Pickled & Peppered Asparagus

I dug out my big ol’ black-and-white-speckled enamelware canning pot and boxes of jars last weekend, after not touching them for almost 10 years. And I was hyped! My mouth was watering at the thought of biting into spears of Pickled & Peppered Asparagus, an addictive treat I long for every spring when asparagus is abundant and cheap!

The first time I even knew there was such a yummy thing as pickled asparagus was about 15 years ago. This treat was the canning specialty of a girlfriend’s husband. He had access to an asparagus field. Can you imagine? Talk about an awesome backstage pass to springtime eats!

I was living in North Dakota then, and was on a Friday night girls bowling team with this girlfriend and a handful of special others. I scoured my boxes of photos, looking for a picture of us lined up with our bowling balls, but came up empty handed. I know it’s here somewhere… But I had so much fun with those gals. Even though my bowling was never spectacular, our time together always was.

And so were the Bloody Marys! The bowling alley served unbelievably good ones. I’m really not a tomato juice kind of person, so liking them even a teensy bit was a surprise for me. I can only imagine how delicious they would have been with a few spears of Pickled and Peppered Asparagus. In a drink, or simply as a nibble on an appetizer plate, these are some very special spears of joy!

Pickled & Peppered Asparagus
(print recipe)

4 to 5 big bunches (about 6 to 7 lbs.) thick asparagus tips
8 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, more or less to taste
8 tsp. dill seed
8 garlic gloves, peeled, each clove cut into 3 slices
jalapeno slices, optional
5 c. white vinegar
5 c. water
7 T. kosher salt
1-1/4 c. sugar

* Special equipment needed:  four 1-quart jars, four rims, four brand-new lids (don’t use lids over again), a large canning pot with a removable wire rack or a large stock pot and a jar lifter utensil

Prepare for water bath canning. I use one of those big black-and-white-speckled enamelware canning pots with the removable wire rack that holds the jars. This recipe uses quart jars, which are tall, so you need a tall pot that allows the water to cover the tops. A tall stock pot would work, too. But if you don’t have a removable rack to lift the hot jars out of the boiling water, a jar lifter utensil would be extremely helpful. Wash four quart jars, then set them in your pot, using the removable wire rack if you have one. Fill pot with enough water to cover the jars with one inch of water. Bring to a boil over high heat. My large pot took about 25 minutes to boil, so get this started right away. Covering the pot with the lid will speed up the process, too.

Put your lids in a small pan with enough water to cover them. Bring to a slow simmer and keep hot until you fill the jars with asparagus.

Fill a medium size stock pot or large pot about half full with water. Bring to boiling. While the water is heating up, trim the asparagus to 6″ lengths. You’ll end up with a pile of asparagus “scraps”. Don’t throw them away! I roasted some with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper, and enjoyed them with some eggs. And I made an asparagus guacamole with the rest!

Once the water is boiling, add the asparagus.

Bring back to a boil and then immediately drain and transfer to a bowl of ice water to cool. Drain well.

In a medium pan, combine the vinegar, water, salt, and sugar. Bring to a boil.

Using the removable wire rack (I maneuver it up out of the hot water using 2 wooden spoons) or a jar lifter, remove the jars from the canning pot, carefully pouring the water from each one back into the pot, and place them upright on a folded towel.

Place two teaspoons each of crushed red pepper flakes and dill seed into each hot jar, followed by two sliced garlic cloves for each jar. I had some time, waiting for the water to boil, so I pre-measured these.

Divide the asparagus between the jars. I found it helps to switch the position of the jar back and forth, from upright to on its side, to pack in the asparagus.

Ladle the hot vinegar mixture into the jars, leaving 1/2″ headspace at the top. Use a damp paper towel to wipe the rims of the jars clean, then put a hot flat lid and a ring on each jar, adjusting the ring so that it’s just finger-tight.

Return the filled jars to the canning pot, making sure the water covers the jars by at least 1″. Bring to a boil. I put the lid on the pot to speed up the boiling. Then boil for 10 minutes to process.

Remove the jars to a folded towel and do not disturb for 12 hours. After one hour, check that the lids have sealed by pressing down on the center of each one. If the lid is dimpled and can be pushed down, it hasn’t sealed, and the jar should be refrigerated immediately. Label the sealed jars and store.

Yield: four 1-quart jars

Source: conversations with my mom about canning, an adapted dilled asparagus recipe from Jim Kolbe, and guidance from Canning For a New Generation by Liana Krissoff

Pickled & Peppered Asparagus on Punk Domestics

I’m linking up with the following:

Kim at Recipes to Run On for her Link Party (Frozen Yogurt)
Cheryl at TidyMom for “I’m Lovin’ It” (The UNManual photography guide GIVEAWAY)
Robyn at Add a Pinch for “Mingle Monday”
Rachel at A Southern Fairytale for “Mouthwatering Monday” (Grillin’ Side Dishes)