No, like really.
I know. They’re as close to caterpillars all coiled up as I’m comfortable getting.
Good news: They’re not.
Yes was my third reaction, just after no, followed by maybe.
There were fiddlehead ferns. So named because of their resemblance to the curl of a violin’s top.
There was vinegar.
There was pickling spice.
There was sugar.
There were cloves of garlic.
There were baby, glass, bulb-bottomed jars.
There was Brook’s beautiful home.
There was me taking photographs of Brook’s beautiful home.
There was Brook, smiling at me, taking photographs of her beautiful home.
Tellingly, there was champagne.
It comes as a two-for-one deal when you spend sweet time with my friend Jameson.
Oh Jameson, you know how I blush at bubbly.
What I wobbled away with was a renewed love of all things pickled and preserved. Brook showed us just how simple, how straightforward it is to take your favorite fruits and vegetables, and bottle them for days and years ahead.
I mean it when I say, simple.
The ferns- or the cucumbers, the tomatoes, the onions, the anything-you’ll-stare-blankly-at-in-your-vegetable-drawer- they’ll be tangy, supple and soft, positively packed with flavor in a week or two. They’ll be easy to pull from your cupboard once fall comes, winter arrives, snow settles, and you’re so unprepared to go to that market up the street. Just me?
They’ll make every single sandwich special. They’ll play up any plate with bright, crisp, and punchy flavor.
They’ll remind you of a day you spent weeks or months ago, by your onesies or with your friends, when you made your own food from scratch. You’ll think you’re a pioneer. You’ll wear an apron and a bonnet and wonder, if only for a moment, ‘really, how hard could it be to churn butter?’
Like, come on, probably not that hard.
Pickled Fiddlehead Ferns
makes 2 pint-sized jars
1 cup distilled white vinegar
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 garlic clove, sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1 lb fiddlehead ferns
Prepare the fiddleheads: snip their stems close to the curl and rinse away any dirt between the coils. Soak in cool water, swirling occasionally, to remove any more dirt present in the curl.
Combine remaining ingredients, except for fiddleheads, in a medium pot and bring to a boil. Add the fiddleheads and boil gently for 5 minutes. This will soften them and allow them to absorb that pickled flavor.
Strain the fiddleheads and garlic slices but keep the vinegar solution. Pack the fiddleheads into sterilized jars, distribute the garlic evenly, and cover with the vinegar solution leaving ½ inch of room at the top. (To sterilize jars and bands, boil in water for 10 minutes)
Place the lids on the jars and screw on the bands tightly. Place the jars in a pot with a rack and cover with 3 inches of water. Cover the pot and turn up the heat. Bring the water to a boil and boil the jars for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat then remove the jars and allow to cool completely on a towel.
Be sure the jars are properly sealed by pressing their tops. If the raised button on the lid has popped, you’ll know they’re sealed. Store in a cool dark place for up to a year. Refrigerate after opening.