Five Women and 60 Pounds of Asparagus

asparagus-pickling-007b-1024x682Mention a party that revolves around food, and I’m there. When my friend, Bobbie, sent an email out a couple of weeks ago asking if anyone was interested in getting together for an asparagus-pickling party, I hit reply and typed “For sure” without hesitation.

A file folder in my desk drawer had been holding a few recipes for pickled asparagus for years. Who knew what year I might get around to actually using the recipes, but pickling some spicy asparagus for adding to bloody Mary’s, nibbling between sips of wine and tossing into salads was definitely on my “To Do” list. For someday.

The night before five asparagus-crazy, party-hungry women were to gather in Bobbie’s kitchen, she sent us another email, letting us know she had 60 pounds of very fresh asparagus delivered from a local farmer and all the jars and other ingredients we would need. Sixty pounds? She wasn’t kidding. Good grief.

The party began at 1:00 on Saturday afternoon. On my way over, (I went right from my cooking demonstration at the farmers market) I figured we’d be finished pickling by 4:00, when I had to head home to prepare a dish to take to a dinner party that evening. I was wrong.

asparagus-pickling-009bIt takes time to peel and slice onions and garlic and take the seeds out of jalapeno peppers.

And then, little pinches of this and that must go into the bottom of the jars that first had to be sterilized in hot water. And, of course, all those fresh asparagus spears need to be blanched and plopped into ice water. And drained. And cut so they are just the right size to stand tall in one-pint wide-mouth canning jars.

Oh, don’t forget the brine must be boiled. Yes, things often look easier than they really are — have you ever tried packing asparagus into jars so they all stand upright and stay snug and look pretty as they are pushed against onion slices and half of a jalapeno pepper? Well, I’m just glad that wasn’t my job.

Who knew it would take five women 8 hours to pickle 60 pounds of asparagus? But it was well worth the time having great fun with friends canning 55 pints of Spicy Pickled Asparagus. That’s right — we got 55 pints from 60 pounds.

asparagus-pickling-047b-1024x682I drove home with my 11 pints of pretty spears packed carefully in boxes. And 5 big bags of the ends of all those spears.

I’ve already chopped some of those blanched asparagus ends to toss into an angel hair pasta dish and we’ve grilled some of those ends. I guess you could say Bobbie had a party that just keeps on giving.

Oh, I think I forgot to mention my job was to cut each blanched spear just the right size to fit into the one-pint jars. Aren’t they just so adorable?

Bobbie, the organized one on our team, took notes as we partied. Surely we would forget all the little tips we learned along the way by next year’s party. One thing we will all remember though — an 8-hour asparagus-pickling party must begin at 8:00 in the morning.

Spicy Pickled Asparagus

For about 5 pints (much more manageable than 55 pints, unless you have a team to work with:) you will need:

5 pint jars, washed and sterilized
10 pounds fresh local asparagus, washed
2 cups white vinegar
2 1/2 cups water
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
1 tablespoon pickling spices, tied in cheesecloth or sealed in a tea ball
2 tablespoons canning (pickling) salt

For each jar you will need:

Dash of cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/2 clove fresh garlic
1/2 jalapeno pepper
1 onion slice

Place asparagus spears in boiling water for just 2 minutes, then plunge into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain.

Place dash of cayenne, 1/2 teaspoon dill weed, 1/2 clove garlic, 1/2 of a jalapeno pepper and an onion slice in each jar.

Cut blanched spears to fit into jars. Pack asparagus spears, upright, into each jar.

Combine vinegar, water, mustard seed, canning salt and pickling spices that have either been tied into cheesecloth or sealed in a teaball in a saucepan and boil for 15 minutes. Remove bag or tea ball of pickling spices and discard.

Pour hot brine over asparagus in jars. Seal jars. Place jars into canner of boiling water for 10 minutes to process. Remove from water and set jars aside to cool. Makes about 5 pints.

Stand back and admire!


Sue Doeden is a popular cooking instructor, food writer and integrative nutrition health coach. She is the host of Good Food, Good Life 365 on Lakeland Public Television. Her own hives full of hardworking bees and her love of honey led to the creation of her recently published cookbook, Homemade with Honey.