Pickled popweed and goose tongue ready for taste testing. (Photo by Vivian Faith Prescott)

Pickled popweed and goose tongue ready for taste testing. (Photo by Vivian Faith Prescott)

Planet Alaska: In a pickle with suktéitl’ and tayeidí

I’m on the beach harvesting a basketful of late-stage goose tongue leaves (suktéitl’, Lingít). I knew that goose tongue can be pickled, but I wanted to try to pickle the later-stage leaves at the end of the harvesting season that’ve grown larger but haven’t turned woody and lost flavor yet.

As I walk the beach meandering around goose tongue plants, I spot a patch of new growth popweed, tayeidí (Lingít) which is easy to identify because of the brighter yellow small tips. New-growth popweed doesn’t have the knobby texture nor the gooey inside. I put the tips in my mouth and as I chew, I look down at my basket of large goose tongue leaves. Maybe I should try pickling popweed too. Hmm, I mutter to myself, how much popweed should a harvester pick when a harvester pickles popweed. I decide that a small jelly-size mason jar will be enough.

Back home, I lightly rinse the suktéitl’ and tayeidí under tap water, removing any sand or shells. I lay out a towel, place the greens and seaweed on it, and pat the greens with a paper towel to dry them a bit. With scissors I trim the goose tongue leaves, removing any strings and the brown stem area. Most large leaves must be cut in half. Then I trim the popweed as close as I can without popping the seaweed, sometimes leaving a small bit of tender stalk. Any hard stems/stalk should be removed. I set the trimmed goose tongue and popweed aside in a pie pan.

There are two basic pickling methods. Refrigerator pickles, where you make the brine on the stove and then pour it into the jars. Or a water bath process where, after you’ve boiled your brine and filled and sealed the jars, you place the jars in a pot of simmering water and bring it to a boil for ten minutes. This method allows for the pickled greens to be shelf stable. Make sure you look up a recipe for the water bath method.

You can pickle just about anything: onions, fish, peppers, carrots, cucumbers and more.

Since there are a zillion different pickling recipes, consider the spices you might include. Maybe you like onions, or maybe you like your pickles spicy, or want to try a sweet brine. Purchasing all the different spices can get expensive if you’re not going to ever use them again, though. The good news is that you can buy a jar of pickling spice in the spice aisle at your grocery store.

What about substitutions? Southeast Alaskans are good at making substitutions. Our stores can be out of ingredients and sometimes those ingredients are not within our budget. Consider borrowing a spice from your neighbor or friend. Some pickling recipes call for mustard seed, but substitute a pinch of mustard powder in your brine. Some call for celery seeds, and I’ve substituted a tablespoon of finely chopped celery leaves in the brine.

After I’ve washed the mason jars in hot soapy water and rinsed them well, I lay them on the clean surface. I pack the blades of goose tongue into the jars, leaving enough space for expansion, about ½ inch. The popweed I’ve prepared fits nicely into the small mason jar. On hand, I have a small funnel and a ladle to get the brine into the jars after it’s boiled.

Because I’m not a pickling expert, there are plenty of recipes online including basic step instructions from the Farmer’s Almanac. Plus, the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension has videos on YouTube to help with your pickling. A basic pickle recipe uses a 50/50 mix of vinegar and water. Many bread-n-butter pickle recipes don’t use any water but lots of sugar.

•••••

Some pickling tips from the University of Alaska Cooperative Extension Service:

• Use canning and pickling salt in your brine because salt is a preservative and crips your greens.

• Vinegar acts as a preservative but use a high-grade vinegar with 5% acidity.

• Brown sugar and apple cider vinegar can cloud your brine and brown your vegetables.

• Ground spices can cloud the pickling mixture but sometimes you can’t get fresh spices.

• Use unchipped enamelware, stainless steel, or nonstick-coated materials.

• Don’t use aluminum, copper brass, or galvanized iron utensils.

•••••

I make the vinegar and water brine in a small pot, adding spices, and stir constantly, dissolving the sugar. As soon as the brine comes to a boil, I turn off the burner and carefully pour the hot brine into the jars I’ve prepared. With a slotted spoon, I scoop any remaining spices from the brine and equally divide them among the jars. I twist on the lids and let the jars come to room temperature. Afterward, put the jars into the fridge. After a day in the fridge, they’ll be ready to eat. The pickled beach greens can last up to three months in your refrigerator.

