Asparagus Pickling Extravaganza

It’s officially asparagus season in southwest Wisconsin and southeast Minnesota.  Spring is really here.   After our success with Dilly Beans last summer, my friend Connie of MyPart and I jumped at the opportunity to pickle some of that asparagus goodness, to have throughout the year.  We got about 21 pounds of asparagus from Bronk’s, a local produce and plant vendor, who had gotten the asparagus from across the river in Wisconsin.

After a search for recipes and a collection of ingredients in our respective kitchens, we decided to pickle our asparagus with two different brines;  a basic brine for most of the jars, and a sweet and spicy brine, to make suitable garnishes for Bloody Marys.  Let’s start with the equipment needed for both of these recipes, and a few links to information on water bath canning:

Equipment

  • 1-quart and 1-pint wide mouthed canning jars, with lids and rings
  • canning kettle
  • jar lifter
  • ladle
  • large saucepans
  • cutting board
  • tape measure or ruler
  • paring knife or chef’s knife
  • colander
  • kitchen towels

A good explanation (including pictures of this equipment) of water bath canning is here– we did what the article refers to as “cold pack”.  We processed our jars for 10 minutes for both recipes.  Now onto the exotic sweet and spicy brine.

Mary Asparagus

modified from an original recipe by Johnnydeez on Allrecipes.com

For 4 quarts:

Ingredients

  • 4 1-pound bunches of fresh asparagus
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup white wine vinegar
  • 3 cups white vinegar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 18 cloves of garlic
  • 4 jalapeno peppers
  • 2 Tbsp. dried thyme
  • 0.5 cup Old Bay seasoning
  • 8 bay leaves
  • 4 tsp. pickling salt
  • 25 whole black peppercorns

Procedure

  1. Wash the asparagus, and trim the stalks so that they will fit in the quart jars (ours were just under six inches in length).
  2. Pack the asparagus spears into the jars.
  3. Seed and julienne the jalapeno peppers.  Crush the garlic cloves. (I used a garlic press.)
  4. Combine the non-asparagus ingredients into a large saucepan.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Boil hard for 1 minute.
  5. Pour the hot liquid into the jars, filling to cover the tips of the asparagus.
  6. Put on lids that have been rinsed in hot water, and screw on the rings so they are only fingertip tight.
  7. Process in the water bath canner for 10 minutes.
  8. Carefully remove jars with jar lifter to a clean flat surface, and let cool and air dry completely before moving the jars.

And now for some process photos:

Trimmed and Washed Asparagus Spears

The brine, after a hard boil

The canned Mary Asparagus

And now on to the second recipe, which we used for the remaining 17  pounds of asparagus.  We filled 11 quart jars and 7 pint jars, if my memory is correct.

Basic Pickled Asparagus

Ingredients

  • fresh asparagus, rinsed and trimmed to pieces that will fit in the jars
  • fresh garlic cloves, whole, peeled (about 1-2 bulbs, enough for two or three cloves per jar)
  • hot peppers or chilies (enough so that each jar gets at least one half a pepper, preferably one whole chile per jar)
  • white vinegar
  • pickling salt
  • water
  • pickling spice (which is a combination of things like peppercorns, coriander, cloves, bay leaves, etc)

Quantities are much less exact in this recipe, as it depends on how much asparagus you have, and how many jars it takes to contain it.  We used about two batches of the brine as described below.

Procedure

  1. Wash the asparagus, and trim the stalks so that they will fit in the jars.
  2. Pack the asparagus spears into the jars, with one or two garlic cloves per jar, and at least one half a chile pepper.
  3. Make the brine. Add 10 cups white vinegar, 10 cups of water, and 1 cup of pickling salt to a saucepan.  Add 2 Tbsp. of pickling spice, and heat.  Stir until the salt dissolves.
  4. Pour the brine into the jars, filling to cover the tips of the asparagus.
  5. Put on lids that have been rinsed in hot water, and screw on the rings so they are only fingertip tight.
  6. Process in the water bath canner for 10 minutes.
  7. Carefully remove jars with jar lifter to a clean flat surface, and let cool and air dry completely before moving the jars.

And, of course, a picture of our finished product:

The basic pickled asparagus

We had a good time doing this, and we’re a lot more experienced at it than when we did the dilly beans last summer.   I expect that by the end of this summer, we’ll be seasoned veterans, what with strawberry season coming up, and then more beans in August.  This is very satisfying to do (I’m saving food!), and I look forward to having good pickles in a month or so.

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