Spicy Pickled Fiddleheads are a delicious way to preserve the unique seasonal flavor of wild fiddlehead ferns and enjoy a healthy snack all year round!
What are fiddleheads?
Fiddleheads are the furled fronds of a young fern and are found all over the world and in parts of the US, with the type of fern varying by each region. Having a mild and slightly grassy flavor, they are typically used in place as a green vegetable in cooking.
Each spring, wild ostrich fiddlehead ferns make a short appearance for a few weeks and it’s always exciting to get my little hands on some every year. Seen at farm stands and farmer’s markets throughout New England, they are considered quite the rare delicacy here.
How to choose the BEST and freshest fiddleheads
It’s key to choose fern heads that are:
- a bright green color
- have tightly rolled/closed heads
Don’t freak out if you see a brown papery chaff on the fern heads because it’s completely normal. Easily remove it by lightly rubbing it with your fingers until it falls right off.
How to cook fiddleheads
Care must be taken to ensure fiddleheads are not eaten raw or undercooked, as they can cause some intestinal issues similar to food poisoning. Be sure to cook them for at least 12 minutes before eating to avoid any issues.
An easy and typical way to serve fiddleheads are to sauté them. Blanched them for about 3 minutes, then finish in a pan with butter, seasonings, and fresh herbs. Simply delicious!
A healthy snack, fiddleheads are high in iron, fiber, and Vitamins A and C, as well as a great source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Pickling vegetables to extend the season (and flavor)
Since the season is so short for fiddleheads, I like to make pickled vegetables out of them. Each year I make a couple of batches with the fresh wild ferns my Father-in-Law gets from his neighbor in Maine. Pickling them allows me to savor the favor of the fiddleheads all year, even when they are out of season.
Spicy pickled fiddleheads can be used in a variety of different ways:
- as a wonderful addition to a meat and cheese board
- as a pickle substitute in a sandwich
- added in place of relish in tuna or egg salad or even deviled eggs
- as a garnish in a cocktail (like a Bloody Mary)
- or just eat them straight out of the jar!
Looking for a more traditional pickle, try this super easy recipe by A Fork’s Tale.
Please let me know in the comments below all the unique and interesting ways you end up using these Spicy Pickled Fiddleheads.
Spicy Pickled Fiddleheads
- 1/2 pound fiddlehead ferns (choose tight, closed fern heads)
- 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon Kosher salt , divided
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed spicy red pepper flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon white or black peppercorns
- 3 whole allspice berries
- 2 small garlic clove , smashed
- Place fresh fiddlehead ferns in a large bowl of cold water and wash away any dirt. Gently rub away any brown chaff on the fern heads with your fingers and trim the ends. Set aside.
- Over high high, bring to a boil two quarts of water in a medium saucepan and stir in two tablespoons of salt. Add cleaned fiddlehead ferns and cook for 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain, then rinse the ferns with cold water. Set aside.
- Combine vinegar, 1/2 cup water, and 1 teaspoon salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Add all the spices and garlic cloves to the mixture and remove pan from the heat.
- Add the fiddlehead ferns to a clean jar and completely cover with the pickling liquid.
- Use a boiling water bath canner to seal the jar and store for up to one year in the pantry or keep covered, unsealed jars in the refrigerator and use within a month. Allow pickles to age for at least a week before eating (but they are pretty delish after just 3 days in the refrigerator!).
Recipe Notes & Tips:
- Allow pickles to age for at least a week before eating
- Use a boiling water bath canner to seal the jar and store for up to one year in the pantry or keep covered, unsealed jars in the refrigerator and use within a month
- Adapted from Serious Eats