Oh asparagus! How I avoided pickling you. I kept you waiting in the fridge for over a week, as you anticipated your spicy vinegar bath. And yet, already you’ve given me so much! After just two days of pickling, you are the perfect balance of crisp and pucker. You make the perfect sidecar to just about any meal. I am enamored.
That’s right kids, the pickled asparagus has turned out to be a riotous success, despite the fact that I used asparagus that was a tiny bit past its prime (life, why much you always throw distractions into my canning schedule?) and forgot to include the peppercorns in the brine.
I based my recipe on one from a really terrific book about Southern-style canning called Putting Up. It’s by Stephen Palmer Dowdney, who ran a successful canning business in Charleston, SC for many years (although I’m far more impressed by the fact that he was a college classmate of Pat Conroy, who is one of my favorite authors).
If you’re looking to expand your food preservation reference library (I make it sound so official, don’t I), this is definitely a volume to consider. I like how it’s organized by month, as well as the fact that it has really excellent details on the basics of canning.
Before we get into the recipe, I want to take a moment to encourage all of you to consider pickling something. Possibly even this week. The reason? It is so very simple. You can prep just a single jar at a time, which makes it the perfect first canning project.
Honestly, you don’t even need to do the hot water bath if you’re just making a jar or two for yourself, you can just stash your pickles in the fridge. Making pickles will build your canning confidence and get you excited for more ambitious projects. I’m certainly chomping at the bit for my next pickling project (onions and then okra). If I’ve got you sufficiently excited, my favorite refrigerator pickle recipe is right here.
I’m not going to be giving a jar of these pickles away, since this whole pickling thing is new to me, I want to wait and make sure they continue to be good for the weeks to come before I start handing them out, all willy nilly. However, do not despair. I’ve got another giveaway up my sleeve that will be coming soon.
- 4 pounds asparagus, trimmed to fit your pint jars and blanched in boiling water for approximately 10 seconds
- 3 cups vinegar (half apple cider vinegar, half white vinegar)
- 3 cups water
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 4 tablespoons Penzeys pickling spice
- 1 tablespoon red hot chili flakes
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled
- 3 slices of lemon
- 3 pint jars (if you use the taller, 12 ounce jelly jars, you don’t have to cut your asparagus quite as short and you’ll probably fill four jars. I didn’t have any, so I didn’t use them).
- Sterilize your jars.
- Put the lemon slice in the bottom and pack the trimmed and blanched asparagus into the jars (it’s up to you to determine whether you want to go tips up or down). Tuck a garlic clove down into the asparagus spears.
- Bring the vinegar, water and spices to a boil. Pour into jars on top of asparagus, leaving at least 1/2 inch of head space.
- Put lids and rings on the jars and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes (you can skip this step if you plan on just putting your pickles in the fridge).
- Wait at least 24 hours before eating, to give the asparagus spears a chance to get sufficiently pickly.
Adapted from "Putting Up" by Stephen Palmer Dowdney