Spicy Pickled Asparagus

I planted my asparagus patch in my garden about 4 years ago, and it has always been productive, but this year…I guess with the mild winter…it has been rabid.  I’m pulling about a pound a day out of the garden, harvesting twice a day, and have been for more than a month!

If you’ve never eaten just-picked asparagus, you have no idea what real asparagus tastes like.  Asparagus looses 80% of its moisture and 50% of its sugar within 8 hours of being picked.  Which means that all the asparagus you buy in the grocery store is long, long dead.  When you pick asparagus in the garden, sweet juices drip out the bottom.  You can pop the whole stalk into your mouth and chew it, and it’s crisp and juicy and almost as sweet as fruit.  It’s a sin to cook such beautiful asparagus.

But I’ve been getting so much that I have to preserve some of it for the future, and this is my favorite way…as spicy pickles!  This recipe is for a full gallon of asparagus pickles.  You can quarter it to make a quart.  The actual amount of brine you will need depends on how tightly you pack the jar with veggies, so you may have to make another batch of brine really quick if the amount you make initially doesn’t fill the jar to the top.  These pickles are TO DIE FOR and pretty much anyone can eat them, no matter your dietary restrictions, whether you eat raw, vegan, vegetarian, paleo, low carb, etc.

Start by sterilizing your jar(s).  You can do this using the Sanitize cycle on your dishwasher, or you can pour boiling water into the jars to the rim, or just fill the jars with water and glug in a little bleach.  (If you do that, make sure to rinse the jars out well, or you’ll have bleachy pickles.)

You can use ANY combo of veggies, but this is what I use.  Wash them all and pack them into the jar:

2 pounds asparagus
2 bulbs garlic (cloves of one bulb whole, cloves of the other thinly sliced)
2 carrots, scrubbed and sliced (skin on)
1/2 onion, sliced
1 jalapeno, sliced (optional)
4 sprigs tarragon (or any fresh herb…optional)
handful radish seed pods (or sugar snap peas…optional)

In a large pot, combine:

2 cups apple juice
3 cups white vinegar
2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 cups water
1/2 cup sea salt (NOT iodized)
3/4 cup sugar (this does NOT make these sweet pickles, it balances the salt)
1/4 – 1/2 cup mustard seeds (I use a combination of foraged black mustard and storebought yellow mustard seeds)
2 Tablespoons black peppercorns
2-4 Tablespoons red pepper flakes
2-4 Tablespoons sriracha
handful pink peppercorns (optional)

Bring to a full rolling boil, then turn off the heat and let it sit for 15 minutes to extract the flavors.  Then bring to another full rolling boil and pour it into the jar to fully cover the veggies.

For refrigerator pickles, let the jar cool to room temp, and refrigerate for a week before eating…if you can wait that long!

If you are going to can the asparagus for long-term storage, make sure you have about a 1/2″ gap between the brine and the rim.  Clean the rim of the jar, affix the lid, and place into a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  Then let them cool at room temperature.  If any of the lids don’t seal, put those jars in the fridge and eat them like refrigerator pickles.  I will admit that the texture of these pickles suffers after the water bath and long term storage, so I highly recommend making them as refrigerator pickles.  It’s easier!

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