It's somewhat unusual to pickle hard squashes like butternut or acorn, but it is actually a very nice way to use them. The pickle is firm and crunchy, and the sage and cardamom make a wonderful duo, aromatic and autumnal.
You can buy cardamom in pod or seed form. Either will do, but seeds still in the pods tend to retain more of their volatile oils. Each pod contains about 15 or 20 seeds, which you can extract just by crushing the pod in your finger and picking out the seeds.
Serve these with braised meats, stews or chopped up and mixed with couscous as a side dish.
- 3 pound butternut squash, other winter squash, or pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into 3/4-inch cubes (about 5 cups)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher or other coarse salt
- 8 whole sage leaves
- 1 teaspoon cardamom seeds (without pods) lightly crushed
- 2/3 cup brown sugar
- 1 2/3 cups cider vinegar
- 3/4 cup apple juice
In a non-reactive bowl, combine the squash and salt, toss to coat, and allow to stand at room temperature for about 4 hours. Drain, rinse well, and squeeze out extra moisture by the handfuls.
In a medium non-reactive pot, combine all remaining ingredients and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring once or twice to dissolve the brown sugar. Add the squash, bring back just to a simmer, then remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature, uncovered.
When the mixture has cooled to room temperature, cover and refrigerate.
The squash will be tasty in about 2 hours, but will improve in flavor if allowed to sit overnight. This pickle will keep, covered and refrigerated, for about 2 months.