We are well into asparagus season by now, which—if you’re anything like me—is a cause for celebration. Not only do I love fresh, local asparagus, but its prominence means spring is here and that more delicious local fruits and vegetables are right around the corner.
Since starting my apprenticeship at Fair Share Farm in late March, we have been harvesting a few pounds of asparagus every other day. I would love nothing more than to eat every last tender asparagus shoot in my share, but I know I’ll be kicking myself later for not planning ahead and pickling some to enjoy when it’s no longer in season. Thankfully, Farmer Tom showed us a great pickling recipe that I’m using to preserve as much asparagus as I can keep out of my mouth.
makes 1 quart
2 cups distilled white vinegar
2/3 cup water
a pinch or two of canning/pickling salt
a few peppercorns
1 pound fresh asparagus
1 green onion
1 garlic clove
1 hot pepper
herbs of choice (we chose sprigs of tarragon and thyme)
1. In a pan, bring vinegar, water, salt and peppercorns to a boil.
2. Clean quart jar and heat to about 200 degrees. (We heated ours in a toaster oven. This is to prevent the glass from cracking when exposed to the hot vinegar.)
3. Trim asparagus and green onion so that the tops are level with the bottom of the neck of the jar. Pack jar tightly with asparagus, green onion, garlic clove, hot pepper and herbs. Alternate between packing different ingredients so everything fits snuggly.
Trimming the asparagus to the correct length can be tedious work. To make it easier and quicker, measure and cut one asparagus to the desired length, then use it as a guide for cutting the rest. Line all the tips up with the edge of your cutting board, then cut each asparagus to the length of the guide. Photo by Dani Hurst.
4. When vinegar is boiling, remove from heat and pour into jar over vegetables and herbs. Leave about ½ inch of headspace between the top of the liquid and the lid.
5. Once the jar cools, put in the refrigerator. Leave the jar unopened for as long as you can—for at least a few days so the flavors can seep in—and then enjoy! If kept in the refrigerator, these should last at least a few months.
If you’re low on fridge space, you can process the jar in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Just store it in your pantry until you open it, then keep it in the refrigerator. If you're taking this route, stay energy efficient by buying asparagus in bulk and processing as many jars as your water bath can hold (usually about 7 quart jars).
And that’s all it takes to preserve a little taste of spring freshness. This recipe is very customizable, but keep the 3:1 ratio of vinegar to water to ensure a safe pH. Experiment with your favorite herbs, and even different flavors of vinegar if you’re feeling brave, until you find your perfect match.
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