Wednesday, May 23, 2012
A Bit of a Pickle
Just a bit, nothing too strenuous. This is how I like to can, a couple pints, half-pints here and there, and by the end of the summer I usually have a good assortment. Pickles are amusements; they should be as enjoyable to make as they are to eat (that's right, like Jiffy Pop). I did two half-pints of ramp bulbs today, and a pint each of asparagus and rhubarb. The ramps will be garnish for Ramp-A-Tinis (a wild Gibson), and will be chopped to make pickled ramp ranch (originally a David Chang concept, which I adapted into a rhubarb ramp ranch inspired by Tory Miller's Madison restaurant Graze; I offer this in full disclosure, as I've been spouting off about bloggers adapting recipes on another site recently) .
But let's get on with it, or I'll spend more time describing the pickles than it took to make them. The asparagus is also an excellent cocktail garnish (vodka martini, bloody mary), and will certainly be welcome on a Thanksgiving relish tray. The rhubarb--who knows. I had a bit of brine leftover, we have this giant rhubarb patch, it seemed worth a try.
2 cups water
1 cup cider or rice wine vinegar
3/4 cup sugar
Scant 2 tablespoons salt
3 whole cloves
2 small dried red chilies, seeds removed (or leave them in if you like it really hot)
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
Combine all in a non-reactive saucepan and bring to a boil. My method tends to vary, but what I did today was to add the ramp bulbs as the brine came to a boil, and blanch them for a couple of minutes. Then I turned the heat off, added the asparagus, and left it for just a minute. Prior to the blanching I had trimmed the pieces so they would fit their respective jars, half pint size for the ramps, pint for the asparagus.
For the rhubarb, I set the cut-to-length pieces flat side down and halved them the long way, to allow the brine quicker and fuller access. I'll let you know how it turns out.
Don't let pickling intimidate you, it needn't be daunting. I don't bother to process these kinds of pickles, usually; I just pop them in the fridge and check back in a week or two to see how they're coming along. Small batch pickling is, literally, no sweat.
Text and photos copyright 2012 by Brett Laidlaw