On a drizzly, chilly day last week I stopped into Wilson Farms in Lexington. The farm stand was filled with bright and cheery flowers and early season vegetables. Filling my basket with bright green asparagus and little swirls of fiddleheads brought me a touch of spring despite the nasty weather.
When I was a child I loved the elegant glass jars of asparagus from France on shelves of gourmet shops. When I saw those gorgeous crisp spears at the farm stand I knew right away that I wanted to pickle them and capture the short season to enjoy later. I imagine how good these tall slim pickles will taste draped onto a summer cool salad or standing in for celery in a Bloody Mary.
6 pounds asparagus
5 cups cider vinegar
4 cups water
1/4 cup Kosher salt
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons brown mustard seed
2 tablespoons coriander seed
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
1 tablespoon fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Wash and heat 4 wide mouth quart jars with two part lids
Fill water bath canner with water and bring to a simmer
Mix all ingredients except asparagus and heat until boiling to make the brine
Fill another large pot with water and bring to a simmer
Fill a large bowl with ice water
Cut stems of asparagus to fit into jars with about 1/2 inch of space at the top.
Dip the asparagus into simmering water for two minutes and then drop them into the ice water bath.
Fill the jars one at a time with cooled asparagus and then pour in the hot brine up to 1/2 inch from the top of the jar
Screw on the lid and place in the canner
Repeat with remaining jars
Process in canner for 15 minutes
Allow jars to cool completely before storing