Saturday, November 16, 2013

Pickled Brussels Sprouts and Pantry Envy

If I was upset that the blight spoiled  the garden's tomato crop this year, the Brussels sprouts more than compensated for it by nearly over-achieving. We had a small forest of mini-palm trees growing well into October, though they might have lasted through a couple frosts, if we hadn't been so eager to get "winter-ready."

I've grown to love Brussels sprouts, even though as a kid the mushy, smelly little cabbage heads had no appeal for me. (Little sister Rita, however, has always loved them; I happily gave her my share.)

I thought it was just the fact that my taste had matured that changed my outlook on Brussels sprouts. But I learned that there's a scientific reason that Brussels sprouts have become more fashionable: Breeding research conducted in the Netherlands about 30 years ago resulted in less bitterness and improved health benefits. This led to increased cultivation and a surge in the vegetable's popularity.

If you'd like to read more about Brussels sprouts, try a nice article about Brussels sprouts that called them "The Unexpected Culinary Swan."

Discovering different ways of preparing Brussels sprouts has to account for its increased popularity, too. It used to be that boiling or steaming them was the only way we knew to prepare them. Now, since they are less bitter, sauteing and roasting, even raw in salads, have become increasingly popular, and infinitely tastier, ways of cooking Brussels sprouts. My favorite way to cook sprouts is roasting, although this recipe is darn good.)

Although I love the sprouts fresh, I'm not too fond of them frozen. I did freeze a few quarts  this year, but despite the fact I blanched them briefly, put them in an ice water bath, and drained them well before vacuum sealing them they're just not as good as fresh.

Since I had this bumper crop then, I had to come up with another way to preserve some of this bounty. The answer: Pickling!

My neighbor Dude (Yes, it's the real name of my 70 something neighbor; has been since he was 8 years old!) cans quite a lot. Fresh vegetables, pickled vegetables, soups, stews, just lots of stuff.  I knew he did because we swap garden stories all spring and summer.

But it wasn't until he took me to visit his pantry that I realized just how much he did can. Just take a look at this . . . .

And this . . . .

I always get a sweet sense of satisfaction when I go to my basement and see my little jars of garden treasures, glistening like jewels under the light. But my little store pales by comparison to Dude's mother lode! See why I have a twinge of pantry envy?

Do I dare take a jar of my pickled Brussels sprouts to Dude? Will he laugh?

Pickled Brussels Sprouts
from Edible Wisconsin
makes 3 pints
This is a small batch but worth it. These sprouts have a tang with a hit of hot. A nice addition to a relish tray . . . or maybe a Bloody Mary! they're best used whole, but you can halve large ones.

! 1/2 pounds Brussels, sprouts (about 6 cups)
1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups water
4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon cardamom seeds
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorns
3 garlic cloves, sliced

Sterilize 3 pint-sized canning jars and lids

Bring a large pot of water to boil and blanch Brussels sprouts for about 2 minutes. Immediately drain and submerge in ice water to cool.

Meanwhile, combine vinegar, water, salt and suagr in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.

Turn down heat and boil for about 3 minutes, stirring until salt and saugar are dissolved. Turn off heat.

Drain Brussels sprouts and pack evenly among the three jars. EVenly distibute the spices andgarlic among the jars, too.

Carefully pour the brine in the jars to 1/2 inch below the top of the jars. Screw on lids.

For refrigerator pickles, let cool to room temeprature then put in fridge. Wait a few days before opening (if you can.) Should keep about one month in the fridge.

For canned pickles, process the jars in a boiling hot water bath for 10 minutes. Remove and let cool. Wait a few days before opening. Will keep indefinitely.