Though both of these ingredients may be cultivated, they are usually foraged and only available briefly in the spring. Ramps are often called wild leeks and are found in the eastern United States. They can be prepared and eaten any number of ways including raw, grilled, sautéed or pickled. A bit more information on sea beans may be found in a previous post where these were used in a salad.
When I brought the ramps and sea beans home, I didn’t have a specific use in mind. I considered pickling them, but only had enough of each for a single, small jar of pickles – hardly enough to warrant the energy it takes to bring a large pot of water to a boil. Yet, I realized I had a number of other vegetables on hand, and that this was the perfect scenario to set up for a session of small batch pickling.
I don’t engage in marathon canning sessions to put up bushels of vegetables for the winter. After all, this blog is about cooking for one or two. However, I do enjoy having an assortment of pickles in the refrigerator to snack on or set out before a meal. So, in addition to the ramps and sea beans I brought home, I gathered my other vegetables including cauliflower, white asparagus, and small cucumbers.
To begin the process, the vegetables were blanched and a single batch of pickling brine was prepared. Additions were assembled including garlic, dill, oregano, parsley, lemon, shallot, bird’s eye chili, garlic chili sauce, and bay leaves. These were added to the vegetables in small quantities to flavor the finished pickles.
Next came the fun of filling each jar with a combination of what was on the table. A little arranging of the ingredients was done with chopsticks
The pickles made in this small batch session included:
- Ramp bulbs with sea beans
- Cauliflower with prepared garlic chili sauce
- Cauliflower with sea beans, lemon, oregano and bird’s eye chili
- Small cucumbers with lemon, garlic and dill
- White asparagus with lemon, dill, oregano and parsley
Pickling brine consists of water, vinegar, salt, sugar and spices. The type of vinegar used in combination with the ingredients determines the intensity, acidity, sweetness and flavor of the finished pickle. For instance, brine that is not diluted with water or does not include sugar will be harsh and strongly acidic. On the other hand, a large measure of sugar is used to make sweet tasting pickles.
Brine is central to the flavor and intensity of the finished product. The vegetables themselves have different densities and absorption qualities. For these reasons, different vegetables, although canned using the same brine, will have different flavors. Tasting these differences is one aspect of what makes small batch pickling interesting
Pickling, as described here, produces about six jars of vegetables in interesting combinations. Coincidently, six jars is the capacity of my canning rig and six jars will use most of a 2-quart batch of pickling brine.
The recipe below is an approximation of the brine used for this pickling session. Be forewarned. I don’t actually keep track of what is put in pickling brine. A little tasting and adjusting after the brine has cooled is a good idea.
- An assortment of trimmed and blanched vegetables such as ramps, cucumbers, asparagus, carrots, cauliflower, green beans, okra, etc.
- An assortment of additions to the pickles such as garlic cloves, chilies, fresh herbs, lemon, etc.
- 2 quarts of pickling brine
Brine ingredients (fills approximately six jars of pickles)
- 2-1/2 cups water
- 2 cups apple cider or white distilled vinegar
- 1 cup rice wine vinegar
- 1 cup fine sea salt
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 lemon
- Any combination of the spices listed below or substitute a commercially prepared pickling spice
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon cracked black pepper corns
- 1 teaspoon cracked juniper berries
- 1 teaspoon of cardamom seeds
- 1 generous pinch of cumin seed
- 1 generous pinch of fennel seed
- Assemble a sufficient number of canning jars with new bands and lids. Sterilize the jars and lids in boiling water for 5 minutes. Remove to dry.
- Place brine ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat to cool. When cool, taste and adjust the amount of water, vinegar, salt and sugar, as necessary.
- Place a combination of blanched vegetables, additions, and brine to fill each jar leaving 1/2” of headroom. Place the lid on the jar and screw the band down until just finger tight.
- Bring enough water to a boil that will cover the jars by 1”. Add the filled jars to the canning bath using tongs and “process” for 10 minutes.
- Remove the jars and let cool. The lids should pop, indicating a firm seal as the jars cool. When cool, place the jars in the refrigerator or a cool dark place to store. The pickles will be ready in about one week and if properly stored can last for over a year.