Jun 06 2012

Adventures in Canning: Pickled Asparagus

I first started canning last year; because it was my first year, I kept things fairly straightforward. I wanted to learn the basics of fruit preservation and experiment with water bath and oven canning.

This year, I'm focused on improving my jam making and on adding a few new items to my pantry shelves: namely, pickles. Yes, I moved to Portland and now I'm pickling. While I'm not 100% on board with the 'we can pickle that' mantra, I will agree that nearly any vegetable can be pickled. I especially love a side of pickled vegetables with a sandwich. When I think of superior pickling (and really, we should all think about these things!), I think of EVOE, the restaurant next to Hawthorne's Pastaworks. Here, Kevin Gibson seamlessly integrates classic and creative sandwiches, soups, and sides into his rotating menu.

In this 15 seat restaurant, you share counter space with giant jars of pickled vegetables suspended in juices. Think creative concoctions like kimchi-spiked turnips and star anise–steeped chard stems. The vegetables are almost impossibly tender and tart: when you order a sandwich, you're very likely to also receive a side of something pickled.

As asparagus starts to vanish from the farmers' market, replaced by legumes and zucchini and cucumbers, I've spent several weekends blanching and freezing asparagus spears for use this Fall. But I also wanted to preserve them in a slightly different way, which led me to pickling. As a first time pickler, I didn't realize how much vinegar was necessary! I washed and prepped four pounds of asparagus and had six cups of vinegar at the ready--only to discover when I started pouring the vinegar/salt/sugar brine into the jars that I was short on vinegar... by multiple cups. My pickling adventure, which I had slated to take at most an hour, became a 2 plus hour marathon, complete with dashes to New Seasons to buy more vinegar.

The pickled asparagus is now lining one of my shelves, the vegetables elegantly suspended in the vinegar. I'm eager to make a crusty sandwich soon--and then add a side of pickled asparagus to it.

Pickled Asparagus

Recipe Source: Put 'Em Up!

Makes around 4 pints


4 lbs asparagus

8 cups cider vinegar

2 cups water

1/2 cup salt

4 tablespoons sugar

6 garlic cloves, sliced

2 tablespoons celery seed

2 tablespoons mustard seed

2 teaspoons peppercorns


1) Using the oven based canning method, heat your jars in a 250 degree oven for at least 30 minutes.

2) While the jars are heating, make your vinegar concoction. Combine the vinegar, water, salt, and sugar in a nonreactive pan. Bring the brine to a slow boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar and vinegar. Remove from heat.

3) Trim the asparagus to lengths 1 inch shorter than your jars. Pack the asparagus vertically into the hot jars.

4) Divide the garlic, celery seed, mustard seed, and peppercorns among the jars. Pour the hot brine over the asparagus to cover by 1/2 inch. Be sure to leave 1/2 inch of headspace between the top of the liquid and the lid.

5) Place the jars onto a baking sheet (or several, depending on the size of your jars) and return to the 250 degree oven for 15 minutes. Remove the jars from the oven and place the baking sheet in area that won't be disturbed. Let your jars sit for 24 hours before checking the seal. You can store the pickled asparagus for up to 1 year.