Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Can Jam # 5 Gus and Barb

It's May in Ontario and most of the local fruit and vegetables are still a few months away. But May brings its own delights that we eagerly anticipate every year! The first local crops to appear are rhubarb and asparagus but in recent years a number of wild foraged morsels are also readily available, including fiddleheads, ramps and morels. I haven't had any morels yet this year but I've been stuffing myself with fiddleheads and I'm anxiously awaiting a jar of ramp pesto that a friend makes every year.

In keeping with this, Colette and I decided to incorporate one of these in our choice of CanJam projects this month. We've made pickled asparagus before but not fiddleheads and there are some lovely recipes for both that are pretty much interchangeable. With that in mind we created one of our own, using the quantities of a proven pickled asparagus recipe and adjusting the seasonings to suit both.

Pickled Asparagus and Fiddleheads

* 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
* 4 lbs fresh asparagus
* 1 lb of fresh fiddleheads cleaned
* 8 cups white wine vinegar
* 3 cups water
* 5 tablespoons sugar
* 1 tablespoons each of mustard seeds, coriander seeds,
black peppercorns, whole allspice, and dried chilies
* 3 teaspoons pickling salt or kosher salt


1.Place several slices of onion in the bottom of 4 large jars.
2. Place a layer of fiddleheads ( 6-10 fiddleheads)
3. Trim the asparagus to fit in the jars; pack them in with the
cut-end facing down.
4.Combine the remaining ingredients in a saucepan, and boil over
moderate heat for 10 minutes.
5. Pour into the jars, leaving 1/2-inch head space.
6.Seal the jars according to the manufacturer's directions; process
for 20 minutes in boiling water bath.

Use only the freshest local asparagus for this!
We soaked both the asparagus and fiddleheads in a tub of water for about 30 minutes before pickling to remove any grit and bits of paper. We snapped the asparagus ends to remove the woody stalk but still found them too long for our jars so trimmed them as needed. Rather than waste the trimmed bits we stuffed them in the middle of the jars as well.

We won't be tasting these for a few weeks but we'll be occupied with all of the fresh stuff around right now. The jars will be happily waiting for us when we crave a bit of spring and I can't wait to try a pickled fiddlehead in my martini!

The other CanJam choice this month was rhubarb and it's getting star treatment for another purpose!Tomorrow -May 20 - is Not Far From the Tree's Gleaning Screening- a fundraising event to celebrate another gleaning season and to raise much needed funds for our upcoming season.

My skills have been put to work on the bar and I have managed to secure some generous donations of alcohol to help make it a festive evening for all. Our signature drink The Gleaner is a vodka cocktail made with elderberry syrup we made last fall but I also wanted a spring drink to serve! One of our volunteers provide me with a huge bag of freshly picked rhubarb and I cooked it up to make a lovely rhubarb cordial which I will be serving at out party( with or without vodka!)

Rhubarb Cordial

16 cups of rhubarb, cut into small pieces
2-4 cups of sugar - I kept mine tart!
1 cup of water ( if you have time you can add the sugar to the rhubarb in a bowl beforehand and juice will release so you don't need to add water. I was in a hurry!)

Wash and trim the rhubarb. Discard all leaves - they are poisonous. Cut stalks into 1/2 inch pieces. Add all ingredients to a large stockpot and bring to boiling. Turn heat down and allow to simmer until rhubarb is soft and breaking apart. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly before straining. (I saved the strained rhubarb and froze it to use later.) Place strained juice back into the pot and bring to a boil again. Simmer for 5 minutes- taste for sweetness and add more sugar at this point if it's too tart! You can cook it until the consistency is to your liking- the longer you cook the more syrupy it gets! Pout hot liquid in jars, with 1/2 inch head space. Process in a hot water bath for 15 minutes for pint or quart size jars.

Very refreshing mixed with soda water!

If you are in the Toronto area, come to The Gleaning Screening tomorrow night and I will make you a rhubarb cocktail- Spring in a Glass!


  1. Gus and Barb! Hee-hee! I'm sad I can't make the Gleaning Screening because your cordial looks most lovely!

  2. The rhubarb cocktail was a huge hit and I ran out of cordial rather quickly- next time I'm making a lot more!

  3. The cordial and 'the gleaner' sound great! And I love the idea of adding fiddleheads to your asparagus!