May – Pickled Asparagus

May – Pickled Asparagus

I just can’t get enough of asparagus when it first comes into season! By the end of May I am looking for ways to preserve it for the rest of the year. Out of season asparagus is often shipped long distances and can be dry and lacking in that wonderful grassy flavor (not to mention enormously expensive and environmentally irresponsible). I want to take full advantage of the long spring season, there are so many ways of serving it. Have you ever thought of combining different cooking methods with the same vegetable? The combination of fresh asparagus and pickled ones in an inspiration. Think thinly sliced or finely chopped pickled spears combined with sour cream (or even better, creme fraiche) as a sauce for fresh asparagus cooked on the grill. You could add equal parts mayonnaise if you want. Serving it as a sauce elevates the vegetable to a new level. What about putting a poached egg on top, serving all on top of a slice of crisp toast? I could see a slice of crisped prosciutto somewhere in there as well or even a slice meaty bacon. Yum!

I am getting ahead of myself because a simple platter of grilled or roast asparagus with pickled asparagus sauce is delicious.

Roast Asparagus with Pickled Asparagus Sauce

But first you need the pickled asparagus. I have found jars in better grocery stores but they are the tiny grassy spears, and are quite costly. It is far easier to pickle your own when asparagus is in season.

For pickling you can use either thin or thicker spears, peel the ends of the thicker ones first. if you haven’t done this before you can find the tips here. I found large mouth quart canning jars so I could pickle the longest spears possible. But you can cut them into smaller pieces and use pint jars if that is all you have. Either way pack them with the tips up to preserve the shape as much as possible.

Start with 4 pounds of asparagus to ensure enough for 3 quarts. I purchased 3 large bunches, thinking it would be enough (it looked like an enormous amount) and was short a 1 quart container. You’ll need about 16 cups (hard to measure). At the end I had one unused sterile quart container and extra pickling solution…what to do? I found a head of celery in the fridge and remembered reading somewhere about the joys of pickled celery. Why not? Now I have a jar of pickled celery and will let you know how I like it.

Asparagus waiting to be pickled

If you have to buy your asparagus a day or two ahead, store them like flowers with the ends in cool water.

Pickled Asparagus

For 4 quarts:


  • 6 1/2 cups of white wine or champagne vinegar
  • 3 1/2 cups of water
  • 3 tablespoons of kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 4 teaspoons of fennel seeds
  • 8 sprigs of fresh fennel fronds if available
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 4 whole garlic cloves, peeled and halved
  • 16 cups of asparagus or 4 pounds


  1. First bring the water in your canning jar to a boil. I find this takes the longest and always start it at the very beginning of the canning process. You can use the water to scald 4 quart canning jars. Or, I find it easier to run them through the dishwasher, then place them open side down on a clean dishtowel until you are ready to fill them.
  2. In a dry small skillet, toast the fennel seeds on medium heat until they are turning golden brown and aromatic (about 1 minute). Remove and place on a plate to cool.
  3. Prepare the asparagus by measuring the length you will need for your jars, snap and peel the ends once the appropriate size. You really only need to peel the ends of medium or large asparagus stalks.
  4. Bring a large skillet of water to a boil. You will use this to blanch the asparagus. While it is coming to a boil, put a large bowl of ice water in the sink. Once it comes to a boil, add the asparagus in batches. Set a timer for 1 minute, then remove the stalks from the boiling water and drop them into the ice bath to cool quickly. Once cool, remove them to a clean dishtowel lined tray. Repeat as necessary until they are all blanched.
  5. In a pot bring the vinegar, water, salt, and sugar to a boil. This is your brine. Keep hot.
  6. In a small pot soak the lids in a pan of hot water to soften the seal.
  7. Now you are ready. Turn the jars right side up and add 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds, 1 bay leaf, and 2 garlic halves to each jar. Pack the asparagus in tightly, tips up.
  8. Carefully pour the hot brine over the asparagus in the jars. Leave about 1 inch of head space. Check for air pockets and add more liquid if needed. Wipe the rims, add the lids and screw on the bands until snug but not tight.
  9. Place the jars in the pot with the lid, add water to cover the jars (by about an inch if possible). Bring the water back to boil, cover, and process for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the jars for a few minutes. Remove the jars and let cool completely. Check to make sure the lid pops in, indicating proper canning.

