I am lucky enough to have several ash trees in my garden, although they are unlikely to be cut down for firewood use (they are one of the best trees to use for firewood as the logs don't require lengthy seasoning), they do give the garden some much needed shelter from the sun, as well as providing me with ash keys to pickle.
I have to say this is a new one on me, so I can't tell you what they taste like, but as I have a bountiful free harvest of these I though I would try this out.
The best keys for picking are at the debut of summer when they are fresh, green and non-fibrous. Too old and they are too tough.
Pickled Ash Keys
§ 2 cups of Ash Keys without stalks
§ 1 tsp ground cloves
§ 1 tsp ground cinnamon
§ 4 bay leaves
§ 8 peppercorns
§ 1 tsp allspice
§ 1/2 tsp ground ginger
§ 1 tsp salt
§ 3 tbsp brown sugar
§ 2 cups cider vinegar
§ water (for a bain marie)
1. Wash the keys, then place in a pan covered with cold water and bring to the boil, simmerfor 5 minutes.
2. Strain off the water and return to the pan with some fresh water, then bring back to boil and simmer for a further 5 minutes.
3. Drain the keys through a colander and shake well to get rid of any excess water, and once dry pack into clean dry jars, but allow an inch of space from the top of the jar.
4. Put the spices, salt and sugar into a bowl and add the vinegar.
5. Warm the spice mix in a bain marie – which is just a fancy way of saying – put the bowl over a saucepan of water then bring the water to a boil. Allow the pickling vinegar to simmer for about 5 minutes, then leave it to cool by placing the bowl into some cold water, or you can leave it to cool by itself but it will take longer (– in fact if you are horribly organized you could prepare the pickling vinegar and then go out and pick your ash keys – if only I had thought of doing it that way round earlier).
6. Strain the liquid through a sieve into a jug and pour over the keys filling the jars right to the brim, and secure the lids well. As this is a pickling vinegar there is no need for sterilization - if you have them kilner jars are ideal for this.
7. Store in a cool dry place to mature for about 3 months.
8. Apparently they have a taste reminiscent of capers and can be used as a caper replacement – will just have to wait and see.