A mustard relish, Lady Ashburnham pickle originated in New Brunswick. It is also called Lady Ashburn or Lady A relish. Whatever you call it, it’s the best mustard pickle that I have ever eaten.
You want large cucumbers, I was told, preferably when they’ve gone yellow. So the good news is that you can leave this until you’ve finished your other pickles. The bad news is that you can leave this until you’ve finished your other pickles. By the time I’ve done bread and butters, dills and relish, I don’t want to see another cucumber! Thankfully, others have more stamina.
I fell in love with Lady Ashburnham relish when I bought a jar from the lady who ran the Cowtown Market on Main Street in Sussex. She had made it, and was surprised that I had never heard of it or of Lady Ashburnham. So she told me about her, then I googled for more.
From My New Brunswick, here is how to make the relish. Equally delicious is the story of the Ashburnhams of Fredericton, which follows here.
Lady Ashburnham Pickle: Ingredients
6 large cucumbers (peeled with seeds removed and chopped into a ¼ to ½ inch dice)
¼ cup [pickling] salt
4 cups onions, chopped fine
2½ cups vinegar
2 cups sugar
3 Tbsps. flour
1 Tbsp. dry mustard
1 Tbsp. turmeric
1 tsp. mustard seed
1 tsp. celery seed
Cut your cucumbers and onions into small pieces and mix together in a large pot; I use a food processor for the onions but cut the cucumber by hand. (I find the cucumbers are much too delicate to chop in a processor and they may very quickly turn to mush).
Add salt to cucumbers and onions, and let sit overnight.
Next day, drain and rinse salt. Add the remaining ingredients.
Cook over low heat for 45 mins, making sure to stir the pickles often.
Carefully pack into hot sterilized jars. Wait for the “pop”, store and enjoy!
Lady Ashburnham of Fredericton
Rye, as she was called, worked as a night telephone operator in Fredericton. Thomas Ashburnham was one of her frequent callers. She’d put him through to the livery stable so he could get a ride home. They began talking more during his calls, eventually met, fell in love and married in June 1903.
Capt. Ashburnham was the 5th son of the Earl of Ashburnham in Sussex, England. Retired from the 7th Queen’s Own Hussars, he emigrated to New Brunswick in 1901.
But in 1913, his eldest brother Bertram died. The 5h Earl had a daughter but his only son died soon after birth. And of his six brothers, only Thomas was still alive. So Thomas found himself the 6th Earl of Ashburnham and Viscount St Asaph.
Finding Freedom, 1914 style
The new earl and countess moved to the family estate in Sussex. It didn’t work out so well. Rye did not feel comfortable with his family. So they did a Harry and Meghan. They soon returned to Fredericton, but they kept the titles. Over the next few years he sold his properties in England and Wales except for Ashburnham Place.
In Fredericton they moved back into their Ashburnham House on Brunswick Ave. It was two houses they had knocked together into one quite grand house. There they entertained. Rye’s younger sister Lucy was their housekeeper. One of her specialties was a mustard pickle. It proved very popular at dinner parties. “I hope Lady A has some of her lovely pickle with dinner tonight,” I imagine was said by more than one guest.
In 1924 Lord and Lady Ashburnham sailed to England for a visit. He caught pneumonia on the way and died soon after their arrival. He is buried at Ashburnham Place. Lady Ashburnham returned to Fredericton.
The Ashburnhams had no children. With no male heirs in the family, the peerages became extinct. The family estate went to his niece Catherine, Bertram’s daughter. She died in 1953, leaving no children, so it passed to her cousin’s son, Rev. John David Bickerstheth. He donated most of it to the Ashburnham Christian Trust.
Lady Ashburnham kept Ashburnham House in Fredericton where she remained until her death in 1938. Her sister Lucy died in 1943 at the age of 79. Titles and houses may be gone, but the pickle remains. A treasured legacy from the Anderson sisters.
There is a lovely painting of the house in Fredericton in its heyday in a book by Fernando Poyatos (Amazon link below).