Sunday, June 26, 2011

Pickled Asparagus with Tarragon

9-10 pint jars
25 calories a jar

Pickled asparagus is a delicious treat combining the spring freshness of asparagus and sourness of the brine.  Properly prepared you can also preserve a bit of crunch that will make your own stand out from the over-processed ones available on store shelves.  Make sure you only get the freshest asparagus; firm long stems with tightly closed buds are they key signs.  Thick or thin make no difference, although we prefer thick.  Using fresh garlic scapes available at the same time as the asparagus also makes for a milder but still enjoyable garlic flavour than last years cloves from the cold cellar.  Finally, tarragon is the perfect complement to asparagus, and is essential to the recipe.

This recipe is best made in large batches as the jars are quicker to prepare than the setup, and you'll find they fly off the shelves whenever entertaining or a hostess gift is required.

Wash and bend to snap:
12 pounds fresh asparagus
Save the woody ends for stock, and then snap to approximately 4" in length.  Save the remainer for soup or make a jar of pickled offcuts for salads. Place them in large bowl or clean stainless steel sink and cover with cold filtered water and cover generously with:
Allow the asparagus to plump for at leastt one hour in the ice bath, or refrigerate overnight if time is tight and you want to split the process. Prepare a vinegar brine consisting of:
8 cups of white vinegar
8 cups of filtered water
16 tablespoons of salt
in a large pot and bring to a boil. 
Place in a jar hot from the oven (see Pickling Tips):
1 large sprig of tarragon
3-4 pieces of garlic scapes
Spicy pepper of your choice (optional)
Tightly pack the jar with tip down asparagus spears taken directly from the ice bath, and fill the jar with the brine, and then seal.  Put on a wire rack and leave overnight to cool, and check seals in the morning.  Store in a cool dark place.

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