Pickled Garlic Scapes
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Last week I published a recipe for garlic scape pesto, along with a video tutorial on how to harvest garlic scapes. You can check both of those out here if you haven’t had the chance yet, but since then I have learned a couple bonus tricks when it comes to harvesting scapes. I’ve also had the chance to make my very favourite garlic scape recipe: Pickled Garlic Scapes, which of course I am sharing with you today!
First off, allow me to let you in on the “secret” tricks I learned about harvesting and acquiring scapes this past week. Last week I took you into my garden and showed you how to harvest garlic scapes with a pair of clippers. Then I took you into my kitchen and showed you the haul of garlic scapes I bought at the farm market for a few bucks. Since I only have 28 heads of garlic growing this year (and therefore 28 garlic scapes), I decided to buy some at the market as I wanted more for making pesto and pickling. I bought a 2-lb bag for just under $5.00, which I thought was a great deal! Until…
I took my daughter strawberry-picking this week as our strawberry situation is the same as our garlic scape situation: we’re simply not growing enough to preserve them in all of the wonderful ways I want to preserve them this year! So we headed to a local farm for some serious strawberry picking.
I ended up picking 8 lbs and my little Evelyn had the time of her life! But that’s a story for my next post. What I want to share with you here is what took place after strawberry-picking.
This particular farm we were at happened to have tons of garlic growing as well, so I asked if they had any scapes left (because one batch of pickles just wan’t gonna cut it!). The incredibly lovely gentleman at the stand told me I could head out into the field and even offered to watch Evelyn in the shade while I harvested my own. (She was within sight and there was another woman up there as well, just so no one thinks I left my kid with some strange man… No hate mail please!)
The really awesome part came when I asked him how much they were and he told me they were FREE! He said he was letting people take them at no charge as they were really only interested in the garlic, and having other people harvest the scapes was basically free labour for them!
So, super secret (frugal) bonus trick #1: Check local farms to see if they will let you harvest garlic scapes for free in exchange for the labour you provide by doing the harvesting. Hey, it doesn’t hurt to ask!
He then took me out into the field and showed me a new trick he had only just learned himself, which brings me to…
Super secret bonus trick #2: Instead of cutting or breaking the garlic scape off where the base of the scape meets the leaves, he showed me how you can pull gently on the scape and it will actually pull out a longer piece of the stem from inside the leaves. This way you get extra scape with each one you harvest, and the fresh, soft, new scape that is hidden within the leaves is the most tender part of all. I will have to update my “How to Harvest Garlic Scapes” video next year to include this little trick. Unfortunately I can’t do it this year as I already harvested all my own scapes! Boo. Anyway, on to how (and why) I pickle them…
I first tried pickled garlic scapes a few years ago when Ryan and I were on our honeymoon. We were at a local farmers market (because that’s how we roll), and we found a farmstand with jars of these pickled scapes for sale. Honestly, at that time I had never even heard of garlic scapes, let alone pickled ones. But being the food-loving adventurers we are, we decide to buy a jar to take home. O.M.G. were they delicious!
The pickled scapes were very similar in flavour and texture to pickled beans. From that moment on I was hooked on garlic scapes, so naturally I was so excited to plant and grow my own garlic for the first time this year, especially because I knew I would get some bonus scapes before the garlic bulbs are ready for harvest.
Unfortunately I never again found the pickled garlic scapes we bought that one time (and we now live in the area where we honeymooned and regularly go to the farmers market). So I couldn’t dissect the exact ingredients that were used in that batch. Instead I adapted a recipe for pickled beans from my go-to canning book, the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.
Instead of white vinegar, I used apple cider vinegar as I do remember the scapes having more of a mellow vinegar flavour. And I didn’t use any dill as it’s not yet ready in our garden. (I also don’t remember the scapes we had before having a strong dill flavour).
In the end I canned 10 pints of pickled garlic scapes in a simple brine of equal parts water and apple cider vinegar, some salt and pickling spices. Super simple and straightforward. The most difficult part was getting the scapes in the jar!
I coiled them and stacked them in spiral rings which seemed to work best when I used regular-mouth jars as the lip of the mouth kept the top layer of scapes from popping up. But I did scrape my hand up a bit trying to get it in and out of the jar when I was trying to push the scapes all the way to the bottom. It was easier to get them into wide-mouth jars, but they did tend to spring up a bit more. Either jars will work fine. It’s more a matter of personal preference.
Also, I left the blossom tip on the scapes for the first batch, but decided to chop it off when I canned the second batch. Again, either way is fine. I figured that the blossom end might be a bit stringier and tougher to eat, but I will have to wait to compare the two in a few weeks when they are ready.
The canning process itself was quite simple. If you’re new to canning, this is a super easy recipe and procedure to start with. Since the scapes are pickled in vinegar, you can water-bath can these, which simply means you follow basic canning procedures (sterilize jars, fill them to the level specified in the recipe, wipe rims, place new lids on top and screw bands down “fingertip tight” to let air bubbles out). Then, to water-bath can, place jars in a pot of boiling water for the amount of time specified in the recipe you are following.
