Spring came late this year. Maybe you experienced it yourself; otherwise, these whiny posts might’ve clued you in. No bother – We all still seem to be smitten with the token spring produce players. Every year, an onslaught of rhubarb, asparagus, ramp, etc. posts flood the internet. I’m a definite contributor… and I’m not apologizing. But the spring season seems so fleeting. The ramps don’t stick around long, and then asparagus gets woody, stringy, and flavorless. And with spring quickly turning to summer around here, I wanted to find a way to make that green, grassy joy-flavor stick around a little longer.
Enter: the pickle. Frozen and canned asparagus fall apart. Freezing makes the cell walls burst, causing asparagus to go limp and lifeless. Canning does the same, except in the form of overcooking. But pickling…
Pickling takes that grassy flavor and intensifies it. It’s also perfect for those big stalks you find at the market a 3 or 4 weeks into the season that seem to be un-cookable when roasting or sauteing, then suddenly are overcooked and bland in the blink of an eye. I like to blanch the spears briefly before dousing them in the hot vinegar solution, just to make sure each spear is cooked through. But magically, pickled asparagus keeps some of it’s bite. I wouldn’t say it’s crunchy… it’s certainly “bendy.” But it’s also firm, and sliced into a salad or munched alongside an after-work beverage, pickled asparagus is one of my early summer favorites.
*Note: I used the pint-and-a-half wide mouthed jars that are 24 oz. each. You can certainly use wide mouth pint jars, but you’ll have to trim more of the asparagus bottoms off. Also be sure to wash your asparagus well in cool water; gritty pickles are the worst.
1.5 pounds asparagus, trimmed to fit jars
2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 cups water
2 tablespoons pickling salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 dried chiles de arbol, or 2 teaspoons dried chile flakes
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon mustard seed
Wash and trim asparagus. Bring a pot of water to rolling boil and blanch the asparagus (in multiple batches, if needed,) for one minute; rinse with cold water and set aside. Combine the vinegar, water, salt, and sugar in a pot (I used the same one) and bring to a rapid boil. While waiting for the mix to boil, put one chile (or one teaspoon chile flakes), one clove of garlic, and 1/2 tablespoon of mustard seeds in each jar. Then place asparagus in jars. Once the mix comes to a boil, stir to dissolve salt and sugar. Carefully pour the boiling liquid into the jars, and carefully top with a lid. Leave at room temperature for 6-8 hours, then move to the fridge to store.
Pickles are ready to be eaten after 24 hours in the fridge, but I let them sit about 48 hours before digging in.