May 10, 2011

Asparagus season is here. You think it will last forever, but then, suddenly, it will be gone.

So, don’t hesitate. Make these pickled spears. They are the perfect addition to a Bloody Mary. They are so delicious that opening a jar is dangerous. It will be gone in a flash. And if you have only made three jars, you will become a hoarder. I know this from experience.

These pickles are the easiest thing in the world. If you want to put them on the shelf for later, you’ll need to can them in a boiling water bath. But you can also put them in the refrigerator and they’re ready in just 24 hours.

I prefer the very thin asparagus for pickling, and I never blanch ahead of pickling, although I know some canners do. I do soak the spears for a few minutes in ice water to soak off any little bits of dirt that might be hiding in the nooks.

I’m just getting started. I have three jars made, and as soon as asparagus is fully in season (and a little less expensive!) I have plans for at least 12 more. I use the tall 12 oz jars, but also love to find the 24 oz tall jars with a neck. A jar neck will help keep the asparagus from floating, making a prettier jar. And you know I’m all about pretty jars.

You can also make asparagus pickles in regular pint jars, but will need to cut shorter spears, resulting in more leftover asparagus… not such a bad thing. Cut off the woody ends, and chop the asparagus that remains, to make a cream of asparagus soup flavored with sorrel. It will taste like Spring.


Pickled Asparagus
Makes three 12 oz jars
Adapted ever so slightly from Food In Jars

3 bunches of asparagus, trimmed to fit your jars
3 c water
3 c white vinegar
2 T kosher salt
4 T pickling spices
1 T crushed red pepper flakes
3 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
One lemon zested into long strips

Trim the asparagus to fit the jars. Reserve the trimmings.

Get your boiling water bath going, and a pan of rings and lids simmering.

Soak the asparagus in ice water for 20 minutes, to loosen any dirt.

Make the brine –  In a 3 quart saucepan, heat the water, vinegar, spices and pepper flakes to a boil.

Drain the asparagus and gather a bunch in your hand. Loop the lemon rind around the asparagus so it will be seen in the jar.. Pack the jars tight. I like the spears pointing up, but have no specific reasoning for doing it that way. The top of the asparagus should not come above the jar’s rim. Tuck one garlic clove in each jar.

Pour the hot brine over the asparagus to within 1/4″ of the top. Wipe the rims and cover with a clean, heated lid and ring.

Refrigerate or process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Let the pickles do their thing for 24 hours before sampling.

Cream of Asparagus Soup with Sorrel
Serves six as a first course

3 c asparagus
4 c chicken stock
2 c fresh sorrel leaves
1/2 c chives
1/2 c heavy cream
Salt and white pepper

Simmer the asparagus in the chicken stock until tender, about 10 minutes.

Puree the asparagus in a blender until smooth.

Strain through a sieve and return to the pot to reheat gently.

Cut the sorrel in a chiffonade and mince the chives.

Add the cream to the soup and bring to a simmer.

Stir in the sorrel and chives and serve immediately.


31 Responses to “pickled asparagus – no regrets (and a soup recipe, too)”

    • Cathy

      I find asparagus too strong a flavor for my veg stock. But I love the essence in an asparagus soup!

  1. Victoria in VA

    Oooh…I made spicy pickled asparagus last week and had to use the shorter jars. I would love to find the taller jars locally but no luck so far. It did not occur to me to freeze the trimmed ends or make soup (though I haven’t lost the chance yet!) so I pickled the trimmed ends separately. Now I can use them in our salads or munchie platters without having to break into the “good” jars of pickled asparagus until absolutely necessary!

    • Cathy

      I thought about cutting 1″ pieces and making a couple of jars of asparagus chunk pickles, but didn’t know if the smaller pieces would get over processed. Glad to hear it worked!

  2. Val

    I almost forgot I had splurged on those tall Weck jars so I can pickle my asparagus whole–that’s my weekend plan!
    My sorrel is bolting, so I hope I can scrounge up two cups for this recipe. Last weekend I mixed some into creme fraiche and poured over roasted potatoes, yum!

    • Cathy

      Ball makes a 12 oz tall, straight sided jar. I use them for juice and for asparagus. I love being able to preserve the length of the asparagus.

  3. Jayne

    Both of hese recipes sound wonderful. I will be making the picked asparagus asap. The soup will have to wait until I manage to find sorrel (or sorrel seeds) again!

  4. Brook - LearnToPreserve

    Cathy your timing couldn’t be better!
    I had a couple people asking me last night, via Twitter, for a tasty pickled asparagus recipe. Your blog post is fun, pics are great, and best of all you have done a wonderful job of explaining the entire process.
    Thanks for making my job easier; I just gave them a link to your blog post!
    Oh wait…one more thing: would this recipe work for pickled hard-boiled *duck* eggs? 😉
    PS I just printed out your recipe. I have asparagus in the fridge and everything else I need already. Guess I best get busy.

  5. Lisa McPherson

    These sound fantastic and will try making some at the farm in two weeks. There are many road side stands near us. I have never had them. Are they considered a “regional” delicacy? If so, where? I grew up in Massachusetts and we grow a lot of asparagus up there but I never saw it pickled.

  6. Maurine Fischel

    How timely! Santa Monica Farmers Market had tons of asparagus today- heading home with my booty to start pickling!

  7. Anna Wulfsong Belt

    I usually pack the jars with the points down. That way if there is some liquid loss, the tender tips are still covered. Also, you’ll get better heat penetration during the processing if the spears aren’t packed too tight. The spears should be able to move a bit if you hold the bottom of the jar upright in your hand and twist it side to side. If they don’t move, they’re packed too tight and you lessen your odds for a safe product. Also remember for folks canning at elevations above 1000 feet, to add 5 minutes for a total of 15 minutes processing time. Above 6000 feet, add 10 minutes for a total of 20 minutes. How much asparagus is in 3 bunches? Thanks! Love the addition of the lemon zest.

  8. Ethan

    You had me at Bloody Mary. It’s be trouble once I open the jar! I think I need to try this, but I need to get over my inexplicable fear of messing up the whole boiling water bath and heated lid thing.

  9. Carol C.

    My asparagus was packed pretty tight… but I processed it a bit longer. I’m new to canning, so I’m not understanding why it wouldn’t be safe if it’s packed tight. When I made pickles last year, the cucumbers were packed tight, and they turned out fine.

    I forgot to put in the strip of lemon zest… I’m assuming it was more for flavor/appearance than changing the pH.

  10. heather

    sounds so yummy! planning to can some asparagus this weekend. do you find that the water bath makes the spears too soft?

    • Cathy

      The waterbath does cook the asparagus more than making a refrigerator pickle. I like them both ways, and when asparagus season ends, you’ll be happy to have even slightly more cooked asparagus pickles on the shelf!

      • heather

        ah, thank you! slightly soft is okay. and, you’re right, i will be very happy to have asparagus in the chilly months.

  11. odile kaylor

    Can I make asparagus soup and then pressure can it (without milk products?)
    I have 15 pounds of asparagus waiting…

    • Teri

      I would like to can asparagus soup,is it safe and how long do I process it. Thanks

      • Cathy

        You could pressure can it (with chicken stock or water.) Follow the guidelines at the National Center for Home Food Preservation. I expect quarts would require 11# of pressure for 1hour20minutes, but please check there to be sure.

  12. MuddPie

    I was wondering if i could leave out the lemon rind completely or at least substitute with lemon juice? I want to make these for Christmas baskets but a couple people are allergic to citrus rinds and zest.

    • Cathy

      Sure! The lemon is nice, but not necessary for the pickling. Cheers and happy holidays.



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