Garlic (e)scapes: pesto and pickles
Last week was one of those weeks. Except, that would be underselling it. Suffice it to say I was fighting for la révolution of … workflow changes. C’est la vie.
I lost sight, briefly, of the hobbies that raise my spirits and instead retreated into evenings of Thai takeout and Mad Men. After a few days, I finally returned to my kitchen, with its own red-plaid window dressings and 1960s-esque cabinetry, and found a more productive solace there.
Cooking has always been an escape: it’s meditative, creative but practical. There’s nothing stressful about flipping through the pages of a cookbook, especially one on new-age canning, and wondering what to make.
I settled on a recipe for pickled garlic scapes, the springtime blossoms of garlic. They’re whippy little things, curled with a tight bud on one end. The buds and tips are edible, though they can be tougher than the bottom lengths of the scapes. I used just the bottom six inches or so for my pickles, and the rest for pesto.
The best part of cooking with garlic scapes is its aroma: bright, sharply green, so unbelievably garlicky. If you see these in a grocery story or farmer’s market, be sure to pick up a handful. (Disclaimer: Seattle is one of the few places in the entire country where scapes could still be hanging around. Everywhere else, they’re already far past their prime.)
Garlic scape pickles
These pickles are bracing. They’re crisp, vinegary, spicy and herbaceous. Not a pickle to trifle with, but one that can stand up to any meat or grilled veggies you eat alongside it. I had about eleven scapes, and used the bottom 6 inches of each scape to make a 1/2 pint jar of pickles. This recipe is from Canning for a New Generation; I didn’t touch the recipe, only downsized the quantity.
- 1/3 lb. garlic scapes (about 11)
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, 5% acidity
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (less if you don’t like spicy foods)
Prepping the jars:
Wash a half-pint jar. Submerge the jar in a pot that will hold enough water to cover the jar by at least an inch. Bring the water to a boil.
If you are making refrigerator pickles that will be eaten within weeks and kept in the fridge, boil the jar for at least 10 minutes to sterilize the jar. If you intend to keep the jar in your pantry, no need to sterilize the jar now, since it will be sterilized later.
Making the pickles:
Cut two 3-inch lengths from the bottom of the garlic scapes. If you have a different-sized half-pint jar, work with those proportions. The scape lengths should be just shy of the height of the jar. Canning extraordinaire Liana Krissoff says to use only the bottom 4 to 8 inches of each scape, as the tops are tougher.
Combine the apple cider vinegar, water and salt in a nonreactive pot. Bring just to a boil. Do not heat longer than necessary, since the acetic acid in the vinegar will evaporate quickly.
Removing jars from water bath:
Meanwhile, remove the hot half-pint jar from the water, pour out any water and place upright on a towel.
Put the jar lid in a separate heatproof bowl and add a few ladlefuls of hot water to soften the rubberized ring seal on the underside of the jar lid.
Add 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes into the jar. Pack the scapes upright in the jar, though not too tightly. Ladle in the hot vinegar mixture, leaving a 1/2-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles around the side of the jar with a chopstick. Wipe off the rim of the jar with a paper towel, place the lid on and screw on the ring until tight.
Sealing the jars:
If you intend to eat them soon, let the jar cool and keep in the fridge.
If you intend to keep them longer, the jar will need to be processed. Return the jar to the canning pot with the hot water, making sure the jar is covered by at least one inch of water. Bring to a boil, and process for 15 minutes. Remove the jar from the hot water onto a towel, and leave undisturbed for 12 hours. After one hour, you should be able to make sure the jar is sealed properly by pressing in the center of the lid. If it can be pushed down, it hasn’t sealed and, congratulations, you’ve inadvertently made refrigerator pickles, which should be kept in the fridge. If the jar lid does not pop down, it has correctly sealed and you’ve successfully made storage pickles!
Garlic scape pesto
This pesto is a must-not-miss lemony, garlicky shmear. Unlike the pickles, which some will love and some will hate, everyone will love this pesto. If you don’t make the pickles, use the entire scape here. Its best perk: no discoloration a day later, if it makes it that long. Like any pesto, you can substitute other herbs or nuts. Recipe adapted from Serious Eats.
- 3/4 cup roughly chopped garlic scapes (just under 1/3 lb.)
- 1/4 cup walnuts
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan
- juice of 1/2 lemon, strained to remove seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- pepper to taste
1. In a dry pan, lightly toast walnuts on low heat until fragrant, about 3 minutes.
2. Add the scapes, walnuts, parmesan*, lemon juice and salt to the food processor. Pulse until combined. Add the olive oil in a steady stream while the motor is running. Taste for salt and pepper. Enjoy!
*If freezing, do not add the parmesan at this step. Once the pesto is thawed, fold in the cheese and serve.