Pickling asparagus transforms the snappy, grassy flavor of this spring vegetable into something a bit earthier and deeper. I like to add garlic and chiles when I make them, but then my family loves spice and heat, feel free to leave them out for a less intense flavor (and some may say a flavor that focuses a bit more on the asparagus itself).
Notes: 1) If you choose to add the lemon slices, use organic lemons and scrub them clean, 2) store-bought pickling spice is fine, but I like to make my own using this recipe for pickling spice.
- 5 pounds asparagus
- 3 cups cider vinegar
- 3 cup water
- 3 tablespoons fine sea salt
- 3 tablespoons pickling spice
- Optional: 6 slices lemon
- Optional: 6 garlic cloves
- Optional: 6 small dried chiles, like arbol
- Bring a canning kettle or really big pot full of water and a medium or large pot of water to a boil (this second pot is for blanching the asparagus).
- Meanwhile, trim the asparagus into lengths that fit in the jars leaving 1/2 inch of head space (you can use any extra bits of asparagus to make this Asparagus Stem Salad).
- When the pot of water fro blanching comes to a boil, prepare a large bowl of ice water and set it on the counter near the pot. Blanch the asparagus by dipping it into the boiling water for 10 seconds and then immediately cooling it off in the ice water. Drain the asparagus and lay it to dry on a clean kitchen towel or layers of paper towels. (Why bother with this step? It's a common and legitimate question. It helps set the color - pickled asparagus won't be bright green, by any measure, but if you don't blanch it first it will turn a truly icky gray. Blanching and truly cooling the asparagus down immediately also helps it hold its shape and snappy texture through the pickling process.)
- When the water in the canning kettle boils, sterilize the pint jars by boiling them for 10 minutes. Remove from the kettle and set them on a drying rack. There's no need to dry them - they are so hot they should dry themselves off in no time. Plus any cloth you may use to dry them is more likely to re-introduce bacteria than is just letting them air-dry. Simmer the lids and rings for a few minutes and set them on the drying rack as well.
- Meanwhile, bring the vinegar, water, salt, and pickling spice to a boil in a medium saucepan.
- While that mixtures comes to a boil, put the asparagus spears in the jars. Perhaps it goes without saying, but make sure your hands are freshly washed and very clean when you do this. Add the lemon slices, garlic cloves, and chiles to the jars, if and as you like. Any one or combination of these three is tasty, but the pickles are good without any of them too.
When the vinegar mixture boils, pour it into the jars, just covering the asparagus and leaving 1/2 inch of head space in each jar. Try to make sure the pickling spices are more or less evenly distributed between the jars.
- Place lids on jars and screw on the rings. Process the jars in the boiling water bath in the canning kettle or giant pot for ten minutes. Remove the jars and let them sit in a cool, dark place for at least 24 hours before eating. The pickles should keep at least 6 months in a cool cupboard. Refrigerate the jars after you open them.