Preserving Fiddleheads: Dry-Salt Method

The (edible) life of fern fiddleheads is very short, but pickling keeps them around for much longer.  Though I do suspect that I might just chomp them down as soon as they’re ready.

I preserved the fiddleheads this year two ways: one in brine and one dry-salt.

Let’s look at the dry-salting method first. And when I say “look”, I mean that quite literally.

In the white plate on the left is the final product – I made a batch about a month ago.

You will need:



A mix of spices of choice. I use caraway, coriander, yellow mustard seeds and dill seed.

Chili peppers: cut up, I leave the seeds in cause I want it spicy!

Ginger cut up into pretty big chunks so that you can remove them later


1. Clean the fiddleheads and blanch them. Blanching means quickly boiling the ferns – about 5 minutes tops. Dunk them in ice right after so that you don’t end up with mushy fiddleheads.

2. Mix the spices and toss the fiddleheads with the spices, chilis and ginger.

3. Add salt.  Now, I don’t actually have a measurement for the salt, as I usually judge by the looks of it.  Basically you want to cover the fiddleheads pretty well. If you feel like it’s too much salt, you’re probably on the right track.

Take a look:

IMPORTANT:  wear gloves, or stir with a spoon! You do not want to mess with those chili peppers!

Here is another look at the salt:

4.  Now the fiddleheads will hang out at room temperature for 3-4 days under a weight.  Just like this:

5. On day 4 you can move the fiddleheads to the fridge where they will continue to cure for another 3-4 weeks. I actually do this part in a ziplock bag because I like to be able to turn it over and redistribute the juices.

Taste the fiddleheads at 3 weeks: you will know that they’re ready when the intense salt taste subsides.  I usually move them to jars at this point.

How long do they last? I would give them about three months in the refrigerator.  To be entirely honest, I always eat mine before then 🙂

Enjoy – and please let me know if you have any questions!


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