Monday, May 3, 2010

Make your own pickled spicy asparagus spears!

This weekend I purchased my first batches of Ontario asparagus for pickling. There is no better garnish for a Bloody Caesar than a pickled spicy asparagus spear and, rather than buying them throughout the year, I opted to pickle my own this year! This is the first batch I've done and, therefore, the test run. This recipe makes 3 1L jars of pickled asparagus spears.

For the brine, boil:
4 cups pickling vinegar
4 cups water
4 tbsp sugar
2 heaping tbps course salt

To prepare jars:
Boil water in a large stock pot. Using a pair of canning tongs (I don't know what they're really called), lift the jars into the water bath and boil to sterilize. Once boiled, remove from hot water.

Into each hot jar, stuff:
2 cloves of fresh garlic, peeled
1/3 hot pepper, cut lengthwise, seeds removed
1 tsp mustard seeds
1-2 lg sprig fresh dill (use more, depending on size of sprig)
1 lb asparagus, tips up (thoroughly washed, ends removed)

Once brine has been brought to a boil and the jars are stuffed and ready to be filled, pour brine into jars. Make sure that the spears are covered with brine once it is poured in. Leave 1/2 inch of space at the top of the jar. Use a long, non-metallic utensil to poke at the asparagus, removing all air bubbles from the jar. Once air bubbles have been removed, dry the lip of the jar with a clean towel. Take the snap lid in a pair of tongs and dip it in hot (but not boiling) water for a few seconds. Place the lid on the jar tightly and seal with a screw band. Do not tighten the screw band too much. It will make it extremely difficult to open later. Now boil the sealed jar in the large pot, completely covered in water, for about 10 minutes. Remove and wipe jar clean with a towel and move to an area where it can cool, undisturbed. The jar is sealed when you hear a loud POP!, or when the snap lid is depressed and cannot be pushed down futher.
Leave to pickle for a few weeks minimum, open and enjoy!

Note: I always make sure to label each jar with its ingredients and date that it was made. I also keep a journal-like record of which jars correspond with which recipes. There's nothing worse than having an especially successful batch, but not knowing what you did different. Also, the ends that you chopped off to fit the asparagus into the jars can be steamed and used in salads or eaten on their own. As my mother used to say, "Waste not, want not".
Pickled spicy asparagus spears make a great garnish for Bloody Caesars or a delicious addition to an appetizer platter.

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