Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Garlic and Pepper Pickled Asparagus

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Garlic and pepper asparagus pickles
Garlic and pepper asparagus pickles

I usually get my canning supplies from our local hardware store McClendon's.  I went there to stock up on some new lids for this season and I was hoping to also get some of the new 24 oz jars that Ball has brought back this year.  This is a great size for pickling long things like green beans and asparagus.  Unfortunately they did not have any of the newly returned size in stock so I had to use some 12 oz jars for this first batch of pickled asparagus.  That's OK though I will get my hands on those jars soon and make more pickles before the asparagus season is done.

Fresh asparagus blanching for a minute
Fresh asparagus blanching for a minute

Asparagus is a great first pickle if you are just getting started on homemade pickle making.  As long as you stick to the ratio of 1 cup water : 1 cup white vinegar : 1 tablespoon salt, things will work out fine.  Be sure to use a kosher salt so you do not end up with a funny colored pickling brine.  I always make a bit more brine than I think I will need - I would rather dump some out than be low.

Quick dunk in an ice bath to stop the cooking
Quick dunk in an ice bath to stop the cooking

Once you have the basic ratio down you can customize your pickles to fit your tastes.  I personally like a spicy garlicy asparagus pickle, so I add in sliced garlic, a dried De Arbol pepper (stem removed) and some pickling spice to each jar.

Garlic slices, dried peppers with stems removed, and homemade pickling spice
Garlic slices, dried peppers with stems removed, and homemade pickling spice

How hot is it?  Well, on a scale of 1 - 10, De Arbol is given a 7.5 by one company.  If you would like something a bit milder to start, consider using strips of a dried Guaijillo instead.

Garlic and Pepper Asparagus Pickles
A highly customizable pickle that you can tailor to your favorite pickle flavors.
  • 2 1/2 lbs asparagus
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups white vinegar (5% acidity)
  • 2 Tbs kosher salt
  • 3 dried De Arbol chilis, stems removed
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 3 tsp pickling spice

  1. Prepare your pint jars (I prefer wide mouth for making pickles, they pack more easily), lids, rings and canner. If you are new to water bath canning, or it has been a while, be sure to brush up from a reliable and official source to guide you through this process. The National Center for Home Food Preservation and the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving are good places to start.
  2. Bring a pot of water to boil. While it is coming up to temperature trim your asparagus to length. I measure one by lying it alongside a jar and cut it, then cut the rest to match it. Save your trimmings in the freezer for your next batch of stock.
  3. Prepare a bowl of ice water large enough to hold the asparagus. Add the asparagus to your smaller pot of boiling water (not the canner) and blanch for 1 -2 minutes. If your asparagus is very thin, less time, very thick (which is what I used in the pictures above) longer time. As soon as time is up remove the asparagus from the boiling water with a slotted spoon and dunk it in the ice bath. Remove it from the ice bath after a minute and set aside.
  4. Dump out the hot asparagus blanching water and then in the same pot add the vinegar, water and salt. Bring to a full boil. While this is coming up to temperature measure out the pickling spice, one clove of garlic slices, and one chili pepper into the bottom of each jar.
  5. Fill the jar with the asparagus spears, packing snugly. If you need to trim the end off a spear or two to maintain your 1/2 inch headspace, be sure to do so.
  6. Pour the hot brine over the spears leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove all bubbles from the jar by carefully sliding a thin spatula or chopstick or skewer along the sides of the jar. Adjust the headspace by adding more brine as needed.
  7. Clean the rim of the jar very thoroughly, apply your hot lid, and then the ring. You want to tighten your ring just until it is "finger tip tight", not too tight, but not loose either.
  8. Process your jars in a hot water bath for 10 minutes (10 minutes is measured after the water returns to a full boil). Adjust your processing time as necessary depending on your elevation. Again, consult a reputable source for instructions on how to do this.
  9. Remove your jars from the water bath to a cloth covered counter. Let them cool completely for 12-24 hours before testing the seals. Remove the outer ring and pick up the jar carefully by the lid to make sure the seal is a good one. If you do have a jar that did not seal, just put it in the refrigerator and eat the pickled asparagus, they will keep for a couple of months.
  10. Store your jars in a cool dark place.  These should be ready to eat in about 3 weeks.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 3 12 oz jars

Last, but not least, if you are brand new to water bath canning be sure to follow best practices outlined by reliable sites such as the National Center for Home Food Preservation or the University of Missouri Extension.  Home canning is something anyone can do!