Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Pickled Asparagus

As a small child you would not have found me lurking about a pickle barrel or snitching sauerkraut from the basement. The first time I ate a sweet bread and butter pickle, by accident, I took note and thereafter looked for them. The first time I bit into an umeboshi sour plum pickle in Japan, I stopped amid conversation to clarify what I had just eaten. Pickles have surreptitiously entered into my diet.

Exploring ways to preserve and keep abundant summer garden and farmers market produce, pickles and canning are a new pursuit. With the help of Well-Preserved: recipes and techniques for putting up small batches of seasonal foods by Eugenia Bone, I made Pickled Asparagus, and it is fabulous! See the book for details on the water-bath method of canning and for additional recipes. She also provides recipes for using the pickled items.

Canning is a lot about being organized in the kitchen. Start with getting your canning gear in place. By this I mean wash the jars and lids. Read up on technique. I've tried the water bath and the oven method. I prefer the dry heat of the oven method so far. Have a damp cloth for wiping the rims and labels handy. Please defer to an expert resource for canning tips.

Pickled Asparagus
Makes 3 Pint Jars

Asparagus, 5 lbs (2268 gm)
Water, 2 1/4 cups
Distilled White Vinegar with 5% acidity, 2 1/4 cups
Pickling Salt, 1/4 cup
Dill Seed, 1 tsp
Hot Red Pepper Flakes, 1/2 tsp
Whole Allspice berries, 1/4 tsp
Cumin Seeds, 1/4 tsp
Coriander Seeds, 1/4 tsp

1. Wash 3 pint jars with the lids and screw bands. Put jars, tops up, in the oven with the lids off at 250ºF (121ºC) for 30 minutes. Lay out a clean cloth to wipe the jars and an absorbent pad (silicon mat lined pan, towel, or layer of newspapers) to place the hot jars after processing.

2. Trim the asparagus ends off so that they allow 3/4 to 1-inch of headspace in the jars. Over medium to high heat, bring a pot with about 2-inches of water to boil.  Cook the asparagus, in small batches, until bright green, about 3 minutes. Remove asparagus and run under cold water or dunk them in ice water to set their color. Drain and set aside. Repeat with remaining asparagus.

3. Prepare the vinegar solution. Combine water, vinegar, salt, dill seed, pepper flakes, allspice berries, cumin seeds, and coriander seeds in a saucepan over medium to low heat. Stir to dissolve salt, but do not boil past the point the salt has dissolved. Remove from the heat.

4. Pack the asparagus into the warm jars tightly, tips upright. Cover with the vinegar solution leaving 1/2 to 3/4-inch of headspace above the vinegar solution. Distribute the spices amongst the jars. Wipe the rims, set on the lids, and screw on the bands to fingertip tight.

5. Process the jars by baking them in the oven at 250ºF (121ºC) for 15 minutes or use the water-bath method and process accordingly for 15 minutes.

6. Remove jars from the oven. Place them upside down to cool. Check the seals to be sure they sealed. Tighten the bands as needed. Label and date.

7. Allow the asparagus to season in a cool dark place for 4 weeks (or overnight). Refrigerate after opening. The asparagus will become paler and float in the vinegar as they do shrink during processing so pack them tightly. Using proper canning methods, you can store these for up to one year. They've yet to last a week around here.

Serving suggestions:
Eat out of the jar, add to salads with hard-cooked eggs and vinaigrette, or add to Chicken Piccata.

Pickled Asparagus

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