In case you haven’t noticed, I am more than a little infatuated with asparagus this year. I don’t know if I still have ‘post-too-cold-too-long-winter’ syndrome or if our local farmers are producing extra-delicious stalks, but I just can’t get enough of asparagus right now. I am grilling it, slathering it with sauce, wrapping it with smoked salmon and even steaming it to devour with a little butter and freshly-squeezed lemon. Today, I decided to pickle some, just so I can enjoy it after the local crop has finished. While I will enjoy eating these tangy spears on their own, I suspect that a few of them may end up as garnishes for Bloody Caesars (being a proud Canadian, I’ll always prefer our homegrown version to the American Bloody Mary). One tip: do be patient and give the asparagus 48 hours in the brine before you dive in. I know it’s hard to wait, but it will be worth it as the flavour will be so much better.
- 12 oz / 300 grams asparagus (about 24 medium stalks)
- 1 1/3 cups (340 mL) water
- 1 1/3 cups (340 mL) white vinegar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons (22 mL) coarse kosher salt
- 1 large clove garlic, peeled and halved
- 1 teaspoon (5 mL) black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon (5 mL) yellow mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon (5 mL) coriander seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) red pepper flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) whole cloves
- Combine water, vinegar and salt in a small saucepan. Warm over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until salt dissolves. Keep warm over low heat until ready to use.
- Gently crack the peppercorns, mustard and coriander seeds using a mortar and pestle or the bottom of a sturdy mug.
- Quickly toast the pepper, mustard and coriander over medium heat in a small frying pan until they are fragrant, being careful not to let the spices burn. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
- Rinse the asparagus and cut to fit in a 4 cup / 1 L canning jar. It’s best to cut the woody end off one spear and put it in the jar to test for height; you want to leave at least 1/4 inch of headspace at the top of the jar.
- Pack the trimmed asparagus into the jar so you will know exactly how many stalks will fit. Remove asparagus from jar and blanch it by putting it in the bottom of a very clean sink, with the drain plug in (or use a large, clean heatproof baking dish).
- Lay the stalks out in a single layer, leaving space at one end of the sink or pan. Pour a kettle full of boiling water into the vessel, enough to cover the asparagus by at least 1/2 inch (1.25 cm). Let stand 3 – 5 minutes.
- While asparagus is blanching, put garlic slices, toasted spices, red pepper flakes and cloves into the bottom of the canning jar.
- When asparagus stalks are just tender (begin checking after by piercing the thickest stalk with the tip of a sharp knife), immediately plunge them into cold water to stop the cooking process.
- Pack the spears into the jar, tip ends up.
- Pour hot brine over the asparagus, filling jar to within 1/4 inch (.6 cm) of the top. If you don’t have quite enough liquid, top up with a little bit more vinegar.
- Put the lid on the jar and let it cool to room temperature, shaking gently every so often to redistribute spices. Note that the asparagus will change colour as it becomes infused with the salty, acidic brine.
- Once cooled, refrigerate.
- The pickled asparagus will be ready to eat in 48 hours and will keep in the fridge for up to a month.
Makes one 4 cup / 4 L jar.