Why should I ferment scapes?
Love pickles and the savory flavour of garlic? Making pickled garlic scapes the old fashioned way is easier than other pickling recipes and is better for you. Wait, what?!
Pickling through fermentation is so simple and not only do you end up with pickled scapes, you get a jar full of probiotic awesomeness! I’ll walk you through this simple recipe and by the end I hope you’ll be as hooked on fermented garlic scape pickles as I am.
- Why should I ferment scapes?
- What is a garlic scape?
- How do you ferment naturally?
- Is fermenting safe?
- How long does it take and what should I expect?
- How do I know when it’s finished fermenting?
- What do you eat with pickled garlic scapes?
- Can I make other vegetables ferment like this?
- Where to buy fermenting supplies?
- Where can I buy pickled garlic scapes?
What is a garlic scape?
A garlic scape is the flower bud of garlic. It pops up in mid spring to early summer, awhile before the garlic cloves are ready to be harvested. Clipping the flowering bud off redirects the energy of the plant into the bulb instead of the flower. Scapes have a wonderful garlic flavour with the texture and look of scallions but curlier. So photogenic! No one wants to waste these elegant, piquant stems so if you don't grow your own, you can usually find them in farmers markets when they are in season.
How do you ferment naturally?
Produce has naturally occurring good bacteria. When treated properly, we can encourage the good bacteria (lactic acid producing Lactobacillus) which preserves the food. It does this by creating organic acids including acetic acid (aka vinegar) to create an unfavorable environment to the bad bacteria that cause spoilage. To further ensure we don’t have bad bacteria growing, we cover our vegetable fully in a salt water brine or solution. The salinity and lack of oxygen further prevent molds and undesirable microbes.
Is fermenting safe?
Yes! Done right, fermenting is very safe. Additionally, if it goes bad it will be easy to tell. Fermenting gone sideways will smell and/or look bad with funky growth. To keep your ferment safe it’s important to follow a few simple rules.
- Start with clean sterilized non porous jars and equipment. Glazed ceramic crocks or glass mason jars are ideal.
- Use an airlock. If you don't have a ready made airlock, make your own by covering your jar with something that will breath but prevent contaminants from entering. Cheesecloth or a paper coffee filter fastened with an elastic work well.
- Make a brine of 2 tablespoons of kosher salt for each liter of water.
- Keep your produce submerged to keep oxygen out. Do this by ensuring you have enough brine to cover ingredients and if any bits are floating, keep them down by using a pickling weight. If you don't have a dedicated weight, you can make one out of a zip top bag filled halfway with water.
How long does it take and what should I expect?
Pickling this way will take 7-14 days (or even longer if you like) depending on the temperature where you store your jars and the flavour you prefer. The longer you leave your veg fermenting, the stronger the flavours will get.
Filling the jars and making the brine is fast, you can be done in 15-60 minutes depending if you have to boil your water first or if you use filtered water. Once you have the vegetables prepared and brined, you just sit back and wait.
Don’t forget to watch this cool process up close. If you use glass jars, you have a front row seat to seeing this little miracle happen. First you will get a few bubbles, these may increase and you may see the brine get cloudy. As the fermenting progresses, the cloudiness will clear up and you should smell a pleasant pickled or brewing type smell that will tell you things are going well.
How do I know when it’s finished fermenting?
This is your choice! You can make these as pickled/fermented as you like. A longer ferment will have a stronger flavour, a shorter ferment will have a little fresher garlic flavour and a more toothsome texture. Once you are happy with your fermented pickled scapes, remove the air lock, replace with a regular jar lid and store in your fridge or other cold storage area and enjoy.
What do you eat with pickled garlic scapes?
Pickled garlic scapes are surprisingly versatile. In a sandwich, on a charcuterie board or use them in place of capers or pickles anywhere you like. Serve them alongside my easy sous vide pork tenderloin recipe or roasted hot dogs. Garnish a Caesar or Bloody Mary cocktail. (You can find the classic Caesar cocktail recipe here) Don’t forget to use the probiotic vinegar that’s leftover. Use it to make salad dressing or brighten up a heavy dish (borscht or chicken stew) with a shot of bright acidity.
