Sometimes jumping on the bandwagon can be a good thing, especially when it comes to food trends. The National Restaurant Association predicts 2015 will see an even bigger boom in pickling and preserving. And it’s not just those salty dill spears you grew up with. Restaurants are flexing their creativity muscles by giving a little vinegar bath to more unexpected ingredients like flowers and seeds.
It isn’t just for the sake of taste, either. Pickling is a great way to extend the shelf life for just about any type of produce you can think of, and it’s the easiest preservation method to bring to your home kitchen. If it’s in season, you can pickle it. So if you went a tad overboard buying spring goodies, these recipes will help you transform them into great-tasting pickles you can enjoy long after the season passes. Besides, it’s always a good idea to have a rainy-day project for the time of year most associated with umbrellas.
1. Asparagus Pickles
When the asparagus in your fridge starts to look a bit lackluster, a preservation project is definitely in order. These Asparagus Pickles from chef Kay Chun, featured in Food & Wine, get plenty of flavor from dill and some spicy chiles. These are great for snacks, but also make wonderful sandwich stuffers, so make a double batch.
- 2 pounds asparagus, trimmed
- 6 dill sprigs
- ¼ cup kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 12 dried red chiles, such as chiles de arbol
- 12 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
- 2 tablespoons mustard seeds
Directions: Place asparagus and dill into 2 (24-ounce) containers or jars. In a large saucepan, combine the vinegar with 1 quart of water and remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil and summer for 10 minutes, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar. Let stand at room temperature until the brine is lukewarm. Pour over the asparagus, cover, and refrigerate overnight for fresh pickles or 3 days for stronger flavor.
2. Quick Rhubarb Pickles
Tons of people love rhubarb and stock up on tons when it’s available. After a few baked goods and a compote or two, you might find yourself scratching your head about what to do with the rest of it. These Quick Rhubarb Pickles from Everyday with Rachael Ray completely transform the springtime favorite by infusing the tart flavor with ginger, spices, and a bit of sweetness.
- 2 cups cider vinegar
- 1½ cups sugar
- 1½ tablespoons coarse salt
- ½ teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
- 10 whole cloves
- 10 whole black peppercorns
- 1 (1½-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 lemon
- 1 pound fresh rhubarb, cut into ¾-inch pieces
Directions: In a nonreactive medium saucepan, combine the vinegar, salt, mustard seeds, cloves, and peppercorns. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is just dissolved, about 5 minutes. Add the ginger, then use a vegetable peeler to slice strips of zest from the lemon; add to the saucepan. Let liquid cool until room temperature, about 30 minutes.
Divide rhubarb among 3 glass jars. Ladle cooled brine into each. Top with lids and refrigerate for 2 days before eating. Pickles keep for up to 1 month, stored in the refrigerator.
3. Pickled Ramps
Ramps have a long history, but they didn’t really catch on until much more recently. But, boy did they ever. The season’s also really short, so it’s easy to go a bit overboard when you spot them. Be sure to make Saveur’s Pickled Ramps with the abundance of the pungent produce.
Unlike some milder pickled veggies that get most of their flavor from the brine, the potent flavor of these wild leeks actually calms down a bit once soaked in the vinegar solution. Use them anywhere you would use raw onions. They also make a killer salad dressing.
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
- 2 pounds ramps, cleaned, green leaves trimmed to 1 inch past white and red parts
- 1 cup white wine vinegar
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon pink peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon white peppercorns
- ½ teaspoon caraway seeds
- ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 bay leaf
Directions: Bring a 4-quart saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add ramps and cook until crisp-tender, about 30 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer ramps in ice bath. Drain and place in a sterilized 1-quart glass jar with airtight lid.
Combine 1 tablespoon salt, all remaining ingredients, and 1 cup water in a 4-quart saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat; cook, stirring, until sugar is dissolved, about 2 minutes. Pour mixture over ramps and seal jar. Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.
4. Pickled Spring Onions
It’s pretty standard to see pickled onions on everything from sandwiches to tacos, but these Pickled Spring Onions from Serious Eats are a slightly tamer version. They’re perfect for when you want a little bit of tang, but don’t want to eat half a pack of breath mints to combat the aroma.
