As a child, the only asparagus, available at the local A&P resided in a tin can of questionable intent. They called it a food item, a vegetable, but any man, woman or child brave enough to open the lid to that tin sarcophagus would find something else: mummified spears of slimy white sadness. Buried under mounds of soil, the naturally delectable tips were denied sun and fresh air, intentionally shielded from light and the prospect of a crisp green future. The result, a pallid substitute with anemic texture and flavor. I always felt canned “white” asparagus was the ultimate dinner time punishment.
Fast forward to our current food revolution, and asparagus has been resurrected and revamped as a readily available and seasonal fresh vegetable treat harvested after a week of sunlight under its spear. In Washington, asparagus grows like a weed east of the Cascades, and those of us west of the Cascades are most grateful and eager to partake in that bounty.
I had an asparagus patch, but blinked and the weeds took over and choked out the bed. I will try again, this time with a raised bed and diligence included in the plan. While fresh asparagus can’t be beat, I like to pickle asparagus, so I’ll have a tender tip or two in the winter months. Here’s my recipe, a sweet sour mix of vinegar and spice.
Sweet Sour Asparagus Spear Pickles
Makes about 4 – 5 pint jars
- 2 pounds fresh asparagus (small or large spears)
- Pickling Solution
- 4 Cups of white vinegar (5% acidity)
- 2 Cups of sugar
- bay leaves
- allspice berries
- cinnamon stick
- garlic cloves
- kosher salt
- Rinse and dry asparagus
- In a nonreactive (stainless) pan, add vinegar and sugar
- Heat until dissolved
- Reduce heat, keep warm
- Fill clean, sterilized jars with spears pointing down
- Crowd them in the jar without crushing tips
- When you can’t wedge another one in the jar, hold spears and pull out of jar one inch from the bottom of the jar
- Cut off stalks at jar opening
- Push spears back down to bottom of jar
- Stalks will sit one inch below the top of the jar
- Fill asparagus jars with warm vinegar-sugar solution
- Leave 1/2 inch head space, that is air between solution and top of jar when sealed.
- To each jar add spices of your liking. For me these include the following:
- 2-3 peppercorns
- 1 clove
- pepper flake or two
- half of one bay leaf
- 2-3 allspice berries
- half of one cinnamon stick
- 1 clove of garlic
- half teaspoon of salt
- Seal jar with lid, and place in simmering hot water bath for 10 minutes.
- Remove, cool, store and eat a couple weeks later on and on…