Asparagus always marks the beginning of spring for me. It has more recently become a favorite vegetable. Asparagus is easy to steam for a flavorful dinner side dish and pairs well with light spring and summer meals. It cooks in less than five minutes so it is easy to over cook asparagus creating a mushy undesirable vegetable. I always watch it closely while cooking.
Canning pickled asparagus has been on my list of things to do for a while. I have canned jams, peaches and antipasti before but have never pickled. Mgeorge3 has already pickled a batch of asparagus earlier this year when they first appeared on sale in grocery stores. But she came to my place to help me with my first canning batches of the year. She joined me Saturday morning at the produce stand to pick out something to pack into jars. It was a beautiful early spring day; perfect for opening windows and doors to let out the hot steam of canning. I purchased a few bunches of locally grown Yakima asparagus and some beets. It worked well making two projects at the same time. Having a canning partner makes the work and waiting time go quickly. I had been waiting for the local asparagus to be available because the stalks are thicker. Thin asparagus stalks come from young plants and are more fibrous. The local asparagus is priced higher than the thin stalks grown in Mexico, but I think it is important to support the local economy.
We used the pickled asparagus recipe Mgeorge3 has already used from PickYourOwn.org: How to Make Homemade Canned Pickled Asparagus. She brought over a sample and it tastes amazing so I was really pumped to put what I had bought into jars. The recipe was fairly simple using Asparagus, garlic, hot pepper flakes, dill seed, pickling salt, white vinegar and water.
We disinfected the jars in the dishwasher with a heated dry. This is the quick method that is safe to use with canning items with a high acidity, like fruits or vegetables in vinegar. The lids are disinfected in boiling water. Disinfecting all canning items is important to eliminate botulism infections, a bacterium that colonizes in a canned product.
First canning pot is set up with water to boil because it takes a long time for large amounts of water to heat up. The asparagus is rinsed off in cool water. The spears cut to the height of the jar leaving a half an inch for head space. It is best to use wide mouth jars so it is easier to pack the spears tightly. We used the entire spear and discarded the old end.
The garlic is pealed and washed. Each jar receives one garlic clove, a pinch of hot pepper flakes and a pinch of dill seeds. In a sauce pan the pickling solution is boiled: ½ cup pickling salt in a one to one solution of water and vinegar. The solution is ready when the salt has dissolved.
Once the jars are packed and the solution ready, the solution is ladled into the jars until there is ½ inch headspace. It is best to use a canning funnel to reduce the chance of items splashing on the jar rim. Any material on the rim can reduce the strength of the seal allowing air and bacteria into the jar. After the ingredients are all in the jar the disinfected lids are placed on and tightened into place with the ring.
Once the canning pot is at a generous boil the jars can be added using canning tongs. The water should be high enough to completely submerge the jars. Air escaping the jars may be observed as the pressure in the can is increased. This is normal. The jars are boiled for 10 minutes and then removed to cool on a counter with a towel or a cutting board. The jars must cool overnight as the lids invert into place with a PING noise. The jar has been successfully sealed if the center of the lid does not move up and down when pressed on.
Last the most difficult part: waiting 3 to 5 days for the flavors to integrate. The spears will first appear very shriveled but will plump up once they are ready to be eaten. Pickled asparagus is similar to pickled cucumbers in texture but have a more intense and deep flavor. The pepper adds an enjoyable tiny zing to the pickles. My husband has now requested pickled asparagus with jalapeño.