The fourth Plumstead Pickle Festival took place on the same first Tuesday of December at the same venue (The Old Mill) but there were a few changes to simplify the process. There was no distinction between pickles and chutneys this year, and only one jar was required per entrant instead of an additional display jar for appearance. This meant anyone with a leftover single jar lurking in the back of the sideboard from a previous year could try their luck with a more mature offering, since chutney benefits from being at least 3 months old before opening.
Each entry was judged on its appearance on the plate and its taste, unlike in previous years when texture and recipe were appraised as well. Bread, butter, cubes of mature Cheddar cheese, paper plates and pens were issued to each table along with the voting slips for appearance, before everyone present was invited to come to the table in an orderly manner and begin sampling. There were 16 anonymous jars identified only by a letter, which meant there were a variety of ways to arrange the samples and number them for tasting.
In another simplification of the voting process there were only up to five marks per category to be awarded by each taster as they wished across up to five chutneys or pickles in any combination of points. Halfway through the evening the results for appearance were announced before the voting slips for taste were sent round. In theory, it might be possible for an entrant to get all their supporters to give their entry 5 points in each category and unduly influence the result, but with well over 60 people in the pub, voting for anonymous jars that doesn’t seem likely. It means the highest scoring recipes really are the people’s favourite – and conversely the least popular are not appreciated which is a bitter pill to swallow as an unsuccessful entrant (hence the hard cheese reference in the title) but I was there on the night, and while not everything I tasted was entirely to my taste, there was nothing too horrible to eat! It was certainly a suitable setting to promote Good Food In Greenwich and The Spiral Garden, the local community garden in Vicarage Park.