Pickled Spruce Tips
Right now all the evergreens are speckled bright green as they reach further out and extend their branches. During the middle to end of May all the evergreens begin to grow and display an inch or so of soft new needles. Typically munching on spruce needles isn’t all that pleasant but this is a wonderful time to enjoy these palatable and flavorful needles. The tips pack a resinous yet citrusy flavor and are full of minerals and vitamins (vitamin C and various B vitamins). Harvesting from pine, spruce, and fir can be enjoyed at this time. The best part is, you need to mingle around the beautiful evergreens to gather this delicious treat – which is medicine in itself!
A note on harvesting
Evergreen tips are ready for harvesting when the brown papery husks have started to split and loosen off the bud. This is the best for pickling, however I went ahead and gathered them when they were more feathery and grown out. As long as the tips are still soft it’s a go! Be sure to identify the correct species (pine, spruce, fir) as the yew is poisonous and should not be consumed. The yew is typically used as an ornamental shrub and found in landscapes, similar to a fir tree in length of needles and flatness but has no white lines underneath. This shrub will also grow red berries with dark seeds inside. To learn more about the Pine species, click here.
Pickled Spruce Tip Recipe
For each 1 cup jar:
8 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 lemon slice
1 tsp salt
1 heaping cup of spruce tips (cleaned of all brown paper)
The brine for 1 cup jar:
1/4 cup white distilled vinegar
1/4 cup filtered water
*I ended up doubling this to ensure I had enough
Start by cleaning and sterilizing your jars and place the peppercorns, bay leaf, slice of lemon, and salt in each jar. You may want to display the lemon slice and bay leaf by holding them against the side of the jar. It looks cute and fancy that way.
Next, fill the jar with spruce tips making sure to leave 1/2 inch at the top.
Now add the filtered water and distilled vinegar to a saucepan and allow to boil. Pour the hot brine into the jar leaving 1/2 inch at the top. Watch as the spruce tips change from lime green to almost an olive green!
At this point you can place the jars in the refrigerator and allow them to sit for one month before consuming. They will last up to 6 months in the refrigerator.
If you would like to can them, you can do that instead. I have listed the general Guide to Canning below from Epicurious:
Prep the jars for sealing:
Slide a (very clean) thin spatula, ruler, or butter knife down the side of the jar in several places to release any trapped air bubbles. If necessary, add more brine so that the liquid again comes to 1/2 inch from the rim. Then wipe the rims with a clean, dry kitchen towel. If you’re using this method to make a sweet pickle, you can use a damp kitchen towel to make sure you get any sticky sweet residue off the rims.
Place vacuum lids on jars:
For storing pickles, you must use a new lid every time. Screw rings may be reused, but the vacuum lids are a one-time-use deal. Some recipes recommend soaking the lids in the boiled water to sanitize, but many manufacturers recommend skipping this step since it can adversely affect the lids’ ability to seal. We recommend just rinsing the lids briefly in hot, running tap water.
Seal the jars and arrange of pot:
Screw on the rings until they are just hand-tight—don’t try to muscle-man tighten the rings. During the boiling process air needs to be able to escape from the jars—if the screw rings are too tight, it will prevent this from happening. Submerge sealed jars into the canner or stock pot. If necessary, add water to the pot so that it is at least 1 inch higher than the top of the jars.
Process the pickle jars:
This doesn’t have to be a vigorous boil, just steady is fine—too hard of a boil and you risk rattling glass jars (which is never a good thing). Boil for 10 to 15 minutes.
That’s 10 minutes for pint jars, 15 minutes for quart jars. Set your timer as soon as you see the water start boiling. Remove pot from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.
Remove the jars from the water using the lifter or tongs, transferring them back to the kitchen towel or wood cutting board.
Let cool, then test the seal:
Let the pickle jars cool at room temperature for a full 24 hours, then check the seal on the lid. If properly processed, the lids will be indented inward, indicating that the jar is sealed. If you press the center of the lid and it “pops” up and down, the jar is not sealed and you should store the pickles in the refrigerator and eat them within a few weeks. If the lids pass the pop test, remove the rings, and just try to lift the lid gently with your fingers. If you can’t easily lift it off, the jars have passed the second seal test and are ready to be stored.