One of the best surprises of moving into our new place last fall was discovering that there’s almost a direct park path going to my favourite place in Toronto, Evergreen Brickworks. There are so many things to think about when moving into a new home, and only once we settled in and had the chance to start exploring, we started finding all the little things that made our new neighbourhood feel like home.
On Saturday mornings, Evergreen Brickworks hosts my favourite farmer’s market in the city. I started going there many years ago, at a time when few people knew about that place, when parking was abundant, and when I was able to show up in the afternoon and still score some eggs. Times have changed and the eggs are gone within an hour of the market opening…on the slow days. If you’re driving, you’re better off parking elsewhere and finding your way to the market via the beautiful Don River trail, which is actually a good thing, I guess. You have no idea how happy I was to discover that a relaxing 30 minute bike ride can get me to the market with a bonus mini workout, attempting to offset the buttery scone that I’m about to have.
A great change that I’ve been seeing at the market is that vendors are starting to get more creative with selling preserves from last year’s harvest. I visited the market last weekend (the picture is actually from June, 3 years ago), and one of my favourite vendors, Marvellous Edibles, had two crocks of preserved veggies up for grabs. They sold sauerkraut and lacto-fermented mixed veggies, by weight. I’m not sure if this is the first year that they’re doing that, but it was the first time that I got to sample some of the veggies…how simple and delicious they were blew my mind! I inquired about the method, naturally, as I do with all vendors that sell anything pickled. At the end of fall, they throw vegetables from the unsold harvest in a crock, with a 5% salt-water solution, let them start bubbling at room temperature, then refrigerate them until spring. That’s how I make pickled cucumbers too (minus the waiting until spring part), but I love how they do that with all veggies, and are able to sell them early in the spring when the fresh ones are still in the ground.
This “everything pickle” idea inspired me to make some mixed spring pickles! There are two basic methods of making pickles. The better and longer route, requiring a little more care and patience, involves lacto-fermenting the veggies, like Marvellous Edibles does. This method results in pickles full of probiotics (via lacto-fermentation) that are mildly sour with a complex flavour. The quick-pickle method is a bit of a cheat. A vinegar, salt, spice solution is used to marinate the veggies. This method preserves them and makes them extra tangy and delicious. Bonus is that the pickles can be consumed almost right away. I cheated with the spring pickles…wasn’t feeling the patience this time, but the results are still very worthwhile and delicious.
- 1.5 cup halved or quartered radishes (baby turnips would be great too)
- 1.5 cups 1? asparagus pieces
- 1 cup ramp bulbs and stems (reserve leaves for another use)
- a few pieces of shaved lemon rind (I used a veg peeler)
- 1 tsp. whole peppercorns
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup white wine vinegar (or vinegar of your choice)
- 2 Tbsp. of sea salt (reduce by 1 tsp. if you like pickles less salty)
- 2 Tbsp. honey
- Toss the chopped veggies, lemon rind, and peppercorns, and place them in a 1L jar.
- In a small pot, heat the water, vinegar, salt, and honey until everything is dissolved and the mixture starts simmering
- Pour the hot liquid over the vegetables in the jar. Cover and let them cool to room temperature.
- Refrigerate before serving.
I gave my approximate veg ratios in the recipe, but note that exact quantities don’t really matter. For a 1L jar, you need just under 4 cups of veggies and ~2 cups of brine.