Pickled Asparagus with Curry Spices and Another Batch with Herbs

After I wrote this, I had an unexpected result: floaters!  Uh oh. You never want the ingredients in the air space, so I inverted the jars to let them cure. They were fully sealed but since the blend of spices was a complete experiment, I won’t be sad to decant after a month to test-taste. Next time, I might cut the asparagus even shorter, so they’ll be covered, or really crush them in there. Last year, I pickled asparagus later in the season and the larger ones stayed put.

Having made my usual curried asparagus soup a couple of weeks ago, I thought it might be interesting to add the curry flavors to pickled asparagus. Knowing that curry powder dissolves best in oil and not wanting to add any (or much) oil to the brine and throw off the acidity, I thought, why not supplement it with the whole spices themselves? So, I added cardamom seeds (the black insides, not the hulls), fenugreek, allspice, coriander, cumin seed, and black mustard seed to the brining liquid. I also made a slurry of curry powder, adding a drop or two of vegetable oil just to get it started. Because the curry powder doesn’t really dissolve, I strained the brine before pouring it over the asparagus packed in jars. For the jars with curry spices, I used white vinegar and increased the amount slightly since I thought the asparagus would water it down and it has less acidity (5%) than the stronger white wine vinegar I usually use.

Last year I made pickled asparagus with dill seed, garlic and red pepper flakes, which was delicious but too salty and pretty pungent. So I added a little sugar and decreased the salt after checking a few sources to see how much they added. This year, I went back to an old standby: tarragon.

The trick with asparagus is first to match the general thickness, trim them the same height to fit in the jar and then cram them in so they won’t float. (ha in hindsight) Since they’ll soften when you parboil them, use about double the number of stalks that fit in the jar raw. After I put a handful in, I added more with children’s chopsticks (the ones that are attached at the end, like long wood tweezers), and also used them to get the air bubbles out before sealing.


You need to set the pickled asparagus aside for about a month before eating it, so I’ll be interested to see how my curry spice experiment worked. Also, I usually place them in the jars with tips up, but Ashley English of Small Measures (see last month’s Tigress Can Jam on herbs) suggested tips down. So I did some of each.


Pickled Asparagus with Curry Spices (1-2 12-oz jars)

1-2 lbs asparagus, cut into lengths according to the depth of the jar

Pan of ice water

1 ¼ cup white vinegar

1 cup water

1 tbsp sugar

1 tsp kosher or pickling salt

1 tsp curry powder

A few drops of vegetable oil

½ tsp per jar of a mix of cardamom seeds, allspice berries, coriander seeds, cumin seed, fenugreek granules, mustard seed, caraway seed and/or other spices typically found in a curry

Boil water in a large flat pan and add a handful of asparagus, not so many spears as to cover the base of the pan. (Do this in batches so you don’t overcook the asparagus.) Cook only long enough to bring the water back to a boil (about a minute), remove to a pan of ice water to cool quickly, drain immediately upon cool and set aside to continue draining.  Pack tightly into prepared jars.  Pack more tightly than you think possible, taking care not to break the asparagus.

Stir the sugar and salt into the water to dissolve. Make a slurry of the curry powder with a drop or two of oil and water, stirring to dissolve the powder to the extent possible, Add to the water mixture with the spices and bring to a simmer. Add the vinegar and bring just to the boil. Pour over asparagus packed in jars, leaving ½-inch headspace. Seal and process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes once the boiling point is reached. Turn off heat, remove lid and let stand for 5 minutes to calm, then remove to a safe place to stand undisturbed for 24 hours.

Pickled Asparagus with Herbs (1-2 12-oz jars)

1-2 lbs asparagus, cut into lengths according to the depth of the jar

1 cup white wine vinegar

1 cup water

1 tbsp sugar

1 tsp kosher or pickling salt

1 sprig or two of herbs per jar (I used tarragon, but dill, oregano, thyme would also work)

Boil water in a large flat pan and add a handful of asparagus, not so many spears as to cover the base of the pan. (Do this in batches so you don’t overcook the asparagus.) Cook only long enough to bring the water back to a boil (about a minute), remove to a pan of ice water to cool quickly, drain immediately upon cool and set aside to continue draining.  Pack tightly into prepared jars.  Pack more tightly than you think possible, taking care not to break the asparagus.  Include a sprig or two of herbs in the jar.

Stir the sugar and salt into the water to dissolve. Add the vinegar and bring just to the boil. Pour over asparagus packed in jars, leaving ½-inch headspace. Seal and process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes once the boiling point is reached. Turn off heat, remove lid and let stand for 5 minutes to calm, then remove to a safe place to stand undisturbed for 24 hours.

Categories: Asparagus, Preserving, Tigress Can JamTags: , ,

5 Comments

  1. Daisy Mae

    I’d be interested in hearing how your pickled curried asparagus turns out. We received pickled curried onions as a x-mas gift this past year. As you mentioned, typically you bloom curry powder in oil – but oil is a technical no-no in canning – so the onions we received had a real “raw” curry flavor.

    I like your idea of using the different component seeds. Did you dry roast the curry seeds first? Dry roasting would help bring out the flavor.

  2. I, too, would love to hear how it turned out. I’m planning to pickle quite a lot of asparagus this weekend, and your curried asparagus recipe really stands out as tempting.

    • Asparagus season is about 3 weeks away for us, so we’ve been using up the last jars of pickled asparagus. Both the plain and the curried versions were great. A canning tip: asparagus, like okra and peaches, tends to expand in the jars. If you pack the stalks too tight or leave too little head space, you might get what’s called siphoning, a leakage of the fluid into the water bath. That leaves you with stalks exposed to the air, even though the seal has set. Probably not a good storage mode outside the fridge. When that happens to me, I turn the jars on their heads (so that the stalks are all covered) and store them in the fridge. I’m not in love with that option since I’m not 100% sure what chemicals are in the seal (BPA?) Have a good time with your canning adventure!

  3. My jars, lids and seals specifically say BPA free. They are basic mainstay brand from Walmart. I canned for the first time yesterday and afraid of overfilling, I had some empty head space. Thanks for the info.

    • Just make sure the liquid covers the vegetables. If it doesn’t after you’ve canned them (the vegetables absorb water), you might refrigerate them or use them in a relatively short time, making sure that the seal is intact.

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