Judging from the number of emails to hit my inbox in recent days, we have now officially hit that phase of summer during which zucchini growth achieves warp speed. Mild-mannered backyard gardens turn into round-the-clock squash production facilities and if you're not careful to look under every leaf, you'll wake up one morning to a zucchini the size of a baseball bat.
I think it's time to shake off the lowbrow reputation that pickle relish has been saddled with for so long and bring out into the limelight. Since it's essentially a chopped pickle, you can use it anywhere that a bit of sliced or minced dill pickle might go. Spread it on a sandwich, stir it into tuna or chicken salad, or even put it out on a cheese tray along with a dish of tapenade.
Dilly beans are green beans, suspended in a vinegar-based pickling liquid and seasoned simply with garlic, black peppercorns and either dill heads or seeds. Because beans are sturdy little suckers, they retain their crispness through the boiling water bath process. Even months after canning, dilly beans will be crunchy and intensely flavorful.
Each summer, I make a couple small batches of classic bread and butter pickles to eat with tuna salad or tucked into a post-Thanksgiving turkey sandwich (don't knock it, it's a delicious combination). I've been told that bread and butter pickles got their name from the role they played during lean times. Tucked between buttered slices of brown bread, even the smallest sandwich had the ability to satisfy your taste buds and leave you feeling as if you'd had a filling meal.
If you're planning tackling a few pickling recipes this summer for your pantry shelves, it's a good idea to do a little bit of planning now. A little strategic thinking means that you won't find yourself up to your elbows in hot pepper and then realize you're out of jars, lids or the necessary vinegar.
Fermented radishes are crisp, tangy and require just salt, water and sliced radishes to make. Beneficial bacteria transform the sugars and starches in the veg into tart lactic acid, creating a pickle that tastes good and is good for your digestion to boot.
A couple years ago, I finally took the plunge and spiraled a handful of scapes into a jar, added a few spices and vinegar and found that they made a most delightful pickle. In its finished form, it ends up tasting like a wonderfully garlicky dilly bean. If you like the combination of garlic and a snappy pickle, you'll be quite pleased with this one.
One of my favorite springtime moments is when the new onions start appearing at the farmers' markets. And they just happen to make an excellent pickle.
The Hakurei turnip is a small, creamy, white-fleshed turnip that looks more like a radish than it does its larger kin. They can be eaten raw, braised, or pickled.
Fava beans are sweet, tender, and pleasantly starchy. When they're coated with a slick of olive oil, vinegar and garlic bits, the contrast between the sharp dressing and the mild greenness of the beans is really wonderful.
My issue with fresh peas is that they're both labor intensive and, if you're not growing them yourself, quite pricy. And their season is so fleeting. As a preserver, I'm always looking for ways to extend short seasons and make precious ingredients stretch, so I turned my pickling ray on spring peas.
Much like the ramps I wrote about last week, fiddlehead ferns are a fleeting spring delicacy. Found primarily in the wild, they are the fresh growth that appears at the top of a fern frond (only some varieties can be eaten. Make sure to check a reputable foraging guide before picking your own). If left alone, they develop into new leaves for the plant. However, careful foragers can trim a few off each plant during the early stages of their growth for a bright, fresh vegetable.
There are few vegetables whose arrival is more heralded than the ramp. Part of its appeal is in its timing. It appears right at that moment when the overwintered potatoes, apples and squash have become soft, spotty and entirely unappetizing. Ramps are green, fresh and taste like a randy cross between green onions and garlic. Here's how to pickle them so you can preserve their flavor much longer.
Happily, more and more people are re-discovering the many uses for rhubarb beyond pie and jam. I've seen it briefly simmered and served with pork, or cooked and strained into syrups for cocktails. And a few restaurants with motivated pickling programs have started submerging it in jars of flavored vinegars.
I like using frozen artichoke hearts in pasta and will frequently buy them from the grocery store, marinated in flavorful oil. When presented with artichoke dip, I will not say no. And in the springtime, I do love ordering them lightly fried and dressed with lemon juice from an Italian spot in my neighborhood. But despite this lifelong appreciation for the artichoke, it wasn't until recently that I tried to trim a batch and marinate them myself. And like so many things, doing it myself increased my enjoyment many times over.
The finished eggs are bright in both color and flavor. Pickling firms the whites of the hard boiled egg, transforming them into something tangy and substantial. The finished eggs are good eaten on their own, or chopped into a vibrantly colored salad and make a terrific addition to any springtime table.
Though I like them raw or gently sautéed until tender-crisp, one of my favorite things to do to sugarsnaps is to quickly pickle them in a gingery, barely sweetened brine. I make them as a refrigerator pickle so that they keep their crunch and eat them with open-face sandwiches or chopped and tossed with grain salads.
Pickled asparagus is one of the true harbingers of spring. As soon as it appears in your market, cook up a batch.
Carrots also make an incredible preserved pickle. These pickled carrots are based on the classic dilly bean recipe. The carrots are cut into narrow sticks, briefly blanched, then suspended in a simple vinegar pickling solution. They come out tender but with a core that retains some backbone and crispness.
Ready to finally start canning? Here is your primer complete with what you'll need to start canning, the mechanics of canning, troubleshooting when something funky happens, and a little bit of history.
This pickle is inspired by Amanda Hesser's shallot-cassis marmalade. It starts similarly, by deeply caramelizing a mess of chopped shallots in a bit of butter. Once the shallots are sweet and yielding, you add a generous amount of balsamic vinegar and simmer until the vinegar thickens and transforms into a sticky glaze.
It's a quick pickle, meaning it isn't processed in a boiling water bath for shelf stability. The fennel is sliced thinly, tossed with some salt and allowed to sit for an hour or so. This salting step draws out some of the liquid and makes space for the vinegar to enter the fennel. The finished product is half salad, half pickle and all flavorful crunch.
A staple in Moroccan cooking, preserved lemons couldn't be easier to make. At their most elemental, they contain just two ingredients: lemons and salt. Some recipes include spices like cinnamon sticks, peppercorns, or cloves, but I like to stick to simple.
Prunes get a bad rap. Most people think you need an AARP member card to buy them. Thing is, they start out life as plums and are really no different than a raisin is to a grape. Manufacturers like Sunsweet and Sun Maid have been playing this up, rebranding their prune packaging with words "dried plums." Whether you buy into this new branding or not, I firmly believe it's time to start rethinking the prune. One way to start re-imagining the prune is to pickle it.
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