For as much as foragers and foodies seem to love samphire, there isn’t a whole lot of choice out there when it comes to preparing it. The same two methods always seem to turn up. Number one: Pickling. Tried it, with utterly disappointing results. The emerald tendrils turn toady green and mushy, and they taste just like any other pickled vegetable. (In other words: What’s the point?) Then there’s the treat-them-like-any-other-vegetable technique, which calls for blanching the stems then sautéing them in butter or olive oil. I keep wanting to love this method, but the truth is, after a couple of bites of sautéed samphire, I’ve kind of had enough. The flavor is INTENSE…and intensely salty. (And if you have anything less than an iron stomach, the high salt, mineral, and nutrient content can throw your digestive system for a loop.) Plus, the ephemeral loveliness of foraged samphire straight from a salt marsh is utterly lost when it’s served in a big pile.
So, here’s what I do with samphire now. I blanch what I’ve picked in boiling (NOT salted) water for 30 seconds, then store it in the fridge. I add it in small amounts to salads and vegetables where a little bit of salt and a little bit of crunch will enhance the other ingredients. I quick-pickle it in small batches to serve as a condiment. The quick-pickling (a mix of half water, half vinegar) keeps the samphire from going soggy and lets it maintain its bright green color for about an hour. After that, it turns a duller more pickle-y green, but it’s still far tastier and more attractive than actually pickling the samphire. The other nice thing about this recipe (from a blogging perspective) is that you can use the pink peppercorn pickling solution with fresh cucumbers or any other blanched vegetable. So if you don’t happen to live near a samphire marsh and you don’t happen to visit said marsh at just the right time for picking samphire, you can still use it.
Quick Pickled Samphire
2 cups fresh samphire
¾ cup clear vinegar, such as cider, sherry, white wine, or champagne
¾ cup cold water
1 Tbs. pink peppercorns
pinch of sugar
Cook the samphire in a medium pot of boiling water 30 seconds. Drain, and shock (cool) in a bowl of ice water. Drain again, and transfer to a small bowl.
Add the remaining ingredients, cover, and refrigerate 15 minutes. Serve immediately, or drain and store in the fridge up to 1 week.