Asparagus season is here! It's fleeting, usually lasting just for a few weeks, then it's gone. Growing up we were blessed to have a family member who worked at a local farm and would leave crates of asparagus on our doorstep. Those days are long gone, but my mom has long been pickling asparagus and sharing it with our family.
This year I promised my kids that we would make our own stash of pickled asparagus, that crispy, tangy bliss that brings you right back to summer even when you eat it in the cold of winter. Tracking down a large enough volume of asparagus in Spokane has been a bit of a challenge, I actually purchased some during a recent trip to the Tri-Cities. It's crazy how plentiful produce is in my hometown versus Spokane, even even though we are just two hours apart from each other. Luckily I found a great grower at our local farmers market who hooked us up.
Once you've located your massive supply of asparagus, it's time to get canning. Don't be intimidated by this! If you can boil water, you can preserve so many things in jars. Plan to spending the good part of a day on this process, and be rewarded with summer's bounty all year long.
10 lbs Asparagus
10 cups Apple Cider flavored Vinegar
12 1/2 cups water
10 Tbsp Canning Salt
10 Tbsp Pickling Spice (one for each jar)
5 Jalapenos, halved
2 heads Garlic, broken into cloves (two cloves for each jar)
10 Quart canning jars with rings and lids
Water bath canner or giant stockpot
The first few steps of this process are a lot of cleaning and prep work. Canning requires a clean and sterile environment to be successful. Start by placing your asparagus in the sink and soaking it to get all of the dirt off. Load up your sink with as much asparagus as will fit, then fill with COLD water and let it hang out while we prep jars.
If you have a dishwasher, the easiest way to sterilize your jars is to run them through a short cycle. If you don't want to use this method, you can place the jars in your water bath canner and bring them to a simmer until you're ready to use them.
While your asparagus is soaking and your jars are being sterilized, you can prep the cars for packing (the act of cramming in as many asparagus spears as possible). Line up the jars, place 1 tablespoon of pickling spice and two cloves of peeled garlic in each jar. Go for the big cloves... You'll thank me in three weeks. Our pickling spice had some dried peppers in it so we put one of those in each jar too.
About this time your asparagus should have had enough time in the bath that it's ready to be rinsed off and cut to fit your jars. You'll want to have the tops just at the top of your jar so that the lids will fit on nicely. In a perfect world they'd come up to the fill line at the base of the jar ring. Clearly my jars didn't do that, but oh well!
A super helpful tip when cutting the asparagus... I drew a line on my cutting board to help measure the asparagus while cutting. Simply line the asparagus up with the edge of the cutting board and slice along the line. This will save you so much time!
My mom had a genius idea to maximize the asparagus ends this year. She cut the tender ends that you'd normally discard into 1 inch chunks and put those in a jar by themselves. Just be careful to go only to where the asparagus would break naturally or you'll end up with tough pieces.
Once the asparagus is cut, fill your jars! I find laying the jar on it's side to start is great as the spears lay nicely on top of each other. When you get to the end it's helpful to have a thin spatula or butter knife to help make space for a few more spears. Packing the jars tightly will result in the best result. Put a jalapeno half in the side of the jar and you're ready to fill!
At this point I move outside to my grill to finish the canning process. We don't have air conditioning so using the stove for hours on end would be miserable. Fill a stockpot with the vinegar, water, canning salt and bring to a boil.
While your canning liquid is warming up, you'll want to fill another pot with water and your rings and lids. Make sure your rings are rust free and your lids are new. Bring this pot to a simmer.
Once your canning liquid has come to a boil, turn off the heat and ladle the mixture into your jars. You'll notice your jars all have a thick band around the edge of the ring area - fill to this line. Then place a lid and ring on the jar, tightening just until the ring is finger tight. Don't crank your rings down tight or your jars will crack during the water bath.
Once all of your jars are filled, you'll want to process them in a water bath canner. To do this, place the jars in the canner (or stockpot) and fill with water to at least one inch above the jar tops. Bring to a boil, once boiling process for the time recommended by the USDA. At my altitude of 2,500 feet we process for 15 minutes. To double-check your processing time check out the home canning guide here Afterthe jars have processed for the alloted time, remove them from the water bath and store them undisturbed for 24 hours. You'll want to check that the jars have sealed, and refrigerate any unsealed jars.
Move to a dark, cool storage place and (im)patiently wait 3+ weeks before you crack open your first jar!