Thursday, May 13, 2010

Pickled Asparagus

Pickling Spice

Do not be frightened of the giant jar full of spices. This is my pickling spice blend. Yes,  you can buy it at the store in a tiny 1.5 ounce bottle labeled "Pickling Spices" with McCormick on the label for $3.99. But then you might end up with a blend you don't like. (McCormick uses way too much cinnamon and clove for my tastes; I do not want pickles that taste like Christmas.) So I mixed up a jar of my own. The recipe is down below, and though a few of these things were already in my spice drawer, the majority were purchased for about $14 in bulk baggies at my favorite spice shop, and I have tons leftover. Which is to say my pint was way cheaper than $4 per ounce and a half. 

Blanched Asparagus

Yes, I can hear you out there, asking what in the sam hill am I going to use all that pickling spice for? Do not despair my friends, for you can pickle just about any vegetable (and some fruits, too!). And you don't have to have a giant pot full of boiling water or deal with funny shaped tongs or funnels or any of that nonsense if you don't want to. Personally, I want to, because water-bath-processed pickles can keep for about a year on the shelf, which means I can eat these pickled asparagus in November when I'm just starting to get bummed out by the cold, and get a tangy reminder of what spring tastes like. 

Pickled Asparagus

I followed the pickled asparagus recipe over on Food in Jars for my shelf-stable pickles, except I skipped the lemon slice and used one dried red chile in each jar instead of adding additional red pepper flakes to the brine. The spears are quite spicy, but that's how I wanted them. Below I've written out the method for the first small batch I made- refrigerator pickles that will keep for a few weeks, getting more pickley each day. It's a good place to start if you've never made pickles before.

124/365: Composed Salad

And once you do have spicy, sour, puckery pickled asparagus at your disposal, you can make this lovely composed salad, adapted (but not much) from Eugenia Bone's Well Preserved. A few spears of pickled asparagus, a sliced hardboiled egg, pepper, olive oil, and a bit of flakey salt. It's a very elegant (and delicious!) way to enjoy your pickles. Or you can just eat them straight out of the jar, standing in front of the open fridge when you get home from work... I won't tell.

What's the weirdest thing you've ever pickled?

Refrigerator Asparagus Pickles
You can use any jar you like for this, just trim the asparagus to fit, making sure the tips won't stick up above the brine level in the jar. If you plan to process these, you should double this brine and use 4 bunches of asparagus in 3 pint jars... or use Marisa's recipe

1 to 1 1/2 bunches asparagus, trimmed to fit your jar
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
1 1/2 cups water
1 Tablespoon kosher salt (make sure your salt contains only salt, no sulfites or anti-caking agents - these do weird things to pickles. Diamond brand is great.)
2 Tablespoons pickling spice (recipe below)
1 1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes or 1 whole small dried chili pepper
1 clove garlic, peeled

Blanch the asparagus for about 15 seconds in a large pan of boiling water, then transfer it immediately to a bowl of ice water. Drain, then pack the asparagus into the jar, tips up or down (I alternated to make more spears fit in the jar). Tuck the chili pepper, if using, and the garlic clove in amongst the spears. 

Bring the vinegar, water, salt, pickling spice and red pepper flakes (if using) just to a boil in a small saucepan, remove from heat, and pour over the asparagus in the jar. Put the lid on the jar, and let it cool for a few hours on the counter before refrigerating. 

Let the asparagus stew in the brine for a couple of days before eating. Mine were pickly enough for me after 2 days.

Pickling Spice Blend
Adapted from all over the dang internet, and adjusted to fit my tastes. Which is to say, no cinnamon. I've seen recipes using cardamom, and I added the celery seed because I like it. Fiddle around with the mix until you find something you like, just make sure you write it down once you find it!

1/4 cup mustard seeds
1/4 cup dill seeds
1/4 cup coriander seeds
3-4 T red pepper flakes
2 T crushed bay leaves
2 T peppercorns
1 T celery seed
1 T allspice
1 T cloves
1 T ginger flakes* 

Stick this in a jar. Shake it up. Make pickles. 

*Adam brought home this odd flakey ginger from the spice shop, and I thought it was pretty perfect for a pickling blend. Ground ginger would be fine too, just use less. I also dumped in the last tablespoon or so of McCormick's blend, but that's just because I wanted the jar for something else. 


  1. Yum, I love pickled anything....especially something quick that can be done in the fridge. Marking for later!

  2. i've never pickled anything, but this looks awesome! i recently made a sandwich with pickled green tomatoes that was different but delicious :)

  3. I have yet to try making pickles and this is the recipe that I sure would love to try. Yum! I love your recipes here!