Can I make other vegetables ferment like this?
Absolutely. Lacto fermenting vegetables is easy and fun. Get creative with different combinations and colors of vegetables, spices and herbs. Check out my easy red cabbage sauerkraut for a vibrantly colored and tangy superfood. Most other vegetables can be preserved in the form of pickles. Popular veggies for fermenting include string beans, radishes (see my lacto fermented radish recipe in Edible Vancouver Island magazine here), carrots, all types of cabbage (add spice to make Korean kimchi), and cucumber.
One vegetable I have trialed that I don't recommend is asparagus. Fermented asparagus had an unpleasant (to me) stringy yet soft texture and smelled like asparagus pee….Sorry if that's too much information lol. Interestingly, asparagus pickled in vinegar is really tasty and not at all like the fermented version with a crisp texture and pleasantly acidic flavour.
Where to buy fermenting supplies?
These have been difficult to find in the past so I decided to stock them in my shop. West Coast Kitchen Garden Shop stocks pickle pipes (simple air lock devices), pickle pebbles (pickling weights), single jar fermenting sets, sprouting lids and water kefir kits. Hop on over and take a look.
Where can I buy pickled garlic scapes?
If you love pickled garlic scapes but don't want to make your own, my favourite are the scapes from Catie's Hot Dilled Beans. https://www.catieshotdilledbeans.com/ I buy jars of these at Christmas time and we love them!
Enjoy this recipe and let me know how you like it. I love feedback (and those star ratings help this recipe reach more like minded folks!) If you have any questions, I try to reply promptly unless I'm off grid so ask away!
Cheers my fellow foodies,
Fermented Garlic Scapes (Traditionally Pickled)
- 2 1-Quart wide mouth mason jars (sterilize with boiling water before using)
- Optional: airlock lids or pickle pipe tops for mason jars, glass fermenting weights
- 6 cups Garlic scapes Trim any brown or tough bits off the ends and wash well
- 3 tbsp Kosher salt
- 1 Tbsp Peppercorns
- 2-4 Optional-Dill sprigs (fresh dill stems with seed heads or just dill fronds if that's what you have.)
- 1 tsp Optional-Chili flakes (use if you want spicy pickles) optional
- 6 cups Filtered water or boiled 20 minutes and cooled to remove chlorine if on city water
- Make a brine of 6 cups water to 3 Tbsp sea salt and stir to dissolve. (It is important to use dechlorinated water for this. You can filter the water or boil 20 minutes and cool before using)
- Place ½ tbsp peppercorns, dill and chilis if using, in the bottom of each sterilized quart jar. Gently and loosely coil garlic scapes and place on top of spices. Pack them in as evenly as possible, leaving slightly more than an inch of headspace at top of jar.
- Pour brine over scapes, leaving 1 inch of headspace (you may have some brine leftover). Top with a fermenting weight to keep garlic scapes submerged. If you don’t have a fermenting weight or something similar, fill a small plastic bag with about ½ c water, seal and put on top of your veg. It is important to keep your vegetables submerged.
- Close jar with airlock or pickle pipe and fasten gently with jar ring. If you don’t have special airlock lids, put regular canning jar lids on and undo it once or twice a day to release gases (burping the jar) or use a coffee filter secured on top. Leave to ferment at room temperature 7-14 days. These will likely turn a bit cloudy as it starts fermenting and small bubbles will occasionally be rising. This is normal and often resolves or settles to the bottom by the time your ferment is ready. (Using some type of lid helps ensure no foreign bacteria gets in while the fermenting is happening.)
- Once the initial fermentation period is over (it is over when you decide you like how it tastes), it is ready to enjoy. Mine typically take 10-14 days until I am happy with the flavor. Top with a regular canning lid and move jar to cold storage if not storing in your refrigerator.
- Kept in the fridge, this will keep easily for 3 months or longer. In cold storage, you should plan to use within 3 months. Usually this won't actually go "bad" but will lose the crispness and bright color if left longer. If you end up with mold or a horrible smell that is not like vinegar or wine and garlic, toss it out and start again with fresh sterilized jars.