I have 3 favorite early summer foods that I always try to stock up on before they are gone for the season, mainly because they are difficult or impossible to find except from local farmers markets when they are in season. The three are rhubarb, sour cherries and sugar snap peas. Rhubarb I generally get a bunch of and either make in to a compote and/or make rhubarb syrup for use in the few weeks after I make it. I also get some to chop up and freeze for later use in a pie or crisp. Sour cherries I usually get several pints and pit and freeze, also for later use in a pie or crisp or some other desert. This year I meant to get some and make homemade Maraschino cherries, but because I was traveling often on weekends last month, I seemed to have missed the brief 2 week window that you can usually find them. I'll have to try again next year.
The third, sugar snap peas are sweet crunchy and delicious, and since you eat them whole and raw, score high on the 'usability' scale. I've noticed lately that they seem to be available for longer periods than they used to be. Up until now I hadn't found a good way to preserve sugar snaps for later in the year. I've never tried freezing them, but since I like them best raw, freezing doesn't really make sense. Then I came across this recipe for pickled sugar snaps at Smitten Kitchen (still one of my favorite food blogs). and immediately came up with my own version of these easy pickles.
these as simple refrigerator pickles, which means I don't process them
in a hot water bath like I do other pickles, mainly because it would
cook them more than I would like, and risk losing their crunch. Also
because I prefer to use rice vinegar which has a lower acid level than
white vinegar and rice vinegar isn't really recommended for hot water bath
processing. I just keep the jars in the 'fridge where they will keep
for several weeks. If you make more jars than you think you will be
able to eat on your own, bring some to friends as gifts. But really,
these are so tasty, it's really easy to eat a half-pint jar in one
sitting with some nice cheese and crackers, or sliced and added to a
salad. This year as an experiment, I decided to add some fresh spring
onions (the medium sized spring onions, NOT scallions) to half of the
jars. The onions added a really nice flavor to the peas, so it's
something that I will definitely do in the future, but you should
consider them optional.
Pickled Sugar Snap Peas
2 lbs sugar snap peas, washed and trimmed (strings removed, but left whole)
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 or 2 spring onions (not scallions) sliced (optional)
8 dried red chillies
4 t whole mustard seeds
3 cups unseasoned rice vinegar
1/2 c cold water
1 1/2 T kosher salt
1 1/2 T sugar
Wash and prepare the sugar snaps. Wash and sterilize 8 half-pint mason jars with new lids. Pack as many sugar snaps into each jar as you can (you may need more or less than 8 jars). Place a single red chili in each jar and add a half-teaspoon of whole mustard seed. If you are adding the spring onion, slice the onions into medium, round slices and add a few slices to each jar.
In a non-reactive saucepan, add the vinegar, water, salt and sugar. Bring to a simmer and heat just until the salt and sugar is dissolved completely. Remove from heat and add the garlic to the mixture. While the brine is still hot, add enough to each jar to cover the peas, making sure to get a few pieces of garlic in each jar. Cover with lids and let cool. Store in the refrigerator and give them at least a week before you open and enjoy.
P.S. A home remedy that I've discovered that really works: I heard recently that if you have leg or foot cramps, you should drink a few tablespoons of pickle juice. The acetic acid in the vinegar somehow sends stop cramping messages to your muscles. I had a foot cramp the other night and after taking a sip of the pickle juice from the sugar snaps, my foot cramp disappeared almost immediately. Maybe it's totally psychosomatic, but who cares if it actually works?
P.P.S. Happy 4th of July!