My dad is usually the taste tester, but now my sister’s living in town and she’s always been up for anything. When we were kids, she’d follow us older kids around and we could get her to try just about anything we concocted like mustard on the blueberry pancakes we cooked over a campfire. Turns out, when she sampled the pickled new-growth goose tongue, she liked the spicy best and my dad liked the bread-and-butter variety. But the bread-n-butter popweed tips, everyone liked. Once you make a batch, you’ll figure out how to adjust the basic recipe to suit your palate if it’s too sweet for you, or too tangy or spicy.

•••••

Here are two basic pickling brine recipes for suktéitl’ and tayeidí:

Bread-n-butter pickled goose tongue or popweed.

Makes a small batch of refrigerator goose tongue pickles or popweed. About 3 pint-sized (16 oz.) mason jars or you can use 4-6 smaller (8 oz.) half-pint jelly jars.

2 cups white or apple cider vinegar

• You can combine the vinegars to make 2 cups

1-2 cups water

• Sample your brine for sweetness & add enough water accordingly.

1 ½ cups sugar

½ cup thin sliced white or yellow onion

1 tsp pickling salt

3 tsp mustard seed

• substitute 1 Tbs mustard powder

½ tsp celery seed

• substitute 1 tsp fine chopped celery leaves

1-2 tsp red pepper flakes

pinch of ground cloves

pinch of ginger

16 peppercorns

• substitute 2 Tbs pickling spice

1-2 tsp garlic powder

• substitute one chopped garlic clove

1 tsp turmeric powder

*Turmeric is an essential ingredient for bread-n-butter pickles. Don’t leave it out!

Refrigerate for 24 hours before serving.

Spicy brine recipe for goose tongue pickles or popweed

Makes about 2 regular pint-size (16 oz.) mason jars or a few half-pint (8 oz.) jelly jars.

½ cup white vinegar

½ cup apple cider vinegar

• Substitute one cup of white vinegar.

1 cup water

1 Tbs sugar

1 Tbs pickling salt or kosher sea salt

4 spruce tips, chopped

2 bay leaves

1 clove garlic, sliced thin

2 tsp red pepper flakes

1 stick of cinnamon, break in half, or quarters

(estimating how many jars you might use)

¼ tsp dill weed

4 whole cloves

Refrigerate for 24 hours before serving.

•••••

“In a pickle,” isn’t only a bad situation. Pickling goose tongue or popweed is something you can do with your family and don’t forget to see if an Elder wants to go harvest to get the freshest beach greens into your diet. Pick enough goose tongue to fill three or four mason jars, and maybe enough to dry for your household, and a few Elders and friends. There’s always someone who’ll need the gift.

Pickles aren’t for everyone. Some people don’t like them by themselves, but will tolerate pickled vegetables in salads, dressings and dipping sauces. Pickled goose tongue can be added to salads, chopped and topped on a sandwich, or eaten out of the jar. Imagine experimenting with brine flavors. Imagine figuring out how to use pickled beach greens. Imagine, pickled bread-n-butter popweed sprinkled atop potato salad or deviled eggs and tossed in your favorite salmon spread. Imagine that!

• Wrangell writer and artist Vivian Faith Prescott writes “Planet Alaska: Sharing our Stories” with her daughter, Yéilk’ Vivian Mork. It appears twice per month in the Capital City Weekly.

Large blades of end-season goose tongue. (Photo by Vivian Faith Prescott)

Large blades of end-season goose tongue. (Photo by Vivian Faith Prescott)

Searching for small-tipped popweed in Wrangell. (Photo by Vivian Faith Prescott)

Searching for small-tipped popweed in Wrangell. (Photo by Vivian Faith Prescott)

Goose tongue and popweed ready to prepare for pickling. (Photo by Vivian Faith Prescott)

Goose tongue and popweed ready to prepare for pickling. (Photo by Vivian Faith Prescott)

Preparing to pickle beach greens and seaweed. (Photo by Vivian Faith Prescott)

Preparing to pickle beach greens and seaweed. (Photo by Vivian Faith Prescott)

Pickled refrigerator bread-n-butter popweed. (Photo by Vivian Faith Prescott)

Pickled refrigerator bread-n-butter popweed. (Photo by Vivian Faith Prescott)

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