Another great day foraging in Cornwall…
…has left me with a wide array of local, extremely seasonable greens that I can’t eat enough of fast enough! The alliums are sprouting and flowering at the moment, and the Alexanders are at their peak.
Trying out a pickle on the tricornered leek buds and bulbs, and the Alexanders stems to eat after their growing season is over for this spring.
For pickling the tri-cornered leeks, bulbs and Alexander stems I used a previous hot pickle recipe that worked well.
Hot vinegar recipe
1.25L apple cider vinegar
1 tsp peppercorns
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
2 bay leaves
…with a few small changes this time around; the addition of a teaspoon of each of fennel seeds, coriander seeds and cumin seeds, and two finely chopped onions. I added the spices to the pot, and heated up the pan to begin releasing the flavours. After a few minutes, I put the vinegar in the saucepan with the spices and let the mixture start to simmer.
After the vinegar started to simmer, I added the buds, took the mix off the heat and poured this into the sterilised jars. To pickle the leek bulbs, I repeated this process again, but instead of adding the bulbs to the vinegar, I stuffed the long leek bulbs vertically into the sterilised jars, and poured the hot vinegar over them.
Preparing Alexanders for pickling
Pickled Alexanders used a bit of a different technique, the tough nature of their stems means more preparation was required to get these ready to pickle.
After taking off the leaves and smallest stems, first job is to use a knife to first strip off the outer layer of shiny green bark, then using the peeler to remove the fibrous layer underneath.
I spread a layer of salt on the bottom of a large bowl, and laid down the tubes evenly on the salt. Then I spread another layer of salt on the top to cure the Alexanders in the fridge over the next 4-6 hours.
After this time, the Alexanders are cured and much softer than when they went in the bowl. The bowl is also full of liquid expressed during the curing process so I rinsed off any remaining salt and brine, and dried the Alexanders with a paper towel.
I sliced up the tubes, roughly 1cm thick, and like the flower buds, when the vinegar mix was simmering on the stove I added the Alexanders and then immediately took the vinegar mix off the heat. I also put a couple of sprigs of fennel in the bottom of the jars, and after the mixture was poured into the jar (headspace of about 1cm), an extra sprig of fennel on the top of the mix.
Seal well and leave all these pickles for about a fortnight to mature and absorb all the flavours. The buds should stay crunchy and onion-flavoured, while taking on the tartness and salt of the vinegar.
Caroline at Fat Hen Cookery School has been a marvellous host and a fantastic resource for learning about many more aspects of foraging. She’s also been teaching me a lot about how to forage for (and prepare) seaweed too!