The tables at markets may seem like they’re straining under the weight of the season bounty right now, but us Canadians know this feeling is fleeting. Summer is short — that’s why food lovers are preserving anything and everything they can get their hands on right now!
Learning how to jam, pickle, and ferment are useful skills — but the whole process can daunting. Before embarking on my next pickling adventure — I went to our resident canning master, Anna Fischer, for some tips and tricks of making the perfect pickles.
“There’s a tool that people always ask me about — and they’re astounded that it exists. The magnetic wand. It’s a plastic stick with a magnet on the end… it’s also called a lid lifter. It’s magical. It allows you to lift your sterilized jar lids out of the hot water without ever having to touch the seal. It’s amazing. It’s the most simple thing, but it makes your life five bah-jillion times easier!”
Besides that, Anna suggests keeping your brine simple the first few times around. She likes this ratio of sweet, sour and heat for her pickles because it’s feels fool proof — just adjust the birds eye chilies to your liking.
She also says you can pickle just about anything, so long as it’s not too mushy. Obviously, I took this to be a challenge and immediately started researching all the obscure pickles I could to share with you lot.
I challenge you go try one this season — or next! That’s the beauty of pickles after all! Here are some of the weirdest pickled and preserved things I’ve found on menus this season.
Pickled Young Milkweed Pods
Who pickled that: Chef Jason Bangerter, Langdon Hall
You can�t really just throw a milkweed pod in a pan and cook it, especially if it’s mature. Chef Bangerter pickles young pods in a salt brine before adding them to a new potato salad for Langdon’s famed Friday Night Barbeques.
Pickled Beet Stems
Who pickled that: Chef Melissa Blackburn, 1847 Bistro & Wine Bar
Chef Blackburn doesn’t let anything go to waste — she makes pesto from carrot tops and juices from fruit ends. She also pickled the pretty pink beet stems that would otherwise get thrown away. They’re tangy, crunchy and the perfect accompaniment to her silky pork liver pate.
Soy Pickled Radishes
Who pickled that: Chef Ross Midgley, Ravine Vineyard
Chef Midgley tastes pretty, home grown radishes and brines them with soy sauce rather than salt before pickled. The result is a rich, umami laden pickle that you could eat like a meal!
Pickled Watermelon Rinds
Who pickled that: Chef Nick Benninger, Taco Farm
What might seem like waste to some becomes a tangy taco topping to others. Chef Benninger slices the rinds thinly and pickles them with Mexican spices and Soiled Reputation chilies to take his tacos up a notch.
Beet Pickled Eggs
Who Pickled that: Chef Tom Wade, Farmhouse Tavern
When you order the charcuterie at Farmhouse Tavern, it may look like the Easter Bunny just ran across your plate, but don’t be fooled. Those are semi-soft duck eggs pickled with beet juice to give them a tangy taste and florescent hue.
Diving into the pickle jar had me thinking of other ways to preserve Ontario seasonal specialties at home. Chefs across the province are making syrups with fruits and flowers, they’re jamming herbs and berries… they’re even drying greens and fermenting vegetables, all in the name of local food.
If you want to follow in their footsteps, check out some of our favorite preserving recipes from over the years:
- Bread & Butter Zucchini Pickles
- One Tough Cookie’s Ramped Up Pesto
- Savoury Plum Relish
- Classic Dill Pickles
- Chloe’s Strawberry Preserves
- Homegrown Chili & Garlic Oil
- Julia’s Caesar Beans
So next time y’all come across a crate of peaches or a bushel of carrots, consider pickling them. It’s a fun way to spend an afternoon and a great way to get a taste of summer when it’s long gone!