And here is the lone jar of pickled celery.

Pickled Celery

The inspiration for this recipe came from The Preservation Kitchen by Paul Virant with Kate Leahy. It is probably one of my most used books on preserving.

I think I will take this as part of my recipe for asparagus with pickle sauce to the party at Fiesta Friday #226, it will be lovely as part of the buffet. You can find the link to Angie’s Fiesta Friday blog here. Follow the listed links at the bottom to any of the blogs that interest you. Angie’s cohost this week is Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

If you are a blogger yourself, please add your link to the list.

TGIF everyone!



April in the Kitchen – Grilled Asparagus with Pickled Asparagus and Prosciutto

April in the Kitchen – Grilled Asparagus with Pickled Asparagus and Prosciutto

Juxtaposing grilled and pickled asparagus highlights two sides of this wonderful spring vegetable. On the grill, the asparagus is smoky and meaty. In vinegar, it’s grassy and green with just enough tartness to counter the richness of a slice pf prosciutto. If you topped this with a fried or poached egg, it would make a tasty savory brunch dish.

This recipe is adapted from “The Preservation Kitchen” by Paul Virant.

Grilled Asparagus with Pickled Asparagus

Grilled Asparagus with Pickled Asparagus

Grilled and Pickled Asparagus with Prosciutto

  • 6 spears pickled asparagus – commercial or home made (recipe below), thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons pickled asparagus pickling liquid
  • 1/4 cup of sliced spring onions, or finely minced shallots, or red onion
  • 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
  • Either 1/4 cup olive oil or 1/4 cup of sour cream
  • 1 pound fresh asparagus
  • 4 generous slices prosciutto
  • 1 cup of loosely packed and chopped fresh herbs such as parsley, chives and tarragon (optional)
Grilled Asparagus

Grilled Asparagus

  1.  Prepare a fire in your grill, preheat a stove top grill pan, or preheat you oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. In a small bowl stir together the pickled asparagus, pickling liquid, onion, and mustard. Whisk in the olive oil or sour cream, add a pinch of salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Rub the asparagus with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Grill or roast the asparagus until it is charred at the tips, about 10 minutes.
  4. Spread the slices of prosciutto on either individual plates or a platter.
  5. Arrange the warm asparagus on the prosciutto and top with the vinaigrette. Sprinkle the herbs on top.
  6. Serve each person a slice of proscuitto, some asparagus and sauce.
Grilled Asparagus with Proscuitto and Pickled Asparagus

Grilled Asparagus with Proscuitto and Pickled Asparagus

Substituting sour cream for olive oil also makes a delicious variation.

Grilled Asparagus with Pickled Asparagus Sauce

Grilled Asparagus with Pickled Asparagus Sauce

Pickled Asparagus – makes 4 quarts

  • 6 1/2 cups champagne vinegar
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 4 teaspoons of cumin seeds
  • 8 sprigs of tarragon or fennel or dill
  • 4 whole cloves of garlic, peeled and halved
  • 16 cups of asparagus, trimmed
  1. In a pot, bring the vinegar, water, salt and sugar to a boil. Keep hot. In a dry skillet toast the cumin seeds until fragrant, about a min.
  2. Scald 4 quart jars in a large pot of simmering water fitted with a rack for processing the jars. Right before filling, put the jars on the counter. In each jar, place a teaspoon of cumin seeds, 2 sprigs of thyme, and 2 garlic clove halves. Meanwhile, soak the lids in a pan of hot water.
  3. In a large pot of boiling and salted water, blanch the asparagus for 1 minute. Drain the asparagus and pack the stalks into the jars, tips up.
  4. Pour the hot brine over the asparagus, leaving about a 1-inch space from the rim. Check for air pockets and add more brine if necessary. Seal with the lids and screw on the bands.
  5. Place the jars in the pot with the rack and add enough hot water to cover by at least an inch. Bring the water to a boil and process for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the jars sit in the water for a few minutes. Remove the jars from the water to a dish cloth on the counter and cool completely.

