Ramps (wild leeks) and fiddleheads are just two of the great foraged foods to pickle in spring. Whether you use a quick pickle method or pickling for long-tern storage, here are a few tips for wild pickling.
The beautiful wild leeks lie at the bottom of the deciduous forests. Both the leaves and bulbs are edible. They are wonderful to use in cooking as a sauté, in a soup, as a pesto or pickled. As wild leeks are being over-harvested in many areas, my policy is to take a minimalist approach – pick sparingly and never take more than a 1/6th of a clump. For pickling, because I generally have a small amount, I will do a quick pickle using only the bulbs. I use the greens to make and freeze a wild leek pesto.
Quick Pickled Wild Leeks (Test Kitchens of America)
Clean and trim wild leeks saving leaves for another purpose. Prepare a brine of 1.5 cups vinegar (any kind as long as it’s 5%), 1.5 cups water, 3 TBLS sugar, 2.5 tsp pickling salt and herbs or aromatics of your choice. Mix and bring to a boil. Put leeks tightly into clean, hot jars. Ladle brine over top. Leave a ¼ inch headspace. Clean rims and let jars cool on the counter. Once cool, put lids and rings on, label and refrigerate. Leeks will last, refrigerated, for 3 to 4 weeks. PS: If you have excess brine, you can pickle other vegetables!
While fiddleheads can be foraged, they are readily available in markets and grocery stores at this time of year. If you forage, check with a reputable foraging site to properly identify the Ostrich fern which is the only edible variety of ferns. Many ferns are toxic so identifying the right ones is critical. Fiddleheads are a bit “fiddley” when it comes to preparation, but the process is important to make them safe for consumption. They should be soaked in water, scrubbed to remove the papery film, and rinsed several times. They should be steamed for 10-12 minutes or boiled for 15minutes. Now they are ready for cooking or pickling.
Dilly Fiddleheads (University of Maine Extension)
- 3 lbs raw, trimmed and cleaned fiddleheads
- 8 cups cider or white vinegar (5%)
- ½ cup pickling salt
- 1 tsp dill seed per jar
- 1 clove peeled garlic per jar
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes per jar (optional)
Clean and prepare fiddleheads as described. Make the brine: Add vinegar and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Pack fiddleheads in clean, hot jars. Ladle in the brine to ½ inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace again. Clean rims and place lids and rings on to finger-tip tight. Process in a water-bath or atmospheric steam canner for 15 minutes adjusting for altitude. When complete, let rest for 5 minutes before removing from canner.