How many of you consider yourselves "seasonal" cooks? eaters? I certainly am and some times it's curious that I feel no strong yen to "put up" vegetables, to "fill the larder", to "stock the cellar". But really? I.Just.Don't.
Come April, I long for asparagus and you should have seen the excitement around here in mid April when the first asparagus magically appeared in the back garden overnight! And come July, the garden's tomatoes and cucumbers and okra and peppers (and and and ... ) are summer treasures. But in the middle of winter? I'm just as happy with winter vegetables.
So my "pickle" style tends to "quick" pickles, ones that don't require sterilizing jars and dragging out the big canning pot. (That said, I've got plenty of canning experience, thanks to burying my sadness in canning the summer we lost my mom, you'll see the evidence in Practical Home Canning Tips.)
And while I l-o-v-e asparagus pickles, they are so expensive to buy. And these? They couldn't be easier! And they're no more expensive than the asparagus itself! They have excellent crunch and couldn't be more perfect!
RECIPE for QUICK PICKLED ASPARAGUS
Time to table: about 6 hours
Makes about 30 spears of pickled asparagus fitting either a one-quart (four-cup) wide-mouth canning jar or a five-cup glass wide-mouth jar
1-1/2 cups white vinegar
1-1/2 cups water
1-1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1-1/2 tablespoons sugar
1-1/2 tablespoons peppercorns
1-1/2 tablespoon mustard seeds
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 small dried chile
1-1/2 pounds fresh asparagus, preferably "medium thick" spears
PICKLING LIQUID Bring the pickling liquid to a boil, stirring to make sure the salt and sugar dissolve completely. Let simmer for about 5 minutes, then lower heat to maintain a slow simmer, you don't want the water to evaporate, changing the vinegar:water proportions to change.
ASPARAGUS Wash the pickles well, paying special attention to the tips. Snap the "woody ends" off each spear, here are step-by-step photos and a video showing how to break off the woody ends from asparagus . Cut the spears to fit into the jar, leaving about a half-inch of head space (that's the space between the top of the spears and the canning lid once it's in place). Insert the spears into the jar, packing tightly, it's easier to arrange the spears when the jar is on its side.
FILL Once the jar is filled, use a small strainer to lift the chile, garlic and as many of the peppercorns and mustard seeds as you can, drop them into the jar, moving the spears if needed to help the tiny bits distribute throughout. Pour the hot liquid into the jar, a funnel inserted into the jar makes this extra-easy, be sure to cover the tips of the spears completely.
"PICKLE" Put a lid on the jar and let the pickling liquid do its work! Pour off the liquid when the pickles are ready, cover and refrigerate for up to a week.
WHEN ARE THEY READY? My first batch was ready to eat in just four hours, perfectly crisp and pickled. The second batch was also ready in four hours but I let the pickles rest for 24 hours, just to see what would happen. The pickles did get stronger, I liked them best after about six hours, after 24 hours they were still good but the vinegar was more harsh.
ALANNA's TIPS & KITCHEN NOTES
The "base" of the pickling liquid is the vinegar, water, salt and sugar. After that, the ingredients add flavor to the pickles so are variable, depending on what sounds good. Star anise appeals, clove appeals (though in moderation). I do think the chile (or perhaps red pepper flakes are important, adding more "zip" than "heat" to the asparagus spears.
"Medium thick" spears work best, I think, because thin spears have little flesh for the pickling liquid to penetrate and thick spears are so thick, the pickling liquid might not penetrate. Do make sure the spears are roughly equal in thickness.
For a "ruler", cut one spear that fits the jar perfectly, then use it as a guide to cut the remaining spears exactly the same length.
Many of us have quart jars around, so I've based the recipe on that convenient size. The downside to a quart jar is that it's shorter than the asparagus spears, even after the woody ends are removed – waste! I chose to just keep those pieces for a salad but it got me to searching the cupboards for a "taller" wide-mouth jar that would work. Lo and behold, I did find one, it holds about five cups so this recipe also makes enough liquid for that – vinegar is cheap, asparagus is not.
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MORE FAVORITE ASPARAGUS RECIPES
~ Six Years of Favorite Asparagus Recipes ~
~ Gorgeous Raw Asparagus Salad ~
~ Slow-Roasted Asparagus ~
~ Spring Garden Vegetable Soup with Asparagus, Artichokes, Peas & Spinach ~
~ more asparagus recipes ~
from A Veggie Venture
~ Roasted Salmon & Asparagus ~
~ Easy-to-Elegant Asparagus Soup ~
~ Asparagus Custard Tart ~
~ more asparagus recipes ~
from Kitchen Parade, my food column
famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.
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