Indie Oxford Interview: Cranston Pickles
This week we catch up with the fabulous Fiona of Cranston Pickles, as she shares her pickling heritage, life in Oxford and her plans for 2019!
Tell me about yourself and your life in Oxford.
My life in Oxford is quite different to my previous life in London working on Savile Row – possibly the opposite actually!! I am originally born and raised in Oxford, but have been living away for a number of years now. When I am not pickling, I spend my time with pals and family – whether it’s popping in for a cuppa with my grandparents, going for a walk and ending with a pint at the pub or doing a “bring a dish” dinner party with friends.
Can you tell me how you started Cranston Pickles?
It has been on my mind for some time now, and I actually blurted the idea out to a friend over a glass of wine or two. We grabbed some paper and started scribbling my endless ideas down. Next thing I knew I was moving back to Oxford and setting up the business! My grandparents make pickled eggs every Christmas, and they have been a significant part of my life since I can remember! Also, my surname is Cranston, and I have been called Pickles over the years – I think I was born to pickle! We do love a pickle us Cranstons.
How have your trips to Japan influenced your recipes?
My trips to Japan over the years, have expanded my love of pickles and play a huge part in me setting up the business. They have influenced my recipes, mainly in terms of ingredients. Some of the staple ingredients used within Japanese cooking are some of the staple ingredients in my pickles (without me realising half the time), as well as other areas from my street food recipes to my utensils. I have actually been collecting bowls and spoons for years – now they can finally, fulfill their purposes!
How important is local, seasonal produce to you?
It is essential and one of the main principles of Cranston Pickles! Food is so readily available now all year round and I think it loses it’s value somewhat these days. My grandparents talk about what it used to be like and they were limited to what was available locally, as well as the lack of plastic involved. I pickle what is in season and available locally, getting lots of my produce from Sandy Lane Farm, as well as Rectory Farm when it’s open in the summer. Bonners in the Covered Market always lets me know when they have new local & seasonal treats in too. It gives me a seasonal, ever changing pickle menu which makes you appreciate the produce while it’s available more than ever.
Tell me about the sustainability of your packaging.
I have a no single-use plastic policy across the business! Which I am very proud of. I also have a reuse // recycle policy with my jars – so if people return them, I will sterilise and reuse the glass component. I keep all my labelling to a minimum, and the labelling I have is made from recycled materials and is fully recyclable.
What is your favourite part of the production process?
I would have to say, sourcing // finding new seasonal produce to work with and testing out recipes and methods for pickling. I don’t get to do it as much as I would like with the every day running of the business, so I relish the opportunity to when I can! I have been playing around with making Pickled Street food as well, part of which involves using leftover pickle juice – nothing is wasted at Cranston Pickles!
Which part of running your business do you enjoy the most?
I would have to say the best part of running my own business is the freedom, and also the community I have found in doing so. Previously, when I worked in the Fashion Industry there were many frustrating aspects that I did not agree with, to not only my job role, but the industry itself. Now I have the freedom to do things in a sustainable and creative way, that reflect my values.
Tell me about your plans for 2019.
2019 has been pretty full on so far! I have regular markets and am now stocked in a number of lovely local, Independent shops. I have recently purchased my Pickle Van (Patsy), and I have plans to sell Pickled Street Food from her at local events! I am also collaborating with local chefs for Pickled Supperclubs! I want to show people what they can do with pickles – there are so many pickle possibilities! Also if you would like to see me teaching Sean from Countryfile how to pickle eggs in a very windy field, you can watch the Oxfordshire episode on BBC at the moment!
Tell me more about your supper club this week at Hamblin Bread.
Of course!! I have collaborated with a friend Jack Denning who is also an amazing chef, and we are serving an 8 COURSE menu, with pickles incorporated into each course. There will be a spread of pickles and delicious Hamblin bread on the table at all times, and all the ingredients are locally sourced from independent businesses around Oxfordshire. The meat is from Waterperry Farmshop, the Dairy from North Aston Dairy, the Trout from Bibury Trout farm and the veggies from Sandy Lane Farm and Bonners – just to give you an idea!
You will be handed a drink (complete with pickle) on arrival, and beers from Tap Social will be available to purchase throughout the evening. It is a fully fledged pickle party! Grab your ticket for the 8 course Pickle Party at Hamblin Bread on Thursday 28th March!
Lastly, which are your favourite independent businesses in Oxford?
Ooh what a pickle – there are so many!!
I have to say Tap Social! I love what they have done // are doing over there, and there is nothing like it in Oxford – they are also big supporters of my Pickled Eggs which is just a bonus really! I am a big fan of The Oxford Artisan Distillery (TOAD), especially for their markets and events they hold. They are great at celebrating & bringing together small, local businesses. And 2 North Parade is an absolute gem.
We totally love Fiona’s ethos and yummy pickles. Fiona joined us in our Indie Oxford Market Place in The Covered Market at Christmas and was a joy to work with.
We’re so excited about her Pickle Supper Club tomorrow at Hamblin Bread, and can’t wait to try all the imaginative dishes that she and Jack have created. There are still a few tickets left if you would like to join us for this awesome event.