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