Consider the Asparagus pickle…
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
Preparation Solution and Spears
- 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…
This asparagus pickle recipe works great for cucumbers as well.
I never cared for asparagus myself, but I would make these for gifts.
Weeds do that. I swear sometimes it’s within MINUTES of my completing an area. If only corn grew as reliably!
What a wonderful idea! I never thought of pickling asparagus but now I want to desperately!
Thanks for sharing Tom! I must give this a go….I love love asparagus!
These are great!! I am going to share this post on our company website for the pickling contest in October, with your PERMISSION, of course?
Hey Mr. Bean, thanks for the kinds words and kudos. You bet, please feel free to share anytime, and keep me posted on the pickling contest if open to the public.
YES. No more dinnertime punishments! Abolish bland foods!
Tom, have you tried garlic scape pickles? Highly recommended.
Chandle, another great tip — on all counts. Thanks Chandler!
That’s it. Next year I’m planting a raised garden so I can grow asparagus.
Tom, I left a message on your “Bean” page several months ago inquiring about a sweet pickling recipe for beans. (I didn’t realize you don’t read posts from older articles?)
Anyway, do you think this recipe would work for pickling Yellow Wax beans ? I’m growing Pencil Pod, Burpee’s Garden Bean Golden Wax Improved and BNO 027 Soleil French/Filet Beans; all yellow varieties.
I was disappointed with last years efforts, as they turned out too mushy. Must have OVER PROCESSED them but still use them in Bloody Mary’s.
I’m anxious to try YOUR sweet pickling recipe for asparagus next year. My asparagus is about 6 feet high NOW. After 5 years, the spears are so big, ONE spear makes a meal! (in May)
ALSO, – do you have ANY PEACHES on your peach tree this year? My Frost-Free Peach has NONE. Last year was bad enough. Three years ago this 8 year old tree had 14 peaches. Sadly, the raccoons decided to have most of them for dinner.
Hi Carol, Sorry I missed your earlier comment. I do read comments on old posts, so sorry for the oversight. As for bean pickles, this recipe works great with them. I do one thing differently. I soak the beans in two quarts of water first for several hours with 3-4 Tablespoons of kosher salt added. It draws out the water and makes them crisper. I do the same for cucumber pickles. So glad to hear about you great asparagus patch. As for your peaches, we share the same fate: too few and those which do ripen are stolen by raccoons. 2012 seems to be another bad year for peaches in my orchard. Ah but Carol, there’s always next year!
Tom, Thanks so much for getting back to me.
So that’s the trick to a “CRISP” product – soaking in water FIRST with Kosher salt. As I have over 500 cookbooks, (reading cookbooks is a hobby, not necessarily cooking. lol) I have never read this before. Thank you, thank you! And, most pickling recipes are sour with no mention of sugar in the recipe.
P.S. lol – I wouldn’t call my one remaining asparagus plant “a patch”. I originally planted 5-6 in the recommended sandy loam soil; but this is the only one that decided to LIVE AND THRIVE. If I choose to pickle any asparagus, I don’t have enough from my one-lone plant and therefore buy a box. (I use to go over to Yakima, but with the price of gas, I can do just as well on the West side.) I also peel the larger spears. Do you also do this???
Carol I have problematic (or is it) sweet tooth, so I live sweetish pickles. I’ve found you can take any pickling recipe and add half the sugar in volume as the vinegar and keep the rest the same and it turns out quite fine. I usually remove dill, as I’m not a big fan of dill, well unless fresh and on Northwest salmon. And Carol I don’t usually peel the big stalks, but rather break at the tender end and use the tough end in stock or soup. Peeling does work though.
Contest is open to all comers! If you want to enter anything, let me know and I can bring it down on your behalf for the contest. Just need it prior to October 5th deadline.
I swear, one of these days I will actually try canning. I would love to make these! And even canned beans! Delicious!!! I have an electric roaster… so I wonder if I could use that since I lack the proper cook top…? hmm.
And ohhhh… I want an asparagus patch SO BAD. There’s an area of the back yard that I could probably turn into one… hmmm… Can they take some light shade?
Hi Donna, I would say yes, asparagus can take a light shade. Go for it! And as for the roaster, it would work if you can boil water in it and then just water bath the jars to sterilize them. Good luck!
Yum… and to think I didn’t like asparagus as a child. I also keep losing my asparagus patch. We planted again this year for the third time, hoping for asparagus in our future.
I never liked those white, acrid tasting asparagus either. Those were the only ones that came by in Brazil.
This recipe is so exciting and right now making my mouth water.
Some of the gardeners at my community plot have been successful at growing asparagus. I am planning on dedicating a chunk of my garden to them next year.
What an interesting pickle combo for these green asparagus tips! That’s so intruiging too! 🙂
I must make this! WAW!!! MMMMM!