My hop plant husbandry took an unexpected turn recently, but one that tied in neatly with another of my interests...
Faced with a bunch of prunings from cutting back the first growth on my hops, and not wanting to waste the wonderfully coloured and fresh shoots, I decided to try my hand at pickling them. I've pickled before, especially eggs, and I knew that asparagus could be treated in this way so it seemed like an interesting experiment. Looking online the processes and ingredients seemed to vary somewhat so I ended up just doing my own thing - as usual.
So here we go...
- A Big Handful of Fresh Hop Shoots (See Photo)
- 1 tsp Dried Juniper Berries
- 1 tsp Black Peppercorns
- 1 tsp Mustard Seeds
- 1/2 tsp Caraway Seeds
- 1 tbsp Sugar
- 1 tbsp Salt
- 1 cup (250ml) Cider Vinegar
- 1 cup (250ml) Water
- Wash and rinse the hop shoots removing any bugs or large leaves.
- Sterilise a thick, sealable pickling jar.
- Add all the ingredients except the hop shoots to a saucepan and bring to the boil.
- Meanwhile blanch the hop shoots for a few seconds in boiling water and wind them carefully inside the jar, taking care not to break any.
- Carefully pour the boiled liquid and spices into the jar with the hops, adding boiled water to top up if needed.
- Leave to cool, then store in a fridge for at least a week so that the flavours blend and permeate into the shoots.
The shoots take on a good deal of the flavours of the vinegar and spices so feel free to add your favourites. They also retain a vegetal bitterness, which can probably be increased by reducing the blanching time. This was probably overkill but I was concerned about sterilising the shoots, in theory the acid in the vinegar should keep everything safe anyway... (Please do your own research on this - I'm not a food bacteria specialist!)
I served them with some cheddar, pork pies and celery salt, paired with a nice almost savoury, thyme and orange peel saison called Curious Orange from Dungarvan Brewing Company but the shoots also work well on cheesy omelettes, bacon quiche or even on a hot dog with a dollop of mustard!
It's certainly whetted my appetite for trying to pickle more plants.
I must try some nettles next ... but they will need blanching...