Oh, how I love pickles.
We’ll just start it out like that. Because you are likely to see all manner of vegetables pickled this year from this kitchen. Fair warning.
We love, love, love asparagus in our house. We eat it steamed, grilled and roasted. We eat it in salads, on pizzas and simply dipped in mayonnaise.
But the other day, in the glee of spring asparagus season, I bought too much for us to eat. We’d already had it several times and I was afraid it might go bad before we wanted it again.
So I did what any real-foodie pickle lover would do. I made pickled asparagus. Lacto-fermented, of course.
Keep in mind this is more of a method than a recipe. I didn’t have any dill on hand, the dill I’m growing isn’t big enough to use yet and it was a rainy day and I didn’t want to go buy some, so I made these sans dill (though I included a note in the recipe below if you’d like to add it.) My husband doesn’t like dill too much anyway, but loves asparagus so these ones are for you, honey.
The most important thing to remember when lacto-fermenting any vegetable is that you need salt and clean, cool water (and sometimes whey, depending on the recipe, but let’s not get too technical here. Want to know more about why lacto-fermenting vegetables is better than heat canning? Read this post.). That’s about it. Everything else is just extra flavor. So add or take away flavorings to your hearts content; I made one jar with garlic, the second with shallots. I just wanted to see which I prefer.
For this batch I knew they’d pickle in the jars they’d be stored in so I used (and prefer) wide-mouth pint-sized jars. You’ll be seeing another method for batch processing in another post later this summer . . .
A Note: I made “full-sour” pickles which means that I used 3 Tablespoons of salt to quart of water for the “pickling liquid.” I love salty, crunchy pickles (and the more salt you use, the crunchier your vegetables will remain). If you prefer half-sours, use 2 Tablespoons of salt to quart of water.
Lacto-Fermented Pickled Asparagus
First, make your pickling liquid so that the salt has enough chance to dissolve thoroughly. Though I didn’t use a full quart of water when pickling, I made up a quart of pickling water before I started. Add 2-3 Tablespoons of salt (see note above) to a quart of water and stir to combine. Allow to dissolve while you prepare the vegetables and stir every few minutes until you use it.
I used sea salt this time but am considering the option of pickling salt due to details in the book The Joy of Pickling. Still undecided.
Cut your asparagus into lengths about four inches long to fit the jar, leaving about 1/2 to 1 inch of headspace at the top to allow the pickling liquid to cover. Each spear I cut yielded two four inch lengths with the tough, woody end cut off for the compost bin.
Stuff pint jars with asparagus lengths. I had about 20 spears to start with which filled up about a pint and a half. I filled in the rest of the space with a few slices of carrot and some sugar snap peas I had in my fridge.
Make sure all vegetables are washed well before placing in clean jars.
To each jar add:
- 1/8 tsp. celery seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon chile flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 2 garlic cloves, sliced, or 1 shallot, sliced
If you like dilled asparagus spears, add 1/4 teaspoon dill seeds and one good-sized fresh dill frond to each jar.
It is very important, in all pickles, to use whole seeds, peppercorns, herbs, etc. when making pickles. If you use ground versions, it will make the pickling liquid cloudy (ugly!) and will stick to the pickles in weird ways, thus not seasoning the pickles evenly. Always use whole spices!
Once jars are packed with vegetables and spices, slowly pour pickling water over the top until all spaces are full of water and vegetables are fully covered. Discard any unused pickling liquid.
Loosely screw on lids, don’t tighten them too tight, as they will release carbon dioxide as they ferment, just a gentle seal, and place in a cool (around 60 degrees Fahrenheit), dark place for two weeks. Taste test and if you want them a bit more sour, let them sit for a few days more. If you like the flavor and crunch, put them in your fridge and enjoy!
These pickles will last in your fridge for several months, if they last that long! We can’t keep our fingers out of them!
Though these are fantastic on a charcuterie or antipasto platter or simply alongside a sandwich, I especially like a spear of pickled asparagus to stir a Bloody Mary. . .