I have a secret for you. Sometimes, making pickles is so easy that it doesn’t even require a recipe. I have two recent examples, that I hope, when shared, will inspire you to leap up from your computer and rush to the kitchen in order to toss something (anything) with a bit of brine and seasoning.
Back in May, a friend gave me a small jar of ramps (very pungent wild onions) for my birthday. I knew that the way to best appreciate the gift was to pickle them. I did a bit of recipe searching, but found that the dominant pickled ramp recipe available online was a sweet one (if this story is sounding familiar to you, it’s because I briefly blogged about my search for a good pickled ramp recipe back in May). I didn’t want to go that way, so I forged a different path.
Knowing that a standard brine calls for half vinegar, half water and whichever spices make your taste buds sing, I mixed up a concoction of apple cider vinegar, water and some pickling spices (I used my standard Penzeys pickling mix, but added a pinch of cayenne to it for a hint of heat). After a month and a half in the fridge (you don’t have to keep them in the fridge that long before eating, 3-4 days would do it, I’ve just got many pickles on my plate), they hit all the right pickly notes and make this girl quite happy indeed.
Last Saturday, while strolling the Rittenhouse Square Farmers Market, I happened upon a stand selling pints of tiny cucumbers that looked like miniature watermelons. I asked the farmer about them (a very nice guy named Don) and he said that they were Mexican Sour Gherkins and encouraged me to taste one. They were bright, tangy and fresh tasting and so I bought two pints for $6 (which was more than I’d ever paid for such a small quantity of something destined for a brine).
When I got them home, I suddenly found myself overwhelmed by kitchen projects. My plan to devise a special brine for these little guys was quickly abandoned. Instead I just rinsed them off and poured them all into the quart jar of leftover brine I had in the fridge. The brine was from my end of season pickled asparagus that I did a few weeks ago (you can find that recipe here). Over the last week in the fridge, their natural tartness has married in a highly delicious way with the brine and I munched a small bowl this afternoon just because I could.
So, next time you find yourself with an unusual ingredient, don’t fret over what to do with it. Pickle it! I’ve got a whole bag of garlic scapes in the fridge right now, awaiting a briny fate.