Farmers Market Meals: Pickling Spring

This is a guest recipe post by Cuisine en Locale.

With spring in full swing, New England farms and markets will soon be filled with beautiful new produce.  A few special varieties will only show up for a few short weeks and then they’ll disappear until next spring. The local food gurus at Cuisine en Locale think one of the wonderful parts about eating locally is that you get to learn about and enjoy seasonal gems like ramps, green strawberries and fiddleheads. Due to the short availability of these items, we encourage people to pickle these crops and enjoy them throughout the year.

RubyThe word “pickle” describes a sour bath in which one soaks vegetables to preserve them for eating later. This bath includes a high percentage of acid (equal to a pH below 4.6), usually in the form of vinegar, and leans towards tartness in flavor, although in some cases a lot of sugar can be added to make a sweet pickle, like those used for pickle relishes and bread and butter chips. Vinegar pickles, whether cucumber, pepper, carrot or any other vegetable, can be put into sterile jars and sealed by boiling in water to be kept on the shelf before eating, as they have a pH level high enough to keep dangerous bugs at bay. This form of canning is convenient, but the result is not going to be fresh and crunchy, as vinegar pickles are soft. So technically speaking, if there is no vinegar, what you are eating is not a pickle.

Below are three pickle recipes from Cuisine en Locale highlighting a few of spring’s fleeting crops. Enjoy!

Pickled Ramps

Ramps are often described as wild leeks or garlic and are part of the lily family. In structure, they resemble a scallion with their green leaf, slender purple stalk and small white bulb. They are delicious grilled, pureed and, of course, pickled.

1 tablespoon salt
2 pounds ramps, cleaned, green leaves trimmed to 1″ past white and red parts
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup maple sugar
1 cup water
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
1 bay leaf

  • 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, place ramps in an ice bath. Drain and place in a sterilized 1-quart glass jar with airtight lid.
  • Combine salt, vinegar and maple sugar with 1 cup water in a saucepan.
  • Add spices and bring to a boil over medium-high heat; cook, stirring, until sugar is dissolved, about 2 minutes.
  • Pour hot vinegar over ramps to cover.
  • Seal jar and process in boiling water for 10 minutes.
  • Let jar sit until cool.
  • Store in a dark place at least two weeks.

Pickled Green Strawberries
Green strawberries are not to be used in place of their rosy relative the red strawberry, but rather as a replacement for citrus or acidic fruits. Since New England doesn’t produce citrus fruit, Cuisine en Locale is always looking into new ways to achieve some of those recognizable flavors (rhubarb is another one that can act as a lemon substitute and is particularly delicious in salad dressings).

1 pint of green strawberries
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup maple sugar
½ cup water
¼ teaspoon cloves
1 tablespoon ginger slices

  • Combine the vinegar, sugar and water in a saucepan.
  • Bring to a boil until the sugar dissolves, add spices, then allow to cool.
  • Place stemmed green strawberries into a sterilized jar and pour cooled pickling liquid over to cover.
  • Seal jar and process in boiling water for 10 minutes.
  • Let jar sit until cool.
  • Store in a dark place at least 2 weeks

Pickled Fiddleheads
FiddlesFiddleheads are the furled fronds of a young fern that are harvested in early spring. They are high in fiber and iron, and contain beneficial fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-6. They take a bit of time to process, but the final product is well worth the effort.

Preparing the fiddleheads:

  • Boil a pot of water big enough to completely submerge all of your fiddleheads, and prepare a large bowl of ice water to shock them in after.
  • While the water is boiling, rinse the fresh fronds in another bowl of clear water. Swish them around actively to remove the papery covering and any dirt. Repeat this process at least twice, or as many times as it takes to get rid of all of the brown bits. If the ferns are particularly dirty this could take three or four active washings. The brown stuff will sink and the ferns will float, so try to fish them out, leaving the goo behind.
  • Once the water is clear, drain the fiddleheads and trim the base of the stems, where they were cut from the ground.
  • Plunge the cleaned sprouts into the boiling water and blanch for 1 minute, then remove them and immediately submerge them into the ice bath to stop the cooking process.
  • Your fiddleheads are now safe to eat and cook with.

Pickling the fiddleheads:

24 ounces fiddleheads
2 tablespoons salt
3 cups cider vinegar
2 cups maple sugar
¼ teaspoon mustard seeds
¼ teaspoon whole allspice

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
  • Pack blanched fiddleheads into a quart-size jar.
  • Pour vinegar into a small saucepan. Add sugar, mustard seeds, and allspice to vinegar and bring to a boil.
  • Pour vinegar mixture over fiddleheads.
  • Seal jar and process in boiling water for 10 minutes.
  • Let jar sit until cool.
  • Store in a dark place at least 2 weeks.

Thanks Cuisine en Locale for the delicious recipe ideas! Cuisine en Locale’s cooked food shares, which are produced in Union Square at Kitchen Inc. (201 Somerville Ave.), are a great alternative to take-out and are an excellent solution for new parents, busy professionals and slammed students. They are available once a week for pick-up or delivery. You can learn more or place an order by emailing orders@enlocale.com.

P.S. Just a reminder that this is the last week of the Winter Farmers Market. The Union Square Farmers Market starts June 1.

Fiddlehead photos courtesy of Cusine en Locale.

Leave a Reply