While Porlandia did a hilariously good job of spoofing the Millennial phenomenon of pickling…everything, when we’re in the season of local produce it’s hard not to want to grab on to it and try to keep it along for a bit longer. Plus pickles are really good. So, what do we pickle that you might not think of?
The first crop we get of the season is ramps. A funny sort of leek-onion-garlic relative, ramps grow wildly all of Illinois and it is believed that Chicago may have actually been names for the smelly plant. Because it’s the first non-greenhouse bit of green we see each year we go a bit giddy. We grill them, put them in sauces and cream cheese, and pickle them to use as relish for our smoked trout cakes.
Sometimes we pickle things that we would have otherwise thrown away (or composted). Such is the case with rainbow chard stems. I’ve always been upset at the fact that so much of the prettiest part of this plant goes uneaten. Pickling softens the stems and when we add them back into our sautéed chard lends a perfect briny, salty bite.
Beyond a Bloody Mary, have you ever had a pickle in a cocktail? Shrubs, vinegar based fruit syrups, are essentially a pickle with fruit. Any fresh fruit can be used from berries to stone fruit to gooseberries. We tend to think shrubs add fruit to cocktails without making them too sweet so we say “add a pickle to that.”
For safety (and, mostly because of bureaucratic red tape) FIG mostly sticks to refrigerator pickles, but you shouldn’t be scared of trying real canning at home. There are plenty of classes on the subject…some of our favorites are held by Peterson Garden Project and Slow Food Chicago.