Since these are pickled, the vinegar means they are highly acidic, which means they are safe to water-bath can. Food that is low in acidity (like meat and most vegetables that are not preserved in vinegar – ie. regular canned green beans) must be pressure canned. Pressure canning simply heats up the water high above boiling temperature, which is necessary to kill off harmful bacteria on low-acid foods. But, in the case of pickles, the vinegar ensures high levels of acidity, so water-bath canning is perfectly safe. Just make sure that the boiling water covers the jars completely and you process (boil) the jars for the amount of time specified in the recipe.
Once you’ve canned them, they will be shelf-stable and should last at least a year (or more) if stored in a cool, dark place. Of course, you could keep them in the fridge, and in this case you don’t even need to worry about canning them. But I like to make sure my food is shelf-stable in case of emergency, power outage and generally to keep the shelves in my fridge available for other things. Otherwise I’d have 10 jars of pickled garlic scapes alone taking up at least one whole shelf! Plus, they won’t last in the fridge quite as long if they are not properly canned; Probably about 3 months in the fridge vs. a year or more on the shelves. Canning is so easy and takes less than 20 minutes. Just sayin.
As for when they will actually be ready to devour, pickles typically take between 4 and 6 weeks to fully absorb the flavour of the pickling brine. Six weeks is optimal, if you can wait that long to crack a jar! Waiting is, by far, the hardest part;)
- As many garlic scapes as you can get your hands on! (About 10-12 per pint-sized Mason Jar).
- 3 cups apple cider vinegar
- 3 cups water
- 3 Tbsp pickling salt
- 1 Tbsp pickling spice per jar
- Prepare your jars: Collect the number of jars you think you will need based on how many scapes you have to pickle. Inspect jars to ensure there are no nicks or cracks in the glass, especially around the jar rim as this can prevent a proper seal. Wash jars and bands in hot, soapy water, rinse and then sterilize by simmering in water over medium-high heat, either in a canner or large pot with a rack in the bottom on. Leave jars in simmering hot water until ready to fill.
- Sterilize new lids by placing in a bowl of hot water (I usually just scoop some hot water from the simmering water in our canner. I usually leave them in the bowl until ready to use).
- Prepare your scapes: Rinse off any dirt, chop any hard, knobby ends off and trim the bulb end off (this is optional. You can leave the bulb end on but it might be tougher to eat and takes up extra space if the jar).
- Combine water, vinegar and salt in a saucepan and boil over medium-high heat until salt is fully dissolved.
- Using a pair of jar lifters, lift each jar out of the canner/pot and dump any water back into the canner. Fill each jar with garlic scapes.
- To fill, coil each garlic scape as tight as possible around two fingers and stack them tightly in the jar. Pack to within just over a ½ inch from the top of the jar.
- Add 1 Tbsp of pickling spice to each jar.
- Fill each jar with boiling pickling brine (water-vinegar-salt mixture) to cover garlic scapes, leaving ½ inch of headspace between the liquid and the top of the jar.
- Place lids on top of jars and then screw bands on to "fingertip tight," which means tight to the point of resistance, but not so tight that air can't escape.
- Process in a boiling hot water bath for 10 minutes. Then turn heat off, take lid off and wait 5 minutes before removing jars.
- Allow jars to cool on counter. Then store in a cool, dark place.
- Wait 6 weeks before opening a jar to ensure best quality.
- * For the brine, just make sure to combine equal parts water and vinegar and adjust your salt to match (ie. 4 cups vinegar to 4 cups water to 4 Tbsp salt). This recipe calls for 3 cups of each and 3 Tbsp of salt, which I found should fill about 3 or 4 pint-sized jars. But you can adjust the amount of brine depending on the number of jars you are able to pack full of scapes!
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Hi Anna! Thank you for the detailed post. We have turned most of our front lawn into a field of garlic, which has been wonderful, but many of the scapes we pickled last year turned out tough. Do you think we harvested them too late? Some of scapes are delicious but we were pretty disappointed that many were stringy and impossible to chew. Any thoughts would be super appreciated. Generally though I would recommend garlic growing to anyone with a yard, so easy and so delicious 🙂
Yes, I’d say they were left a bit too long. I usually harvest them within about a week from when they appear. Otherwise they can get tough and stringy like beans can get. I’ve had this issue before too. So great that you’ve turned your lawn into a garlic field! Keep in mind that garlic is a heavy feeder, so make sure to amend your soil before planting again and try to rotate where you plant your garlic if possible or plant another crop in between. This helps to keep the soil healthy and can prevent disease.
Thanks so much Anna, I’m giving it another go this year and I definitely got them earlier. Hoping for the best 🙂
Ever cut the scapes to fit height or width wise in the jars?
I haven’t done that but you could, just like green beans. I just like the way they look all coiled up. Also, because they naturally coil, they are a bit tough to straighten out to stuff in the jar vertically. But you absolutely could!
Loved this post…can’t wait to hear about the strawberries. I never knew what a scape was until I read your last post. I’m going to check farmers in my area to see if I can get some, wish me luck. Loved your tips and hope to put them to work. Thanks Mich
Great to hear Michelle! So glad I could share a little wisdom! Strawberries were also a great success:) Lots eaten fresh, frozen, dehydrated, canned (jam) and turned into strawberry-rhubarb crisp. The recipe for no-pectin jam is up under the “Kitchen” menu.