Spicy Pickled Fiddleheads

fiddlehead ferns
Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0
  • 20 mins
  • Prep: 15 mins,
  • Cook: 5 mins
  • Yield: 4 half pint jars
Ratings

Edible fiddleheads are the unopened fronds of ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris). They are a special springtime ingredient that is only available for a few weeks each year.

Whether you are foraging for wild ones in the forest or getting yours from the farmers' market, this recipe is a tasty way to preserve this seasonal treat.

What You'll Need

  • 1 pound fiddlehead ostrich ferns (Matteuccia struthiopteris)
  • 1 medium onion, peeled, quartered and cut into thin slices
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/4 cups white wine vinegar or apple vinegar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon kosher or other non-iodized salt
  • 1 or 2 small hot chile peppers, chopped or crushed (you can use fresh or dried)
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
  • 6 - 8 whole black peppercorns
  • 4 - 6 whole spicebush (Lindera benzoin) or allspice berries

How to Make It

  1. Clean and trim the fiddleheads.

    Fiddlehead ferns usually have bits of a brown, papery sheath sticking to the coiled green parts. Remove the brown bits. The easiest way is to fill a large mixing bowl or sink with water. Swish the fiddleheads in the water vigorously. Transfer the fiddleheads to a colander, discard the water, and repeat until the water is mostly clear. Trim off any browned ends.
  2. Blanch the fiddleheads.

    Fiddleheads can be somewhat toxic raw and must be cooked before you eat them (don't worry, they are both safe and delicious once they are cooked!). Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the cleaned and trimmed fiddleheads to the water and cook for 4 minutes. Drain in a colander.
  1. Prepare the brine and load the jars.

    Combine the water, vinegar, honey and salt in a small saucepan. Add the chile pepper, spicebush or allspice, mustard, coriander, cumin and black pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.

    Toss the blanched fiddleheads together with the sliced onion. Pack the vegetables into clean 1/2-pint canning jars (it is not necessary to sterilize the jars for this recipe).Be sure to leave 1/2-inch head space.

    Pour the hot brine over the vegetables, covering them completely but still leaving 1/4 to 1/2-inch head space (Tip: You can refrigerate leftover brine and use it for future batches of pickles). Screw on canning lids.
  2. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Wait at least a week for the flavors to develop before sampling (they will be even better after a month).

    The pickles will keep, unopened, at room temperature for at least 1 year (they are still safe to eat after that but the quality will decline). Once opened, store in the refrigerator.

Quick Version

  1. Skip the boiling water bath and store the jars in the refrigerator. They will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.