April 25, 2012

Pickled Asparagus

Aside from that out of season hot pepper jam, I don't usually do much wintertime canning. Sure, there's seasonal marmalades to make, and you can always make a savory garlic or onion jam. But typically, I view preserving as a way to capture those summer flavors - mostly strawberries and tomatoes. 

Since there's garlic to be had year round, well, I just don't need to go putting up a bunch of specialty products to save it (and really, how often would you use an onion jam anyway?)

But now, as early as the end of April (early for Maine!), as the asparagus and rhubarb poke up out of the muddy, spring green, grass-covered ground, I'm starting to think about canning local produce again. 

Last night, I taught a workshop on how to can pickled spring veggies, and chose asparagus for the class. I made an extra jar for myself, and am excited to see how asparagus serves as a pickle. The brine is similar to a dilly bean brine, my favsies, so as long as that asparagus retained a little crunch, they're going to be delicious.

Picked Asparagus

7 lbs. asparagus
7 garlic cloves, peeled
3 cups water
3 cups white vinegar (5% acidity)
7 small hot peppers or 7 tsp. crushed red pepper
1/3 cup canning salt
2 tsp. dill seed 

Wash and rinse canning jars; keep hot until ready to use. Wash screw bands and lids; simmer lids in a small saucepot of water. 

Wash asparagus well, but gently, under running water. Cut stems from the bottom to leave spears with tips that fit into the canning jar with a little less than ½-inch headspace. Peel and wash garlic cloves. Place a garlic clove at the bottom of each jar, and tightly pack asparagus into jars with the blunt ends down. 

In an large saucepot, combine water, vinegar, hot peppers or crushed red pepper, salt and dill seed. Bring to a boil. Pour boiling hot pickling brine over spears, leaving ½-inch headspace. 

Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if needed. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened, clean paper towel; apply two-piece metal canning lids until fingertip tight. 

Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes. Let cool, undisturbed, for 24 hours and check for seals. Allow pickled asparagus to sit in processed jars for 3 to 5 days before consumption for best flavor development. 

Yield: 7 12oz. jars 

Update on the flavored vinegars: I strained them after a week and a half and they came out in a beautiful spectrum. 

From left to right, raspberry vinegar; thyme, parsley vinegar; lemon dill peppercorn vinegar; and tarragon vinegar. 

Do you can in the wintertime? What's the first product you look forward to canning in your area? Am I silly to scoff at onion jam?