
I designed this recipe to be very similar to that original mustard pickle, the one that was involved in the Great Pickle Crisis.
The ingredients are simple ones - and most should be easy to find in any grocery store.
That said, they’re *specific* ingredients - for the most accurate finished product, try not to stray too far from the recipe!
A few notes for you:
This recipe uses 3 types of fresh vegetables: Cauliflower, Cucumbers, and Pearl Onions.
Use a head of fresh cauliflower, NOT frozen florets.
When it comes to the pearl onions, you also want to use fresh pearl onions, rather than anything in a can. Canned won’t have the right texture in this recipe.
As far as the cucumbers go, I recommend using actual pickling cucumbers, rather than garden or English cucumbers. They just have the best taste, texture, and size for this.
I like to buy them in farmers markets in the late summer.
Note:I’ve been informed that the onions - or cauliflower - are “THE BEST” part of these pickles... though the opinion obviously varies based on who’s giving it!
If you really love your onions or cauliflower in this, feel free to tinker with the ratios of the veggies - just aim for approximately the same final volume!
Old family recipes for homemade mustard pickles generally use all purpose flour, whereas the store-bought source material uses corn starch.
Neither is actually recommended for home canning, for various reasons - both safety reasons and performance.
So, I used a product called "Clear Jel", as I don't want anyone getting botulism!
It’s a type of specially refined corn starch, specifically designed for this purpose.
Rounding out this recipe, you will need:
... I just don’t have anything to add, for these last few items!
In addition to the pots and general canning equipment you’ll need, there’s one piece of equipment that you may want to consider having.
For the MOST authentic sweet mustard pickles, you'll want to use a wavy cutter for slicing the cucumbers.
Mine was part of a ~15 year old food garnishing set, but there are a lot of options out there.
More Pickling and Canning Recipes
Looking for more canned preservation recipes? Here you go!
Chow Chow Relish
Homemade Dill Pickles
Roasted Corn Salsa
Pickled Carrots, 2 Ways
Hoppy Dill Pickle Relish
Hoppy IPA Pickles
Mixed Root Vegetable Pickles
Roasted Corn Salsa Verde
Sweet Corn Relish
Roasted Salsa Verde
This recipe is one of many fantastic Canadian recipes in my cookbook, "More Than Poutine: Favourite Foods from my Home and Native Land”. "More than Poutine" is a Canadian cookbook like no other - written by a Canadian living away, it includes both traditional home cooking recipes, as well as accurate homemade versions of many of the snacks, sauces, convenience foods, and other food items that are hard to come by outside of Canada! Order your copy through Amazon, or through any major bookseller!
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Finally, if you love this recipe, please consider leaving a star rating and/or a comment below, and maybe even sharing this post on social media!
Anyway, after that *glowing* review of mine... let’s get to that Sweet Mustard Pickles recipe, eh?
Just, you know, fair warning: If you're not into sweet pickles, steer clear of this recipe!
Sweet Mustard Pickles Recipe - Newfoundland Style!
- Cheesecloth, twine
- Clean, sterilized canning jars and rings
- New, never-used, sterilized canning lids
- Canning funnel
- LARGE pot to process them in
- Jar Lifter, Canning Funnel
- Wash cauliflower, cucumber, and onions in cold water, then drain vegetables well.
- Cut cauliflower into bite sized florets, peel the cocktail onions, and slice cucumbers into ¾-1" thick slices. If you have a wavy slicer, feel free to use that for authenticity! Place all of the vegetables into a large bowl.
- Fill your LARGE pot - or hot water bath canner - with at least 6" of water - you’ll need enough water to cover the jars - put on medium or high heat to bring it to a boil as you prepare your brine.
- In another pot (NOT the large canning pot!), combine vinegar, water, and dry ingredients (sugar, salt, mustard powder, and turmeric). Bring to a boil, stirring well to dissolve the salt.
- As brine is coming to a boil, cut two large squares from the cheesecloth, stack on top of each other.
- Measure the pickling spice into the center of the cheesecloth, draw edges of cloth in to enclose the spices, tie into a tight little package with the twine.
- Once brine comes to a boil, add spice package and boil at a low boil for 10-15 minutes, to taste.
- Once it tastes right to you, remove the spice packet. Add vegetables, stir well, and boil for 10 minutes.
- Remove a little of the brine, mix Clear Jel into it until smooth. Add a little bit more brine if necessary to get it to a pourable consistency, add it all back into the pot and stir well. Bring to a full boil for 5 more minutes.
- After 5 minutes, turn the heat off.
- Use a sterilized canning funnel and sterilized ladle to scoop hot pickles and sauce into sterilized canning jars, leaving about ½" head space.
- Wipe off the top edges of the glass jars with a clean, wet towel, top each with a new, sterilized lid, and carefully screw on a clean lid ring. I like to use a kitchen towel for this, the jars are HOT!
- Carefully place your jars of pickles into the boiling water pot, allow to process pints for 15 minutes. CAREFULLY remove the hot jars, allow to cool overnight at room temperature.
- The next day, check to make sure that all of the jars achieved a proper seal – try to push down in the middle of each lid. If it “pops”, it did not seal.
- Any jars that didn’t seal should be put in the fridge and used in the next few weeks - refrigerator pickles.
- Properly sealed pickles are safe for long-term storage, outside of the fridge. Store in a cool, dark area (ideally) for up to 1 year, chill well before eating.