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.


  1. I have grown up emotionally scarred, having to suffer through a helping of the mushy little cabbage heads every xmas. I am learning to like them, al dente, with a little honey or sugar to help them along, but pickled brussels, Rosemary, now you're talking! These will be the surprise nibble to hand around with drinks. Love it. You can tell Dude, that you added an Irish friend to those suffering a severe case of pantry envy. Isn't his store like a treasure trove! All those beautiful, colourful jars just waiting to be explored!

  2. Dude's face will light up when I tell him he has another fan, Hester! And I'm hoping I get a great reaction when I share these at Thanksgiving.

  3. Wow, that is some serious canning. An entire room is needed. I would never think to can brussel sprouts, but I do love everything pickled.

    1. It wasn't until my sister-in-law spied them on a buffet that I got the idea to pickle my over supply of Brussels sprouts, Val. But I think it's a great idea.

  4. Love the pickled brussels sprouts but now I have pantry envy too looking at those pictures!
    Mary x

    1. I was awestruck, Mary, when he gave me a tour. I didn't take pictures of his two chest freezers -- full of beef (his own), walleye and salmon (he caught) and chickens (yes, again.) Talk about local! Dude doesn't have to go more than 200 yards!

  5. Your brussel sprouts look fantastic my friend :D
    Perfect canning!


    1. If you like a little tart, hot something, they're great . . . and great practice for my growing canning prowess,Guru Uru!

  6. Wow! Dude has got it going on ;) I hope we can one day have pantry even a fraction of that!

    1. He's quite the Dude . . . and really quite so humble "showing off" his goods. Amazing to think a 77 year old widower does this, isn't it?

  7. What a great and creative idea and that pantry is simply amazing, wow!

    1. It was only after I went to a lunch buffet where they had these that I got inspired, CHris. Glad I did. Great use of my surplus. (Since my freezing only made them mushy!!!)

  8. Oh my gosh, I see why you have pantry envy. I love the idea of your pickled sprouts in a bloody mary!

    1. I've yet to try it, Karen, but I surely will this Christmas morning!

  9. Oh my gosh, what a treasure trove! He is a canning master to say the least I would love to have this in my basement. I would also love to have a few jars of your Brussels sprouts in there too. I love them.

    1. He is a canning master . . and he's taught me a lot. I'm still learning.

  10. Hi Rosemary, nipping back to wish you a very Happy Christmas/Holiday Season. It's funny - this post has really stayed with me and I suffer flash-backs of pantry envy! I'm even thinking of moving so that I have a house with a pantry! Wishing you and yours all the best for 2014, Hester x

    1. Glad you nipped back, Hester, despite my blog silence! I resolve to be a better blogger. Maybe I need a time management course! I'll be visiting you!


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