Springtime = asparagus. I love the stuff. I saute it, grill it, puree it, and now pickle it. But I want something I can enjoy past June. The natural decision is pickles.
Since I'd never made asparagus pickles before I did exhaustive research. I read pickling books, Googled "pickled asparagus," consulted the Joy of Cooking, and then made up my own recipe.
The end result had a garlicky flavor with a bit of heat that bloomed at the back of the mouth. The oregano contributed an earthy-ness that mellowed the garlic. Although the stalks were a drab green, they retained their snap, probably because I didn't blanch the asp. first.
2 pounds of asparagus or enough to fill three 1.5 pint jars*
3 cups white vinegar
1 cup white balsamic vinegar
2 cups water
12 cloves garlic
6 dried Japanese chili pods
3 long springs of fresh oregano
3 heaping teaspoons of salt (Kosher or pickling salt)
Sterilize jars and lids in boiling water. Mix vinegars and water in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Set aside. Fill** (pack) the sterile jars with raw asparagus, two chili pods, four cloves of garlic, one sprig oregano and one heaping teaspoon of salt.
Pour brine over asparagus. Process for 8 - 12 minutes depending on the size of the asparagus.
Store for ten days before opening.
I plant to use mine in Bloody Mary's.
* 1.5 pint jars are difficult to find. They are tall and straight, made in Italy, and were marketed for asparagus. Unfortunately they are no longer produced by Kerr or Ball. In a year or so of searching, I've found two. The pastry chef at Deschutes contacted a jar collector in Portland who advertises on Craig's List. She was able to secure a whole case of the precious jars and sold me three. Now I have four (one broke while making this batch of pickles).
** I separated the asparagus into sizes and placed similar sizes in each jar. I processed the thin stalks for eight minutes, the fat for 11 or 12.
I used Mary Washington asparagus. I'll pick up more asparagus this weekend and try to mix up the varieties for my next batch. Some Mary Washington, some Jersey Giant.