Broccoli is one of my kids’ favorite vegetables, so I buy a lot of broccoli. I recently got 4 ½ pounds in the farmer’s market bulk section for $3. Then this week as I was preparing the florets for roasting, I looked across the counter at the jar of pickle brine from my homemade dill refrigerator pickles, which my family just gobbled up. It occurred to me the shame in pitching this beautiful brine, speckled with coriander and mustard seeds, while plumes of dill picked from my garden floated around the jar. I thought, this brine could, and should, pickle again.
I was out of cucumbers, and then I wondered, what if broccoli stems would pickle well? They were just sitting there on the chopping block, why not try it? They are crunchy and mild, and well, they were available. Broccoli stem pickles actually are quite good – how exciting! My experimenting didn’t stop there, I also put kale stalks in the brine. Again, very good. The kale stalk is fibrous by nature when uncooked, so next time I’ll either throw in boiling water for under a minute, or when I make new brine that involves bringing the liquid to temperature, pour the warm liquid over the kale stems. I’m pretty pleased with myself for this discovery of using kale stems, because we eat a lot of kale in the cold months. Next was the turnip pickle experiment. Excellent. With turnips, a bread and butter pickle brine might be nice, to tone down the sharpness of the turnips. Swiss chard stems would make a good pickle too, and pretty especially if you use the Rainbow variety. I’m already growing Swiss chard from a bunch I bought for dinner one night, now I can use the leaves and some stalk for sauteing, stalks for pickles, and the root to grow more. Now that is frugal! I love to experiment with making pickling spices and brines, so I will be reporting back with new findings. Until then, nothing is safe from my jar of brine in the fridge right now.
Broccoli and kale stalks are not only good for pickles though, but good in stir-fry as well. I haven’t tried kale stems in salad yet, but we have been eating fresh broccoli stalks in salads, and we all love them. Being frugal in the kitchen is a good way to expand your knowledge of cooking by being creative, and it’s very satisfying to avoid wasting food.
All-Purpose Refrigerator Pickle Brine
cucumbers, sliced turnips, carrot slices, or any veggie you want to pickle
2 cups warm water
2 cups white vinegar
Lots of dill plumes, or dried dill to taste
3 large cloves of garlic, chopped in half
1 1 /2 TB salt
1 TB pickling spice, or to taste
2 tsp dill seed
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
Ball Pickle Crisp (you will need ¼ tsp per jar)
about 6 clean wide mouthed quart jars and lids
In a large non-reactive bowl, stir water and salt until dissolved. Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Let vegetables sit in brine about 3 hours, then pack them in jars. Make sure each jar gets a garlic piece. Before adding liquid, put ¼ teaspoon of Pickle Crisp in each quart jar. Ladle brine over vegetables. Cover with a lid and refrigerate for at least a week before enjoying. You may re-use the brine to pickle a couple of times.