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    Perfectly Pickled Fiddlehead Ferns

     Pickled Fiddlehead Fern Shoots

    Last Saturday, my friend Leslie and I went on a General Foraging walk in the woods, led by "Fat of the Land" author Langdon Cook. It was a lovely sunny day, which added to my desire to spend more time in the lush forests of the Pacific Northwest. The fact that there are so many nutritious things to forage and eat has inspired me to do it earlier in the spring next year, and to plan on doing it more often this year as well. 

    Fresh Lady Fern shoots are small works-of-art

    We tasted plenty of interesting things, including Wood Sorrel, Siberian Miners' Lettuce, and Indian Plum tree leaves. We were too early for most mushrooms, and way too early for berries, but we talked about them, and Leslie & I are already scheduled to go on a Berry Foraging trip with Langdon on Bainbridge Island in July. 

    One thing to keep in mind about foraging is that most plants, like Stinging Nettles, are only "in season" for a short time. At a certain stage of growth, many plants lose their flavor, tenderness, and/or become bitter/toxic. Keeping that in mind, realize you might find certain things growing past their prime, but don't be tempted to pick them unless you know they are "safe".

    As scary as these warnings might sound, do not be afraid of the young Stinging Nettles you find growing early in springtime; once cooked they are completely edible, full of flavor and high in nutrients, including protein.

    Langdon explained to us how to make Stinging Nettle Pesto, which he freezes in ice cube trays so that despite their short season, they can be enjoyed all year 'round.

    "All year 'round". A preserver's anthem. Definitely music to my ears.


    And now back to the ferns...

    Some ferns are toxic so do your homework first!

    Soak fern shoots, then remove brown chaff before cooking or pickling 

    Once cleaned up and trimmed, you can blanch, cook or pickle as desired.

    This foraging thing lends itself very nicely to preserving, or as Langdon appropriately calls it "wild preserving". I couldn't wait to do my own wild preserving, so I jumped in with both feet and pickled some fiddlehead-shaped shoots of Lady ferns. Super fun!

    For my Pickled Fiddlehead Ferns I started with a basic brine: equal parts water & distilled white vinegar -- with a little sugar, a bit of sea salt, mustard seeds, peppercorns and dill seed. Heat the mixture only until it boils, then stir to dissolve the sugar. Keep the brine warm over low heat.

    Then I tightly packed the clean hot jars full of fiddleheads (which I had pre-boiled for 10 minutes, then drained.) I added slivers of fresh garlic to the packed jars, filled them with hot brine, placed a sealing lid & screw-on band on the jars, and processed them in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

    That's it. Pretty simple.

    Now I have a wild & tasty way to garnish salads and antipasto platters, martinis & Bloody Marys. 

    Pickled Fiddleheads taste a bit like pickled asparagus!

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    Reader Comments (8)

    I can't wait to eat mine! (And I know I don't have to wait, as well!) Thanks for hosting. What a great way to spend an afternoon.

    May 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJameson

    Oh how fun... it sounds like a great adventure! Im glad i found you online. I will be looking forward to coming back. It looks like I have so many things to learn from your site.

    May 7, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterskip to malou

    There's just something magical that happens when people spend time preserving together. I know that might sound silly, but it's true.

    These are stunning! I love the idea of using them as a bloody mary garnish.

    A (sort of) related question about wild food pickling... I recently got a big bunch of ramps and would like to pickle the stems. I am imagining that a recipe and method similar to this one would work for ramps too. Is the pre-boiling just for the fern's texture, or is it necessary for preservation? My food instincts tell me to grill the ramps first, but my preserving instincts are not well developed enough to know if this is a good idea. Any thoughts/suggestions would be much appreciated.

    Thanks for the beautiful post!

    May 15, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterrenee

    Hi Renee.

    I just looked at your blog. WOW. Those chocolate baskets? And all the technique photos? Stunning!

    I am jealous that you have ramps. Hard to find here. To answer your question, I boiled the fiddleheads for 10 minutes, then drained them. I have heard that fiddleheads can be bitter, or maybe even a tiny bit -- hate to use this word -- "toxic" if you don't. That being said, I hear plenty of people saute` them, or pickle them, without blanching/boiling first, and they have great results.

    (I think boiling them will also insure they are more tender.)

    I have no experience with pickling ramps, unfortunately, but I think grilling them > then pickling them sounds delicious. My friend bought some ramps at Whole Foods the other day, and grilled them for a dinner party I attended. Prior to dinner, we had discussed pickling them IF we had any leftover. No such luck. We ate every last morsel.

    This whole conversation is making me hungry!

    I would love to hear what you end up doing.

    Have fun. I love wild preserving...can hardly wait for berries to ripen!!!

    May 15, 2011 | Registered CommenterBrook Hurst Stephens

    Hey Renee --

    I just saw this on Twitter. From the Hungry Tigress: Ramp Kim Chi!!!

    (You might need to do a copy & paste on that link -- not sure if it will come through as click-able)

    This recipe looks fantastic!

    May 16, 2011 | Registered CommenterBrook Hurst Stephens

    Ahhhhh ramp kimchi! Too perfect! Now I've got a new plan for the greens...

    I think I'm going to try grilling, though we'll see if the weather cooperates. Either way, pickling is going down tomorrow-- I'll let you know how it goes. Thanks!

    May 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRenee

    Can't wait to hear about it Renee. So glad you like the Kim Chi idea too!

    May 17, 2011 | Registered CommenterBrook Hurst Stephens
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