Guest contributor Erin Hare is an at-home mom living in the central mountain area of Pennsylvania with her husband and three children. When not kid-wrangling or trying to keep the dust bunnies at bay, Erin enjoys DIY projects ranging from food preserving to home renovation construction.
At some point over the past 10 years, I was introduced to the garlic scape, a curly shoot that hard-necked garlic bulbs send up each spring. I’m guessing that Kim O’Donnel (via her former “Might Appetite” chat on washingtonpost.com) first inspired me to seek them out for use in her pesto recipe; these days, I wait for them to emerge in late May to declare that our valley in central Pennsylvania is finally warming up into early summer.
My friend Tina Leitzel shows up at our local farmer’s market in the fall with beautiful braids of garlic, bulbs for eating, cloves for planting and all sorts of other treats from the allium family. Last year as I was purchasing garlic braids to carry me through the winter, I asked her to keep me in mind when “scape season” arrived. I was excited to receive a message from her two weeks ago asking me to meet her at the market, and she passed along two bags overflowing with curling verdant beauties. I had garlic scape pesto on my mind, as well as a new experiment: pickled garlic scapes.
I’ve been tackling preserving projects since last summer, when I’d often have too much bounty from our CSA to consume in a week. Preserving blogger Marissa McClellan introduced me to the idea of small batch canning by repurposing my asparagus steamer to turn out quarter, half and pint jars of jams, relishes and a variety of pickled vegetables. Pickling garlic scapes seemed like a no-brainer and a great way to dust off my burgeoning food preservation skills for the coming canning season. I decided on putting up one pint (I had to save enough scapes for pesto, after all) to test out texture, and found a pickled scape blog post at The Deliberate Agrarian based on the “Dilly Bean” recipe from the Ball Blue Book® Guide to Preserving. I was good to go.
First up, a handful of garlic scapes required a quick rinse and I trimmed them just under the flower heads. Using a clean one pint jar, I roughly measured the length of a garlic scape that would fit inside to where the jar started to curve into the neck, about 4 ½ inches. I cut scape after scape to length (sometimes getting two lengths per scape, reserving all miscellaneous lengths for another recipe) and stuffed them inside the jar until it was full, then removed all of the trimmed scapes to sterilize the jar prior to processing. Meanwhile the stove was going, keeping a very basic vinegar and salt brine hot, and my asparagus steamer was filled and almost ready to boil. I re-stuffed the trimmed garlic scapes along with two split garlic cloves and some dried dill into the hot pint jar, and slowly filled the jar with the brine trying to remove bubbles as I went. I left a ¼-inch head space before adjusting the two-piece cap, popped the pint into my asparagus basket and lowered it into the boiling water for 10 minutes of processing.
The garlic scapes came out of the water bath slightly shriveled and a shade of army green. I’m curious what they’ll taste like in a few weeks when I plan to open them up to serve on a cold pickle-platter at a family reunion. I also hope to reserve a few to dice up into small bits to use like a caper in a cold, roasted red pepper and goat cheese salad. Or maybe they’ll be great in martinis. Or maybe I’ll just eat them right out of the jar, no accompaniment needed. Time and taste buds will tell, but I’m sure that towards the end of next May, I’m going to be eagerly waiting the call from Tina that the garlic scape season is once again upon us.
Pickled Garlic Scapes
Adapted from the “Dilly Beans” recipe from the Ball Blue Book® Guide to Preserving
Makes approximately 1 pint
1 bunch garlic scapes (approximately what you can wrap two hands around, shoots aligned)
2 tablespoons canning & pickling salt
1 cup vinegar (white vinegar or cider vinegar is fine, as long as the acidity is 5 percent)
1 cup water
2 cloves garlic, split
½ teaspoon dried dill
Insert empty jar in a sauce pan and add water until the jar is covered by at least one inch. Remove jar, cover pan and bring up to a boil.
Clean and trim garlic scapes below flower head, cut to 4 ½-inch lengths. Use straightest parts of garlic scape as much as possible, though curved portions are also fine. Pack lengthwise into clean one-pint jar until full. Remove garlic scapes and sterilize jar.
Combine salt, vinegar and water in sauce pot and bring to a boil. Keep hot.
Add dill, split garlic and trimmed garlic scapes to hot jar.
Slowly pour hot liquid into jar, allowing small spaces to fill and air bubbles to rise, leaving ¼-inch head space. Insert a non-metallic flat-edged spatula between the food and the side of the jar to remove air bubbles.
Adjust two-piece cap. Process pint jar for 10 minutes in boiling water.