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Monday, July 28, 2014

Preserving Summer

I've definitely caught the pickling and preserving bug over the past few years. (And of all the bugs to catch, I'd say this is a good one.) I started small, with strawberry rhubarb ginger jam, but then, after taking a few tips from my mom, I upped my jamming and pickling game by adding different spices and herbs. At first I kept it fairly simple, adding a pinch of cayenne here or a dash of chile flakes there, but now you could say I've gone wild. No spice or herb is safe, no classic pickle or jam too sacred.

Spices and herbs will help you preseve a little bit of your summer

Sometimes, playing with your food should be encouraged.

So with summer produce at its peak and pickling and preserving season at its prime, here are some of my favorite spices and herbs to make your pickling extra special:

Sumac - If spices could be in a high school yearbook, sumac, along with za'atar, would win the "Most Trendy" superlative. Sumac is popping up everywhere (thanks to food writers and chefs like Joan Nathan, Yotam Ottolenghi, and Sami Tamimi), and do you know where else it should be? With your pickled red onions. Lemony, bright, and a little fruity, ground sumac berries add something different to pickled things, and are especially great with pickled red onions.

Dill Seeds - Sure, dill is often found in pickles, but have you tried dill seeds? With the flavor of dill and a hint of caraway, dill seeds are a natural choice in flavoring pickles. Since you're experimenting anyway, try them with pickled okra.

Cumin and Cardamom - Cumin is easily one of my favorite spices, with cardamom making at least the top 10. Cumin's earthy versatility is right at home in flavors of the Middle East but also an obvious addition to Mexican and Latin American dishes. Cardamom, on the other hand, is a spice that took me a little getting used to, but its strong aroma and slight sweetness quickly won me over. Try adding a teaspoon of cumin seeds and a half teaspoon of cardamom seeds to your next batch of cucumber pickles!

Herbs de Provence - Here's the most unusual addition to your pickles: the classic blend of savory, thyme, rosemary, lavender, and fennel. Combined with your other pickling mainstays of peppercorns, mustard seeds, and bay leaves, herbs de Provence add an herbal twist to your favorite pickle brine.

Let us know about your favorite pickling spices and herbs in the comments, and happy preserving!

Kara Elder grew up playing in the kitchen cupboards and reading cookbooks for fun while watching her mom cook tasty Mexican meals. After graduating with a degree in Russian, she found herself increasingly interested in reading food blogs and planning menus. Kara, her mom, and her sister started a food blog of their own, The Troika Table. Kara is a Bazaar Spices Team Member and also works for Joan Nathan, a DC-based cookbook author and food writer. 


  1. Hey Kara, I recently wrote an article about green strawberries becoming a culinary trend over the past few years; chefs are pickling them with ingredients like rice wine vinegar, sugar, and lime juice. Do you have any suggestions for particular spices? I want to try it out!

    1. Interesting, I had no idea! After doing some reading, it seems green strawberries taste similar to kiwi - tart, acidic, but still a little fruity. You could go any direction with spices: kaffir lime leaf + green cardamom, chili flakes + cumin seeds, or more traditional with mustard seeds + peppercorns. Now to get my hands on some green strawberries...I'll have to wait until next year, I imagine!