Every week for the past 6 weeks, I’ve put up a small batch of pickles and now I have enough for a crowd. Which is perfect since about 150 people or so will show up for a picnic next week and while I’ll still be sweating the rest of the dishes, the pickles are ready. This has been a good year for small Kirby cucumbers and I took full advantage, since I did not want to hear the whining over a bare pickle pantry sometime in the winter. Last year’s sweet hot pickles were a great hit — chunky, sweet, spicy and peppery — and I made them in volume. (Other than canning tomatoes, tomato sauce and salsa of various kinds, I typically make really small batches of everything – sometimes as few as 2 jars. That way, we have variety and can actually eat all of that preserved produce before the next season arrives.)
I had accumulated about 40 garlic scapes from our CSA the weekend that I was making sliced cucumber pickles with dill, so I decided to pickle them too. Garlic scapes are the curling flower stalks of hardneck garlic plants and are typically cut off so that the plant’s energy is devoted to making a plump bulb. This type of garlic is actually called Rocambole but is nicknamed “serpentine garlic” for obvious reasons. I cut off the scapes of our garden garlic when they were younger than the ones from our CSA, so they were eaten raw or steamed. These needed a more aggressive treatment to tame them.
Simplistically speaking, there are two ways to pickle fruits and vegetables: raw packed with brine poured over them and heated in brine. Brine typically consists of salt and vinegar (and water) but may also contain sugar, herbs and spices. For the sweet-hots, I macerated the cucumbers in salt and ice water before plunging them into hot pickling liquid, which cooks them slightly. Those were packed in jars that were sealed through a water bath canning process. For the dill pickles, I packed them raw into jars with dill and garlic and poured heated brine over the top, waiting until they cooled to refrigerate and let them cure for at least two weeks.
I treated the garlic scapes in the same way as the dill pickles but they were more of a challenge to get into the jars. After trimming the most fibrous cut end, I cut fairly straight pieces from the bottom, sizing them to fit into a 1.5-cup canning jar, leaving 1 inch of headroom. I cut off the blossom end and coiled the rest around the circumference of the jar. Into the center void, I tucked a grape leaf, which helps keep things crisp (you can omit this), the straight pieces of garlic scape and a fresh head of dill flower. Let this cure for a few weeks.
I have started to sample the pickled scapes and think they could be used as a garlicky substitute for capers. More to come.
Pickled Garlic Scapes
Trim the tough ends of the garlic scapes. Cut the straight end into lengths that fit within your jar (about 3 inches). Remove the blossom end and neatly curl the scapes inside the jar. In the center void, place a grape leaf (optional) in the bottom, stack the straight pieces of the scape in the center and push a dill flower head into the top. Make the brine: bring to a boil 4 cups of water, 1 1/3 cup of distilled white vinegar or cider vinegar, and 2 tbsp salt, stirring until the salt dissolves. Fill the jar with the hot brine, poking a chopstick or other narrow implement in the jar to release air bubbles (being careful not to pierce the vegetables). Set the jar aside to cool. Refrigerate tightly sealed. The pickles will start to be ready in about two weeks.