Last Friday, I had an unexpected day off, and I celebrated by making asparagus pickles and freezer-berry pie. Also some strawberry rhubarb syrup, preserved lemons, and something with eggplant and roasted red peppers that wasn't nearly as good as I'd expected it would be. All in all, I may have gone a bit overboard... but Sunday was my birthday, and I ate cold pie, homemade soda and a full jar of asparagus for lunch.
I made my first jar of asparagus pickles in college, courtesy of my good friend Dan. I may have been raised ten minutes from Berkeley (and currently live in a hippie commune) but I'm just an imposter. As much as I'd like to pretend otherwise, I'm a hippie-flavored WASP. Dan, on the other hand... Dan's the genuine article. When we lived together, he would come down to breakfast in the most wonderfully absurd striped pajamas, and all of his mugs were the heavy, clay variety. He also made granola, and yogurt, and our junior year he took me to a fermentation workshop put on by people who actually grew things in the ground.
That's where I met the pickles.
To be honest, I only agreed to go because someone promised I'd get to make ginger beer (which turned out terribly). I was confused by the idea of pickling a non-cucumber, and even more confused by how fast I ate them once I opened the jar. I've since learned to make better ginger beer, but I'd never attempted the pickles.
More's the pity, because I've now made them twice in the last month. If you'll excuse me... I'm going to go eat another jar.
note: the quantities below are kind of relative
3 12oz mason jars
2lbs asparagus (about 2 bundles)
3 cloves of garlic, peeled but left whole
~1/2 tsp mustard seeds
2 cups distilled white vinegar
2 cups water
2 Tbsp kosher salt
Trim the ends off the asparagus, then cut the remaining stalk in half. Measure against your jars- you want the asparagus pieces to fit into the jar with a little headspace, and you want the jars tightly packed.
At this point, you should have a good idea how many jars you're going to need. Put 1/8-1/4 tsp of mustard seeds and a clove of garlic in each jar, and set aside.
In a sauce pot, bring the vinegar, water and salt to a boil. Make sure the salt is dissolved, then keep hot while you cook the asparagus.
Boil more water! Working in batches if necessarily, blanch the asparagus pieces for three minutes, then drain and stuff into jars. Fill the jars with vinegar/water mix, cap and refrigerate.
Pickles are phenomenal after a week... but if you're impatient, they're edible in a couple days.