Thursday, June 23, 2011

DIY almanac: Harvesting garlic scapes for spicy pickles

It's almost time to harvest garlic...but not quite yet. First off, the garlic's going to try and pop out some flowers. These curly green shoots, known as scapes or ramps, which hide within the garlic greens, are absolutely delicious...kind of like garlicy asparagus. It's beneficial to pluck them because instead of letting them flower and seed into bulbils (tiny, tiny cloves of garlic), picking the scapes will allow the garlic bulb down in the ground to have more energy directed towards its growth, resulting in larger cloves. I think it's far more time efficient to grow garlic from large cloves (which will grow into large heads of garlic in one season) since little bulbils can take years to grow to good size. Anyway, scapes are also too good to miss! If you don't have garlic growing in your yard at the moment you should be able to find these at the farmers market now.

There are a few different ways I like to prepare scapes. First off, they are very good roasted on a cookie sheet with a drizzle of olive oil and sea salt. Mmm...toss some roasted scapes on top of salmon. They are also delicious when chopped up, sauteed and mixed in some mashed potatoes. I'm also experimenting with making spicy scape pickles this year. My recipe is will want to adjust the liquid pickling mix based off of how many scapes and jars you have for canning. Essentially you want to be able to pack the jars and have enough liquid to cover the scapes.

Spicy Scape Pickles

A basket full of scapes
1 quart distilled white vinegar
1 quart of water
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup salt
Dill sprigs (you'll want 1-2 per jar)
Fresh Jalapenos, sliced into circles (2-3 per jar)
1-2 garlic cloves per jar
Optional ingredients: Sliced hot red pepper, mustard seeds, etc.

Wash mason jars and lids in hot, soapy water or run through the dishwasher to sanitize. Prepare canning equipment (fill a stockpot with water and bring to a simmer, keep lids in a saucepan over a simmer, etc). In a large sauce pot, heat vinegar, water, sugar and salt at a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt. Keep hot. Toss jalapenos and garlic cloves into jars, then pack with garlic scapes, leaving about a half inch of room at the top of each jar. Feel free to cut scapes if you'll be able to pack more in. Add dill sprigs to jars. Ladle hot vinegar mix into jars, leaving 1/4-inch head space. Using a non-metallic spatula or spoon, slide down along an inner side of each jar to release any hidden air bubbles. Wipe mouths of jars clean and then fix on their lids. Boil in your hot water bath for up to 15 minutes and then allow jars to rest on the counter until they've sealed. Your pickles will be ready in 4-6 weeks.

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