When it’s warm enough to roll down the windows as I drive around the island and I smell the feint hint of garlic in the air, I know it’s wild garlic season and time for wild garlic capers. We’re pretty lucky to have a huge amount of wild garlic on the Island, so we can take as much as we’re going to need for the year and it won’t have made a jot of difference to what’s available.
I think everyone who goes wild garlic picking for the first time picks way more than they need – and end up with wild garlic pesto in the freezer for the next six years! Fortunately a seasoned forager learns quickly how much to responsibly forage!
These are dead easy, and it’s quite hard to get it wrong. The most important tips for foraging wild garlic is to check every leaf. Daffodils, bluebells, lords and ladies and stinking iris all tend to grow in the same places as wild garlic, so if you’re just taking hands full, you could end up pretty sick. Please check every leaf.
For this recipe the best tips are to not use metal implements and to make sure the lid of the jar you use is vinegar-proof (an old pickle jar is ideal). Also, pop some wax paper into the finished liquid to force the floating wild garlic down into the liquid.
Play around with your seasonings. Some recipes call for sugar, I don’t think its necessary. You can use different vinegars, which will, of course, change the flavour slightly. I use white spirit vinegar, pickling vinegar or apple cider vinegar, because I like to use the ‘leftover’ vinegar into a balsamic once all our wild garlic capers are finished.
By the way, there’s a difference between three-cornered leek and wild garlic. (Narrower leaves, for a start!) but three-cornered leeks also have flower buds, so they work the same way!
- Wild Garlic Buds
- Pickling Vinegar to cover
- Pink Peppercorns
- Bay Leaf (optional)
- Sterilise a jar and a vinegar-proof lid to fit your wild garlic buds.
- Pack the buds tightly into the jar. Heat the vinegar, peppercorns and bay leaf gently in a pan (don't use aluminium, the vinegar can react to it.
- Bring to a gentle simmer for a couple of minutes and then remove from the heat.
- Pour the hot, spiced vinegar over the buds to cover them, leaving about a cm space from the top of the jar.
- Leave for 5 mins to allow the vinegar to start to penetrate the buds and for the liquid level to settle. Use a non-metal spoon to stir the buds, removing any air bubbles.
- I always add some waxed paper to the jar to force the buds, which will initially float, under the liquid.
- Close while still warm (so that it seals the jar) and leave for a minimum of two weeks. We've tend to eat the last of the previous year's while the new batch is pickling.
- Recommended with brie or blue cheese and crackers.