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  • Matt Codd

Pickle Fest 2023: A One-of-a-kind Festival Returning to Sheffield Next Weekend

Sheffield, as we know, has an incredibly unique food scene, a scene that goes hand in hand with the cities many other exports. Of course, the foundations and fame are built on the true nectar of the Gods – Henderson’s Relish, but if you look close enough, you’ll find all sorts of cool and quirky culinary celebrations.

On Saturday 18th November from 3pm one such celebration will be taking place in the 3rd annual Pickle Fest for what is probably the largest celebration of its kind this side of the Pennines.

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 others' wild creations. Sheffield’s community pickle group, Social Pickle, are putting on a smorgasbord of activities and entertainment.

Due to the success of last year, with over 500 attendees, Social Pickle are scaling it up in a bigger more accessible venue, SADACCA’s (Sheffield and District African Caribbean Community Association) G-Mill space. An inclusive and collaborative space at the heart of Sheffield for over 30 years. SADACCA emerged from the West Indies Association in early 1955 and was formally constituted and became as is commonly known throughout the city in 1986. In 2015 the current directors took on the responsibility to gift back SADACCA to the community and save it from closure. Placing the organisation at the heart of the city in terms of its vision for the next 50 years, being fit for purposes for a new and refreshed offer to communities and being the anchor organisation not only for those of African and Caribbean descent but being an inclusive and collaborative space reflected of the communities it serves and future generation of those early pioneers of the city.

Lucy Marriott, Social Pickle co-founder says: “Pickle Fest is such a joy filled occasion, a celebration of all things fermented, pickled, and preserved! It’s always incredible to see how many pickle enthusiasts there are and to bring them together in a chance to share inspiring creations is what pickle fest is all about. The main event of Pickle Fest is, of course, the now world famous (or in Sheffield at least) community-judged pickle competition. The competition is open to all - from people who ferment every day to those who want to try their hand at making and tasting.”

“You can submit homemade preserves into eight categories including: Jams, Chutneys, Pickles, Ferments, Drinks, and vinegars (non-alcoholic please), Hot Sauce, NOT Hot Sauce and Firm Ferments (this might sound weird but think along the lines of cheese and miso). These will be judged by all event attendees so even if people don’t want to compete, their taste buds play a valuable part.”

There will be much more available on the day than just the competition. 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. Fancy getting your hands on some custom Pickle Fest merch? 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 alongside a ‘fermenting thoughts’ area complete with mini-library, chill out zone and pickle-related crafting.

And that’s not all, they will be bringing together a glut of local artists for the evening’s entertainment, consisting of performances by local bands, artists, and DJs with a special guest to announce the champions of Pickle Fest ‘23.

They will be selling a delicious home cooked menu made from donated and surplus food. Alongside an alcoholic bar run by SADACCA, and Social Pickle will be serving up some warming non-alcoholic drinks to keep you toasty.

Food waste is a massive issue. The UK throws away around 9.5 million tonnes of food waste in a single year – even though 8.4 million people in the UK are in food poverty. Not only does learning to preserve our ingredients mean less waste, it’s also an opportunity to heighten our senses and trust in our intuition as to when a product is ready or good to eat, rather than relying on best-before dates and supermarket stickers. It also empowers us to make our own food products out of cheap whole ingredients.

Pickle Fest is hosted by Social Pickle but run 100% by volunteers. Social Pickle aims to bring people together to share the joys of fermenting, pickling, and producing. They use various food preservation techniques to harness the seasons and the surplus of Sheffield, channelling the flavours of this city and sharing it out in jar-sized portions. Foraging for wild ingredients, tapping into allotment networks for leftovers, visiting the city’s local farms to glean excess produce and utilising surplus food from local shops represent some of the socially and environmentally crucial work being done by them. They also run communal workshops where people can experiment in fermentation and preservation, creating space for knowledge shares and a pickling community!

Pickle Fest operates a pay what you can model so no one is turned away through lack of money. 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.

Submissions for the competition opens at 3pm and closes at 5pm so if you are entering, make sure to submit your homemade creations or they won’t cut the mustard. Make sure to make enough, use clean jars and make a note of any allergens. During the submission window there will be sauerkraut making and screen-printing workshops and other activities with food being served from 4-7pm. Tasting and (collective) judging begins at 5pm and ends at 7pm along with live music and DJs running alongside. The people’s pickle champions and runner-ups of each category will be announced at 9pm followed by a final celebration before they put a lid on it at 10pm.

If you’re stuck for things to do on a weekend with the weather taking a turn for the wintery over recent weeks, Pickle Fest offers an incredible experience to all who visit. Learning, tasting, and socialising are all on the menu, making the perfect mix for an autumn day out, and one that won’t be forgotten in a hurry!


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