NOW AVAILABLE FOR DELIVERY THROUGHOUT THE UK
NOW AVAILABLE FOR DELIVERY THROUGHOUT THE UK
I’ve been in love with pickled onions since I was a child — I hid massive jars under my bed and ate them before I went to sleep. At family gatherings I’d fill my plate with them and sit in a corner eating, then convince others to pile extra on their plate, all for me. I was constantly looking out for the perfect pickled onion.
When I lived in Japan, I couldn't find anything like an English pickled onion, so I decided to make my own, and hosted pickled onion tasting parties where serious pickled onion fans could indulge their obsession — huge jars would be emptied in one night.
When I returned to the UK after fifteen years in Japan, I shared my little creations with friends and neighbours, who convinced me that they had to be sold. I took a basket of pickled onions into Jesse Smith Butchers in Black Jack Street in Cirencester, and I will never forget the look on the faces of the lovely chaps behind the counter, when they tasted them. They immediately placed an order, and I was in business! That was 2013.
Almost eight years later, I now sell around 30,000 jars per year. I produce more than forty different lines — not just pickles, but also chutneys and jams. I am a regular at Cirencester Markets, and I supply around fifty different independent shops, mainly in The Cotswolds, but some as far north as Cumbria, and as far south as Devon. And Jesse Smith's has since opened a large farm shop on Love Lane, and stocks every single line I make.
Auntie Caroline on her stall at Cirencester Market.
Everything is still homemade, in my actual kitchen in my actual house, in Cirencester. I come up with all my own recipes, which I create with a minimal amount of sugar. I never use pickling vinegar but make my own vinegar blends, many of which are gluten free. I work with local suppliers as much as possible, such as Bramleys Wholesale or Woody's vegetable stall in Cirencester Market. I like collaborating with other local businesses: I make an ale chutney using ale made by Corinium Ales, and I use Old Stag Cider products in lots of the chutneys and jams. My eggs come from a local family farm — free range, of course. Even the fabric I use for making the little fabric tops for the chutneys comes from a local sewing shop, nextdoor to which is the clothing company that provides our customized uniforms. I get my van signwritten by a local firm, and maintained by an independent garage. Even the waste is removed by a local company. Auntie Caroline's truly is a business made in — and from — Cirencester.
My products are made in a kitchen that is full of love and laughter. My boyfriend Matthew helps out when he can (he's as pickle-obsessed as me, and was my customer for two years before he became my boyfriend). And I gave his nephew his first job, when he was just fourteen years old — Jack is now eighteen and still spends his weekends peeling onions with me. Friends and family coming to stay for a few days always end up peeling onions or eggs, or putting labels on jars.
Auntie Caroline (left) with her eldest niece, Megan (middle), and pickling assistant, Jack (right).
The onions and I have been featured in the Wilts and Glos Standard a number of times, and we were even invited to participate in BBC Radio 4’s The Kitchen Cabinet when they visited Cirencester Agricultural College in 2017. Michael Vaughan tasted them as part of the Yorkshire Tea’s Great Cricket Tea Challenge — go to YouTube to see his reaction!
The Swindon Advertiser interviewed me in the kitchen in April 2018 (see image), and a few months later, food critic Danielle from Severn Bites wrote a wonderful article ending with a recipe idea for how to use one of my products.
I've been on Anna King's Brunch Show on BBC Radio Gloucestershire a couple of times: once in the early days with the Pickled Onions, and more recently to talk about the Banging Brussels! It's since become our favourite show — I find all the lovely stories about local people doing wonderful things, rather uplifting! Highly recommended.
Swindon Advertiser, April 24th, 2018
When I'm not pickling, I'm either back in Japan, or writing a book. I spent much of my adult life living in Tokyo, and since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, I have been supporting a remote fishing community that was destroyed. I have raised around £170,000 for them, and voluntarily managed about thirty different projects to help them rebuild. These projects include building children's playgrounds, sponsoring school uniforms, restoring ancient shrines, and, would you believe, establishing a farmers' market. I like to visit Japan for a month every year, which I spend living in the fishing community, helping out where I can, creating new happy memories with my friends there, and enjoying the wonderful food (yes that does include Japanese pickles, too!).
I've written five books — none of which are about pickling, but all of which are related to Japan. My latest book actually mentions Cirencester and also the pickling business, but is focused on my efforts to help the fishing community. It's called "One Month in Tohoku: an Englishwoman's memoir on life after the Japanese tsunami" and is available on Amazon (paperback and Kindle), in bookstores, and from me directly.It recently won an award, which was very exciting!
And I'm a regular public speaker (in-person or via Zoom) on pickling, Japan, the disaster, or my books.
Caroline Pover reading from "One Month in Tohoku" at her book launch in Cirencester, Sept. 2020.