Spring is here and with it I have been getting my garden planted. Which means I’m already thinking ahead to when all the beans, tomatoes and other veggies will be ready to eat and put away for next winter. But I need to enjoy the here and now. And the here and now involves asparagus. And if you are lucky, it involves lots and lots of asparagus. So much asparagus that you don’t know what to do with it all.
Okay, so most of us are not that lucky. I’m not even that lucky. But I am blessed with a really great farmers market and parents with a great asparagus patch. And when you are looking for something else to do with your asparagus, why not try pickling it? So many veggies and fruits can be pickled – don’t limit yourself to cucumbers. If you’ve ever bought fancy pickles at the fancy grocery store – things like marinated mushrooms or … asparagus, then you should think about whether you can do them at home. Because chances are you can.
These asparagus pickles need to be processed in a water bath canner (boiling water method) so they have a nice tender texture. If you’ve never tried canning before, I always tell people that pickles are a great place to start. You don’t have to worry about a jam setting up to the right consistency. You just need a good recipe and spice mixture and then you can focus on the process of canning. Once you get the canning process down, then move on to jams or jellies.
I don’t go into a ton of details in this recipe about the details of processing in a water bath canner. If you’ve never tried it before, get a good basic book on canning or take a class on canning. I recommend the Ball Blue Book of Preserving as a great starter book and as an added bonus, you can find it at almost any local hardware store when you buy your jars. With respect to classes, if you are local to me, I totally recommend my classes (!!!), but you can also contact your local extension office or library to see if they are offering any.
Okay, back to this recipe – it calls for a tablespoon of “pickling spices”. In this case, I mean any combination of the following whole spices dill seeds, allspice berries, peppercorns, whole coriander seeds, small pieces of mace or nutmeg, or mustard seed. Just don’t use cloves in this recipe. As you can see, if you don’t already have any or all of these spices in your pantry, it can be a little intimidating to approach a pickling recipe. So start with what you have and then add from there if you want. Most people have peppercorns and then maybe add in some dill seed. That easy. My preferred mix is some allspice berries, coriander, mustard and peppercorns.
You can adjust the amount of seasoning up or down as you wish, but don’t mess with the vinegar and water ratio, since that acidity level is necessary for processing the asparagus.
- 3 pounds of asparagus, trimmed to fit into pint jars or 12-ounce jars
- 2½ cups of apple cider vinegar (white wine or white distilled works also) (5%)
- 2½ cups of water
- 2½ t pickling salt
- 2 T sugar
- 1 T mixed pickling spices (no cloves)
- ½ t hot pepper flakes (optional)
- 3 large garlic cloves, peeled
- Wash asparagus well under running water. Trim asparagus to fit into your canning jars - just a little over ½ inch shorter than the jars and set aside.
- Combine vinegar, water, salt, sugar, spices, and pepper flakes (optional) in a medium non-reactive saucepan. Bring to a low boil and stir to dissolve the salt and sugar.
- While the brine is coming to a boil, place one clove of garlic in the bottom of each canning jar and tightly pack the asparagus vertically into clean, hot jars. Asparagus can be heads up or heads down depending on your preference.
- Pour boiling hot brine over the spears, leaving ½ inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if needed.
- Wipe rims of jars with a dampened clean paper towel.
- Adjust lids.
- Process 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.
- Store the cooled jars in a cool, dry, dark place for at least 3 weeks before eating the asparagus. After opening a jar, store it in the fridge.