When it comes to foraging, PLEASE do your homework by consulting experts and guidebooks to make sure you really know what you're picking. There are some resources listed on the right. I'm a hobbyist who is sharing her experiments. I think foraging is amazingly entertaining, and fun, and awesome, but I never pick/eat something I'm not sure of. It's difficult to resist picking something you're almost sure of, but you have to do it. Resist. Take pictures. Pick a sample. Go home and study up. And then if you're sure, go back and harvest. Here are some ethical foraging guidelines.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Best Pickle - Beach Asparagus

I know that's a big claim, but seriously, one of the many many names for beach asparagus is pickleweed (aka samphire, sea beans, sea asparagus, salicornia, glasswort, etc).

Previously I posted about collecting this goodie and a few ways to use this delicious green fresh, but really, just about my favorite thing in the world is pickled beach asparagus.

We tried three methods, one of which is the classic method provided by Mr. Sergei and Ms. April (our beach asparagus gurus), and two that are total experiments.  For all three methods I used the same pickling solution, the variation was in the goodies that we added to the jars.

Pickled Salicornia, Beach Asparagus

Before you begin your pickling, be sure to really give your beach asparagus a good wash.  I soaked mine for a while in the fridge and then lifted it out of the water. Lifting out the beach asparagus is handy since it means that you don't disturb all the sediment that has settled in the bottom of the bowl (like you would if you just poured it out into a colander).

I thought I was being a bit fussy with cleaning, but here you can see how dirty it was.

Salicornia, Beach Asparagus
The dirty soaking water.
As you would any time you're canning in a water bath, make sure you've got all your items lined up and ready to go, jars & rings sanitized, lids soaking, all your tools and all your goodies lined out.

Half of the pickling station.
When you're filling your jars, be sure to really pack down the beach asparagus.  When I did this for the first time last year I was very tender with it, but once I poured the pickling solution in and jarred it, I found that I had left LOADS of space in the jar because the hot process shrinks the beach asparagus a bit.  Get the most out of yours and really press it down.  It helped to go back and repeatedly press more in.

Pickling Solution

6 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup sugar or honey

Results in 7 pint jars worth of pickling solution (for jars stuffed full of beach asparagus).  Bring to brisk simmer, pour over each jar to within 1 inch of top.  Process for 10 minutes.

Now this is essentially a sweet pickling solution, but I decided to go ahead and use it for all three kinds of pickles - both for ease of process and because I knew it wood taste good no matter what.

The Classic (& April's Special Sauce)

Add to each jar:
1 slice onion
1 slice lemon
1/4 tsp pickling spice

Good with everything, but especially great paired with:

April's Special Sauce

1/4 cup mayo or veganaise
2 garlic cloves - minced
1-2 whole canned marinated artichoke hearts - finely chopped
pinch crushed red pepper (optional)

The Spicy

Add to each jar:
1 & 1/2 Serrano pepper - chopped into rounds - seeds in
3 cloves garlic - thinly sliced into rounds
1 pinch red chili flakes
1 pinch black pepper corns

Good and spicy on it's own, nicely spicy when paired with an aged cheddar.

The Asian

Add to each jar:
2 clove garlic - whole but bruised
3 one-inch-long pieces of ginger - peeled
1 two-inch-long piece of lemongrass - peeled and bruised
1 pinch chilli flakes
1 pinch whole mustard

The ginger comes through with a nice snap, if you're not a ginger nut, would still be good with half the amount of ginger. Nice paired with pear or an apple along the lines of a fuji or a pink lady.

All told we came out with 14 pint jars of pickled beach asparagus and we're seriously considering doing another full batch so that we'll have plenty to get us through the winter. That is how good this stuff is. We're feeling the need for 20+ pints of it in our pantry.

I'm also considering some additional experiments since we're still in season. In my last post I mentioned the Turkish process for cooking a more mature plant, but I also just found this post by Hank Shaw regarding dried beach asparagus which he learned about in Kake, Alaska.

Pickled Sea Beans - Recipes, Pairings, & Tips on Punk Domestics

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