Tuesday, June 14, 2011

"Local" Pickled Asparagus

Last year I found out too late that there was a farmer outside Laurel who grew asparagus. Well, this year I almost missed out again. Time had gotten away with me, and when I called, I was told he may have 10 or so pounds left in the field, but to come by the next morning and they'd have it ready to go. Much to my surprise, they had two twenty-five pound boxes! The restaurant I work at took one box and I took the other. I was so excited to put up with local asparagus!! I spent the better part of the afternoon last Tuesday getting through the 25 pounds of asparagus I purchased.  Well, I didn't put up all of it. I saved a pound for myself to eat fresh and also gave a pound or so to my Aunt and to my neighbor.

Pickling the asparagus brought back fond memories when I lived in Washington. One year, I and two other friends got together and put up 10 30# flats of asparagus.  We set up the packing operations in their garage. A garage I might add was cleaner than some kitchens I've been in. The garage was cool and we didn't have to worry about the mess indoors. We set up two tubs for washing asparagus on a picnic table outside on the patio and had two propane burners outside so that we could have two water bath canners going simultaneously.  It took all day, but it was lotsa fun. I don't remember for sure, but I believe the three of us each ended up with 4 cases of pickled asparagus put up in wide mouth quarts. What I do remember though is that we all had a good time with lotsa laughs throughout the day....a memory I'll always treasure.

Pickled Asparagus

makes 18-20 qts using (1) 25# flat of asparagus

**brine solution:10 tbsp canning salt (kosher can be substituted, but do not use iodized salt)
3 qt water*
3 qt apple cider vinegar*
1 tbsp pickling spice (remove cloves & place in cheesecloth--let float in brine solution)

Bring brining solution to a boil then turn down & simmer for a minimum of 15 minutes.

*do not alter this ratio.  WA State Cooperative Extension recommends equal amounts of water and vinegar because this mitigates botulism issue.

**the brining solution batch recipe will fill approx. 8 jars depending on how tight you pack the jars. I make a single batch, simmer, fill jars, process then start the routine again.

each jar:1 jalapeno (sliced in half lengthwise)
1 dried chili de arbol (find at latin or specialty grocery stores)
1 tsp each -- dill seed, mustard seed, black peppercorns
1 clove garlic

Trim asparagus length so that there is a minimum of 1/2" head space at the top of the jar you will be using.  I think wide mouth quart jars work the best.  Get one spear cut to the right length, then use it as a guide to cut remaining spears.

Fill water bath canner 2/3rd's full of water. Put on stove and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, turn down to a simmer until you are ready to put jars in.
Place clean jar lids & rings in a small saucepan with warm water.  Bring to a simmer and keep warm on the stove.

Place dill seed, mustard seed, peppercorns and garlic clove in the bottom of each jar.  Pack jar with asparagus, jalapeno and chili de arbol.  I find it easiest to lay the jar on it's side.  As the jar gets full; you will want to use a butter knife to wedge additional spears in...get the jar as tight as you can.  Once all your jars are stuffed, bring your brining solution & water bath water to a boil.

Pour hot brine solution into each jar, making sure to leave 1/2" head space at top of jar.  Wipe jar sealing surface with a clean damp washcloth. Place lid & ring on each jar and tighten.  Only fill the amount of jars you have space for in your water bath canner--usually its seven.  Add filled and sealed jars to water bath.  Bring water bath to a boil and jars for 20 minutes in boiling water.  Remove jars from water bath and place on a dry towel on the counter-free from a draft.  Cover jars with another towel.  Continue these steps until all jars have been processed.  Let set 24 hours.  As the jars begin to cool, you should hear "pops", meaning the jars have sealed.  After 24 hours, make sure each jar has sealed by placing you finger on the center of each jar lid and gently pressing down.  There should be no movement if the vacuum seal is good.  If you are able to push the jar lid down & make it "pop", this means it has not sealed.  If this happens, these jars can be re-processed by replacing the lid & re-processing for stated time.  If you only have a few, you can also put them in the fridge to cure.  Let jars cure a minimum of 3 months...the longer they sit the "warmer" they get from the peppers.

Note: Processing time based on Elevation 5,555 ft.

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