"Putting away" garlic scapes using traditional pickling methods and equipment is possible, but we have found that unlike beans and asparagus, pickled garlic scapes maintain a very fibrous texture and a very singular garlic flavour.
Lacto-fermentation allows natural probiotic bacteria to convert sugars in food into lactic acid, which helps to preserve it. The harmful bacteria that can develop on stored food won't tolerate a salty environment, while the good bacteria will. During the fermentation process, the bacteria produce carbon dioxide which will need to escape at some point. There are specially sealed bottles that can be "burped" daily to allow for this, and there are special pickling lids with valves that allow gas to exit without letting oxygen in.
Another way to accomplish the same end is to do smaller batches using a brief fermentation period before refrigerating the pickle, which halts (or dramatically slows) the fermentation process. This recipe uses a vacuum sealer, but lots of other pickling methods can be found on Youtube and elsewhere.
This recipe can be easily scaled up using approximately the same proportions. If doubling or tripling the volume of scapes, take the volume of kosher salt to the same level. The salt should always be 2.5% to 5% of the mix by weight for safe fermentation.
1 cup firmly packed garlic scape particles (see below)
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp whole coriander seeds
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp celery seeds
1 bay leaf
1 dried chili de arbol (or substitute desired quantity of red chili flakes: this can always be adjusted at the end)
Approximately 2 TBSP Vinegar to finish (quantity and type to taste)
Begin by following the first three steps in the Dehydrated Garlic Scape Powder recipe in order to start with the processed (or finely chopped) scapes, and pack a one cup measure firmly with the tiny pieces.
Chop the onion finely, to a similar particle size as the scapes, or simply run approximately 1/3 regular onion through the same food processor. Combine the onion and scapes with the salt, sugar, and spices (but not the vinegar), and place inside a kitchen sealing bag. Use a vacuum sealer to remove all the air and then seal the bag. We like to do a double-seal for safety's sake.
Clearly label the sealed bag with the date, and leave it out at room temperature, away from direct sunlight, but in a place where it can be observed. As fermentation takes place over the coming days, CO2 created by the bacteria inside will begin to inflate the sealed bag. After just 24 hours, it should appear to contain gas - where there was no gas before.
The Fermented Garlic Scape Relish usually takes around three days. During this time, the flavours mingle and the vegetables inside will soften. This is the time when the probiotic bacteria will multiply, creating a relish that is very good for gut health. The bag can be left for up to five days before moving on to the next step. If the bag becomes firm, like an inflated balloon, move on to the next step.
Carefully pierce the bag or cut off one corner. The air inside the bag will have a funky smell reminiscent of kimchi, but the relish itself should be mildly sweet and salty with a very garlic-forward flavour. Pour the mixture inside, and any juices that collect, into a clean mixing bowl. Remove the bay leaf and dried chili (if using), and give it a good stir.
Now mix in a small amount of vinegar, very little at a time. Apple cider vinegar and rice vinegar both work well. White vinegar may be a bit to sharp. More sugar, salt, or chili flakes can also be added at this stage to taste. The goal is to achieve a thick relish that can be spread or dolloped, with a balance of hot, sour, salty, and sweet. We found that two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and a touch more sugar was right. Once this balance has been achieved, store the relish in a clean, sealed container in the refrigerator. It will keep for up to six weeks.
This recipe is extremely flexible. As long as the pieces are kept fine, nearly any vegetable can be added for flavour, texture, and colour: Carrot, finely diced red pepper, radish, blanched cauliflower pieces, eggplant, zucchini, or sweet corn kernels. It's the same with fresh or dried herbs: Dill works well, or oregano and rosemary. Just add any of these ingredients to the bag before sealing it for fermentation. If adding whole sprigs of fresh herbs, remove them before refrigerating or serving.