Sweet Pickling Vinegar

Pickling vinegars can be made in advance and kept until required. Because the fumes of hot vinegar are so pervasive, it is a good idea to make them on a day when you can have all the doors and windows open. Like deep-frying, the aromas and essential oils linger in hair and clothes for days. This sweet pickling vinegar is the one I like to use for small cucumbers, onions and mixed vegetables. For samphire, which has such an elusive flavour, I leave out the ginger, dill and coriander, but keep the ‘sweet spices’.


  • 1 pt / 570 ml vinegar
  • 6 oz / 170 g light muscovado sugar
  • 1 in / 2.5 cm piece of fresh root ginger, peeled
  • 6 cloves
  • piece of cinnamon
  • 6 cardamom pods
  • 12 allspice berries
  • ½ tsp coriander seeds
  • ½ tsp dill seeds


Put ¾ pt / 140 ml vinegar, the sugar and spices in a stainless steel saucepan, bring to the boil, and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat, and stir in the rest of the vinegar. Cool, strain and bottle until required.


For an aromatic pickling vinegar, omit the sugar, and flavour the vinegar with 24 allspice berries, 1 teaspoon each of coriander seeds, cumin seeds, mustard seeds and black peppercorns, 6 cloves, 6 bay leaves and 6 crushed juniper berries. This is very good with walnuts, capers and nasturtium seeds. But as with so many things, this is all a matter of taste.

With both vinegars, spices can be added or left out, as you prefer. Hotter pickles can be made by increasing the amount of pepper, ginger, or mustard seed, and with the addition of dried chillies.