Mastering cold pack canning with Marisa from Food in Jars I make pickled asparagus every May. Local farms let us pick the slender green stalks that improbably emerge from seemingly desolate soil. Or we buy them fresh from the farmers market. The stems are long, and every inch is useful. While I used to pickle asparagus spears tip down, I now prefer just the base of the stems, trimmed to about three inches, enough to stand straight in an 8-ounce canning jar. This minimizes the floating that often happens in cold packed canning, especially in spongy fruits and vegetables like asparagus, rhubarb and peaches. These stubby stalks are great to serve later on, as is or cut into small disks to use like pickled capers.It has taken me a few seasons to get the curry spices where I want them. The pickle needs to sit for 3-4 weeks before tasting, and the local growing season is often over by then. The inspiration to use curry spices came from a favorite asparagus soup and learning a bit more about how spices are treated in Indian cuisine. Here I toasted and lightly crushed coriander seed, cumin seed, fenugreek and fennel seed, and added chopped fresh turmeric root. In the past, when I couldn’t find fresh turmeric, I used dried, preferring chunks to ground. Ground turmeric is ubiquitous but I find it creates unpleasant slurry that clouds the pickling liquid.
Pickled Asparagus with Toasted Curry Spices (yields 4-5 four-ounce jars)
Asparagus stalk bottoms, trimmed to fit slightly more than 1/2 inch from the top of jar
¼ tsp each coriander seed, fenugreek granules, cumin seed, fennel seed
½ tsp chopped raw turmeric root or ¼ tsp dried turmeric
1 tbsp salt
1 c water
1 c white vinegar or white wine vinegar
Prepare the jars and the water bath canner.
Lightly toast the coriander seed, cumin seed, fenugreek and fennel seed. Set aside to cool and lightly crush them. Combine with the chopped turmeric.
Pack the asparagus and spices into warm jars, relatively tightly.
Stir the salt into water and cook at medium heat until dissolved. Add the vinegar, bringing the liquid just to a boil. Immediately pour over the jarred asparagus to cover, but leave ½-inch headspace. Insert a chopstick gently between the asparagus stalks to release any air bubbles.
Clean the rims, cap the jars and place in a water bath canner. Process for 10 minutes after the water comes to a boil. Remove the lid, turn off the heat and remove to a cool place to rest undisturbed until cool.
Cure for 3-4 weeks before eating.