Pickled Bull Kelp

By Taryn Pickard

This summer I pickled kelp for the first time, and I did so on our sailboat. This was my first time canning on a boat, canning using a pressure cooker and canning kelp, but luckily I had my lovely friend Mae, a neighbour in the anchorage with plenty of experience with this canning process. I didn’t follow Mae’s recipes, but I did follow her lead with the process of canning.

Pickling Bull kelp

We were on the water in this beautiful little anchorage in the Broughton Archipelago, Canada, with a couple of days to do nothing but enjoy where we were, so I thought it would also be a great time to go on a harvesting adventure and turn some kelp into food for the year.

The following are the steps we used to make kelp pickles which we can today enjoy and remind ourselves of those wonderful summer adventures as the days grow shorter and colder here in the Pacific Northwest.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a professional food scientist. This is just how I pickled my kelp, but please do your own research outside of this blog before attempting the same thing yourself, especially when it comes to the use of a pressure cooker.

Step 1: Forage for your Kelp

May and June in the Pacific Northwest are the ideal times to harvest Bull Kelp. You want the younger pieces because they are more tender and have more flavor. You can also harvest older fronds, but they have a higher chance of holding onto more toxins and also don’t have the same flavor. With all that being said, the pieces we harvested for these pickles were older because we didn’t get to harvesting and pickling until later in the season. In order to harvest, we took the dinghy out to a patch of Bull Kelp and cut off the pieces we thought looked the healthiest. We cut them at the point where the stem became too narrow for what we desired. Each jar fit maybe between 1/2-1 kelp piece, depending on the size of the kelp.

Step 2: Gather your ingredients and materials together

For our pickling process, we used a pressure cooker, an external propane burner, canning jars, two different pots, a ladle, and a funnel. We also used the following ingredients for actually making the pickles:

- Foraged nodding onions

- Brown onions

- Pickling spices (Mustard seeds, coriander seeds, dill seeds, bay leaves - but get creative & use what you have)

- Pickling vinegar mixture (see our Quick Pickled Veg for our basic pickling brine recipe)

- Red chillies

- Garlic cloves

- Lots of kelp rings, obviously!

pickled bull kelp seaweed

Step 3: Sanitize your jars and seals

We sanitized the jars by first wiping them out and then heating them in the oven for 20 minutes at 220C/420F. Next sterilized the seals by boiling water and then putting the seals in the water directly after it boiled and after turning it off. We then left them in the water for 20 minutes.

Step 4: Start Cooking

Fill your jars with all of the solid ingredients, such as kelp, onions, garlic, and chilies. Mix together your pickling mixture and vinegar and bring it to a boil. Turn off the mixture and pour it into your jars, leaving about half an inch at the top. Use a chopstick to push any leftover air out of the jars. Place the seals and the screw-on lids on the jars and hand tighten the lids. Place the jars in the pressure cooker. I’m not going to go into details about how to use your pressure cooker because they are all so different, so please read your instruction manual carefully before use. I don’t have specific measurements for each of these ingredients. It was more or less a to-taste experimental game. We used a higher kelp-to-onion ratio than I wish we had, with most of the jars being kelp rings and only having a few onions and garlic cloves in each jar. In the future I will be using a more balanced mix of onions, garlic and kelp rings just because the kelp doesn’t have a ton of flavor on its own. I might even add some kelp rings to a dill pickled recipe and see how that goes. The texture of the pickled kelp rings was great. The flavor without other ingredients to balance the kelp was just lacking.

Bull kelp seaweed pickled

Step 5: Let Cool

Once your pressure cooking process is done and you have pulled the jars out of the canner, leave your jars somewhere to cool for a few hours without moving them too much. Once they are cool, check to make sure all the seals are sealed. If they haven’t you can place the unsealed jars in the fridge and eat them right away instead of storing them. The flavor will be different this way, but it will still be good. The rest can go into their storage location whenever they are cool enough to do so.

Step 6: Eat!

After 6 weeks, open your kelp pickles up and eat them! They can be used in all of the ways you would usually eat pickles. I love to throw them on a sandwich, with crackers and cheese, or even as a small addition of flavor to a soup!

If you would like to see this process in video form click HERE, as well as many other ocean-related foods, you can check us out at Wayward Life Sailing on YouTube!

​Taryn Pickard Currently a liveaboard sailor, Taryn has a deep passion for connecting with nature in all areas of life, including through food foraging, cold water swimming, meditation, off-grid living and anything else that lets her be closer to nature and her own soul. In previous times, Taryn has been a yoga and meditation instructor, welder and hiking guide and currently works as a photographer and videographer. See more from Taryn www.the-wayward-life.com youtube.com/waywardlifesailing instagram.com/the.wayward.life facebook.com/thewaywardlife

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