For the May Can Jam, we were given the choice of either asparagus or rhubarb. Rhubarb being one of my absolutely least favorite vegetables – right up there with fennel (I wanna know who decided these things are vogue. Sour and licoricey. Bleah.) – and asparagus being one of my all-time faves, the choice was a no-brainer.
Now, what to do with it. Since the rules say we must use the boiling water canning method – and I don’t know nuthin’ ’bout pressure canning (yet), pickling is the default position.
I love pickled asparagus. In fact, I served Oxford Falls Asparago Conservuto as part of the antipasto at my mom’s birthday party a couple of months ago. Best I’ve ever had! So I turned to my Twitter buddy Jim (@oxfordfalls), and asked if he would share his recipe with me. He’s such a sweetie, he said yes! And dutifully e-mailed it to me.
What he didn’t tell me, was that it was literally his usual recipe. Any recipe that starts with “Two 11# boxes of asparagus” and uses a gallon each of water and cider vinegar, is a bit beyond my current resources.
So, after consulting with various canning books to get something less than commercial proportions, and a bit of weeping when I realized that my pint jars are not really tall enough to get the long, graceful spears I was after, here’s what I came up with (recipe used with permission):
Pickled Asparagus (makes one pint)
1 lb. thin asparagus, trimmed to fit 1/2″ below the rim of a pint jar (reserve bottoms for other use)
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup water
1 Tbs. pickling salt
1/4 tsp. coriander seed
1 dried red chili pepper
1 large clove garlic, peeled
1 sprig fresh dill
In a medium saucepan, bring the vinegar, water and salt to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt.
Sterilize the jar and lid appropriately, and arrange the raw asparagus spears “heads” down in the hot jar. Insert the chili pepper, garlic clove, and dill sprig. Add the coriander seed. Fill the jar with the hot brine, leaving 1/4″ head space. Cover with the lid and jar ring, and boil for 15 minutes.
Allow to meld for a week or two before use.
Note: I love this recipe for its simplicity and the great little zing you get from the chili pepper and garlic. This pickled asparagus makes a perfect little stirrer / garnish for bloody marys, or as a side with meat, or a snack with cheese.
As a side-note, I actually made a double-recipe of the brine, intending to pickle some jalapeño peppers and some Central American long peppers my husband bought. The jalapeños were fine, but this is what happened to the Ball jar the other peppers were in:
Yup, the bottom fell out. Literally. I still don’t know why, but after consulting with some canning mavens on Twitter, determined that it wasn’t me. Just something that happens sometimes. I’m just grateful that it wasn’t the asparagus!