Saturday, May 26, 2012

Pickled Garlic Scapes

What a surprise to see the garlic scapes already winding and twisting their way out of the garlic plants yesterday.  They're at least a week if not more ahead, like many plants this year. I think of June as scape month.   Scapes are the garlic plant's flower heads. If they aren't snapped off when they emerge, then the plant will put lots of energy into the scape rather than into the garlic head beneath the ground.

Many folks just snap them off and compost them but they're edible (although Robert has his doubts).  They're not a strong as the garlic clove, but they do have a distinct garlic flavor and can be used anyway you'd use garlic:  saute them and put them in a pasta sauce, chop them and put them in a vinaigrette, add them to soups.  Search for "garlic scape recipes" on-line and you'll find lots of ideas. You can even grill them and eat them like a vegetable.  They're a delicacy!

Since my proclamations have not convinced Robert of their appeal, I decided to experiment by making garlic scape pickles. I figure if they're not good, I haven't lost much.   I hasten to add that this is a tried but not yet TASTED recipe, so I can't vouch for the flavor (or even the texture) of the scape pickles.  I just made them today and they need two weeks to develop.   I don't expect them to be very sweet pickles--in fact, I'm hoping they're more like dilly beans than anything.   I'll report back with tasting reviews once we give them a try.

TASTING UPDATE!  During the spring honey extraction, we tasted the scape pickles, with rave reviews.  They aren't too sweet (or salty)--very much like dilly beans.  Next time, I think I might trim off the fine, dark tips of the scapes, which tend to be a bit chewy when pickled.  This recipe, though, is a keeper!

Here's the recipe:


pack the scapes into the jar
Makes 4 pints (or about 8 1/2 pints)

A big bowl of garlic scapes (about 1 1/2 pounds)
4 cups cider vinegar
2 cups water
4 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons dill seed*
1 1/2  teaspoons black peppercorns*
1 1/2  teaspoons yellow mustard seeds*

*You can use other seasonings--red pepper flakes, fresh basil, oregano, thyme--sky's the limit!

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  Wash mason jars in hot soapy water and place on a cookie sheet.  Put jars in the oven for 30 minutes to sanitize.   Fill a canner with water about 2/3rds of the way full and bring to a boil. This will take about 20-30 minutes, too.

In a large, non-reactive (not aluminum) sauce pan, bring the vinegar, water, salt and honey to a boil and keep hot while you prep the jars with the scapes.

Thoroughly wash the scapes.  Boil some water and pour it over the lids to sterilize and also to ensure that the lids make a good contact with the jar.

Usually when canning, I fill the jars all at once and then cap them, but with these I had to do them one at a time as the scapes kept escaping from the jars.  I used eight 1/2 pint jars, but can appreciate why wide-mouth pints might be easier to work with.

When the jars are ready, place about 1/2 teaspoon of the dill seed, 1/4 teaspoon of peppercorns and mustard seeds in each.  Coil the scapes around the outside, pressing down firmly and then filling the center with scapes that have been cut to the length of the jar.  Pack them as tightly as you can.  Pour the hot brine over the packed scapes, filling to about 1/4 inch from the top.  Place the lid on top of the jar and screw on the band being careful not to screw it on too tightly.  Proceed with the rest of the jars.  Place in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.  Turn off the heat, remove the lid and let sit in the water for another 5 minutes.  Remove the jars to the counter.  Check the seals and store the pickles for two weeks to let the flavors develop.  Store any jars that did not seal in the refrigerator.
Fill with the brine

Jars ready to go in the water bath

boiling water bath for 15 minutes


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