Spruce Tips Part Three: Pickles

spruce_pickle

Why pickle a spruce tip? I don’t know, why not? After making a pint of ice cream, 3 quarts of syrup (and all the cocktails that followed suit), I still had a lot of buds left over. I thought about making a spruce sugar for curing or a spruce salt for finishing but I knew there was no way I would go through that much of any one spice before it would get stale. So when in doubt, pickle! I’ve read that these guys should be left to ‘cure’ for at least a month before trying. After which I figure they’ll be great on eggs, smoked salmon or to brine a martini. I’ll let you know as soon as I crack a jar.

Pickled Spruce Tips

Ingredients
2 c. cider vinegar (500 ml.)
2 c. water (500 ml.)
1/4 c. kosher salt
1/2 c. + 2 Tb. granulated sugar
1 Tb. juniper berries
1 tsp. fennel seeds
1 tsp. whole black peppercorns
2-3 fresh bay leaves

Method
1. Bring all ingredients to a boil. Return to a simmer and stir until sugar and salt are dissolved. Keep very warm as you prepare your canning station.
2. Pack your jars with spruce tips about 3/4 full.
3. Ladle pickling brine into each jar, making sure to wipe off any liquid on the mouth of the jar.
4. Run a (sterilized) utensil (I like a chopstick), around the inside perimeter of the jar, pressing on the spruce buds, releasing any air bubbles.
5. If you are canning, replace jar lids but do not screw the bands all the way tight.
6. Process in a hot water bath canner, about 10 min. per batch.

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In Season: Not Much. Answer: A Pickle

pickle_shelf1
I work for a small company called Hudson Valley Harvest. We represent about 20 or so small family owned farms that grow sustainable organic veg and raise pastured, grass fed cattle and pigs. When I approach chefs and retail shop buyers, they look at my list and say, “Looks great! Call me in April.” I don’t blame them. My list starts with beets and ends with potatoes. Spring cannot come soon enough! Screw summer tomatoes, I would be happy eating a friggin’ spring onion sandwich at this point.

quickle_liquid
So this post on pickling is not necessarily a call to “preserve the season” so much as it is to resuscitate it.

quickle_prep

Now, you could call this a quickle (a “quick pickle” also known as a “refrigerator pickle.”) I’ve made this recipe before and these carrots, 4 months later are still sittin pretty in a half-gallon mason jar, always available for a salad, a sandwich or a bright pick-me-up snack. But since I was fairly hungover yesterday and had lots of time on my hands, I decided to properly can them so I could add them to my library of jam. But once they’ve been processed (12-15 min. in the canning pot), I guess they’re no longer a quickle. But that doesn’t stop me from saying the word quickle. Because why would you want to?

This recipe is super simple and very adaptable. You could swap out the fennel seeds for dill seed, the black mustard for juniper berries and on and on. I’ve been enjoying them in a kale and fennel salad with parsley and loads of bright goat’s milk feta. Saltie uses them in their clean slate sandwich along with pickled beets, yogurt and bulgur, all rolled up in some grilled perfectly flaky na’an.

pre_quickle

Recipe
(from my brain with a little help from Saltie)

6 medium carrots, peeled
1-1/2 large red onions
2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup kosher salt
1 tb. coriander seeds
1 tb. fennel seeds
1/2 tb. black peppercorns
1/2 tb. black or brown mustard seed
4-5 dried arbol chilies

Makes 2 quarts

Method
Slice the carrots as thinly as possible. I’ve done this with matchsticks, rounds and ribbons.  Any of these shapes work well.

Slice the red onion into half moons. Don’t slice them too thin or they will start to fall apart in the hot pickling liquid. You want your pickles to have some nice crunch.* Set aside your veggies in a large mixing bowl.

In a saucepan, combine the vinegar, water, sugar, salt, spices and chilies. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt. Pour the pickling liquid over the veggies.

For a quickle:
Allow to cool to room temperature and store them in a glass jar.

For a pickle:
Have all of your canning tools ready and sanitized. I like having my canning mise layed out over a tea towel on my kitchen table. Have your jars clean and your (new) lids in a sauce pan of barely simmering water on the side.

With a slotted spoon or tongs, portion out your carrots and onions into each jar, about 3/4 of the way full. Using a canning funnel helps prevent a hot mess.

Ladle remaining pickling liquid (which should still be hot or very warm) into each jar, leaving about 1/4-1/2″ of headspace. Replace the lids, leaving the bands somewhat loose.

Process in a hot water bath 12-15 min. Remove and allow to cool. Test lids. If sealed properly, screw the bands tight and shelve!

*Speaking of crunch, keeping you veggies in an ice bath while preparing your canning station will help preserve their toothsome crunch.