This recipe includes a classic canning method that’s a little bit more involved than a standard refrigerator pickle. The payoff? Unopened, the jar will last for a year. If you’d rather skip the canning process, cool the pickles before covering and storing in the refrigerator, where they’ll keep for a few weeks.
- 1 bunch spring onions, ½ pound after trimming
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cup water
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- ½ teaspoon celery seed
- ⅛ teaspoon red chile flakes
Directions: Prepare a small boiling water bath canner and one pint jar. Wash and slice onions into thin rounds. In a small pot, combine vinegar, water, sugar, salt, mustard seeds, celery salt, and red chile flakes. Bring to a boil. Once brine boils, add onions. Stir to combine and cook until onions are heated through, 2 to 3 minutes.
Remove pot from heat and transfer into prepared jar. Wipe rim, apply lid and ring, and process in boiling water bath caner for 10 minutes. When time is up, remove jar from canner and let it cool. Check to ensure a good seal once cooled.
Let pickles rest at least 2 days before using. Unopened, pickle will keep for a year stored in a dark, cool place. Keeps in refrigerator for 2 to 3 weeks once opened.
5. Pickled Rainbow Carrots
It’s unlikely you’ll ever see another vegetables as cute as baby carrots with the greens still attached. And these veggies really are baby carrots. Those little nubs found in plastic bags from supermarkets are actually just regular carrots that have been whittled down to a smaller size. So when you see the real deal, stock up.
After the typical crudité platters and roasted veggies start to get old, whip up these Pickled Rainbow Carrots from Tasting Table. Loaded with herbs, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, and a little bit of orange, they’ll be the most flavorful carrots you’ve ever tried. You might never go back to those bagged imposters.
- 1 cup water
- 2 cups distilled white vinegar
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1½ tablespoons salt
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1½ teaspoons coriander
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 thyme sprigs
- Peel of 1 orange
- 1 (2-inch) cinnamon stick
- 1 pound baby rainbow carrots, quartered lengthwise
Directions: In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring water, vinegar, salt, sugar, cumin, mustard seeds, coriander, bay leaf, thyme, and orange peel to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium and continue to simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow mixture to cool for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, using a kitchen torch or gas stove, char outside of cinnamon stick until blackened. Transfer cinnamon stick to pickling liquid. Place carrots in airtight container and pour liquid over. Let cool to room temperature, and then refrigerate for at least 1 day. Pickles will keep for up to 2 weeks.
6. Quick Pickled Strawberries
Give fruit some serious attitude with these Quick Pickled Strawberries from Café Johnsonia. Flavored with white balsamic, vanilla, and rosemary, they’re unlike anything you’ve ever tasted. And they take just minutes to prepare by making a brine and pouring over the sliced berries. Try these on yogurt to give breakfast a wake-up call.
- 1 pound ripe, but firm strawberries
- ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
- ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
- ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons water
- 1 fresh rosemary sprig
- ¼ vanilla bean
Directions: Rinse strawberries well and trim green leaves as well as any bruises. Quarter large berries and halve smaller ones. Place into a sterilized quart canning jar with rosemary and vanilla bean segment.
In a small pan, combine vinegar, sugar, and water. Bring to a boil and pour over strawberries, leaving a bit of room near top. Replace the can lid and ring. Tighten. Let cool to room temperature and chill overnight. Keeps for 2 weeks in refrigerator.
7. Pickled Morels
Though most people think to dry morels, few rely on other preservation methods. That’s too bad, because the earthy flavor of mushrooms stands up to a brine better than most produce. To taste it yourself, make these Pickled Morels from Forager Chef. Make sure to clean the mushrooms well before beginning; pickled dirt doesn’t taste quite as good.
- 10 ounces small, fresh morels
- 4 cups water
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
- Small fresh thyme sprig
- 1 garlic clove, lightly crushed
Directions: Wash and clean morels to remove grit. Bring water, salt, thyme, and garlic to a boil in a small pot. Add morels and cook, about 3 to 4 minutes, until slightly wilted and decreased in size. Add vinegar.
Remove from heat and place morels and liquid into ½-pint canning jars. Process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes. Alternatively, cool to room temperature, pack into jars and store in refrigerator.