Please consult a canning book for more details.

I am taking this to Fiesta Friday to party with Angie and friends.

Fiesta Friday

Fiesta Friday

Pickled Asparagus

Pickled Asparagus

December in the kitchen – Pickle marinated chicken leg quarters

December in the kitchen – Pickle marinated chicken leg quarters

I have to admit it; I am still kicking myself over the loss of that pickling brine from the red beets. Do you remember, I poured the extra brine down the sink just as the deliciousness of it sunk in?! I cannot seem to get it out of my head. Would you say my brain is pickled? Maybe if you know me!

So, when we recently finished a jar of pickled asparagus, I didn’t make the same mistake. I saved it. Pickled asparagus is delicious with softly scrambled eggs and goat cheese, that’s how we finished off the jar last weekend. The big asparagus season comes in March and April here in California, but there have been some tiny thin ones in the store. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised as it has been sprouting in my garden as well. I usually pass by the thin ones, preferring the larger and more flavorful stalks. But, asparagus pickle juice and fresh asparagus hmm; the combination caught my imagination.

Pickle brine

Pickle brine

“Bon appetite” had an article for pickle brine marinated fried chicken a few months ago. I don’t do a lot of frying but thought I could use that idea for some roast chicken thighs. The asparagus could roast at the same temperature, maybe some sweet potatoes as well. They would add a sweet note to the sharpness of vinegar.

I made a simple version of a blender mayonnaise to go with the chicken and asparagus.

I was very happy with the results.

Pickle brine marinated chicken thighs

  • 4 chicken leg quarters
  • 1 ½ to 2 cups of left over pickle brine (mine was asparagus brine, recipe below)
  • Olive oil
Pickle brined chicken leg quarters

Pickle brined chicken leg quarters

  1. Pat the chicken pieces dry and place in a large bowl. Add the pickle brine, it should cover them. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 1 to 3 hours.
  2. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F
  3. At the end of the brining, pat the chicken dry and put in a roasting pan, skin side up.
  4. Place into the preheated oven. You can add the sweet potatoes at this same time if you are baking them to go with the chicken.
  5. Roast for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until brown and juices run clear. You will put the asparagus into bake at the 1 hour mark.
  6. Trim and the asparagus, put into a baking pan in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt and grated parmesan. Place in the oven for the last 15 minutes (if your asparagus is thicker, it could need 20 minutes).

Roast asparagus

Asparagus sauce – blender mayonnaise with pickled vegetables

Blender mayonnaise with pickles

Blender mayonnaise with pickles

  • 1 cup of salad oil, I used ½ cup canola and ½ cup olive
  • 1 egg
  • ½ teaspoon dry powdered mustard
  • 2 tablespoons of pickle brine
  • 4 tablespoons of chopped pickles (asparagus, green beans, golden beets, cucumber pickles). Same as were in the brine.
  1. Into the container of a blender put the egg, mustard, pickle brine, and ¼ cup of the oil.
  2. Cover the container and blend at low speed.
  3. Immediately uncover and add the remaining oil in a steady stream (try to do this in about seconds).
  4. Switch the blender to high for 5 seconds.
  5. Add the chopped pickles and blend until a smooth puree.
  6. Serve with the chicken and roast asparagus.
roast chicken quarters with asparagus and sweet potato

roast chicken quarters with asparagus and sweet potato

You could use brind from any kind of pickle although I’m not sure about sweet ones. Let me know if anyone tries it.

Brine from Pickled Asparagus with Tarragon and Garlic (from Saving the Season by Kevin West).

  • 1 1/2 cups white-wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons of sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns, cracked
  • 2 allspice berries, crushed
  • 1/2 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • six 4 inch sprigs of tarragon
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  1. Bring all the ingredients to a boil, remove from the heat and steep for 15 minutes.
  2. Cool if using as a marinade.

If you are interested in the full pickle recipe, I can send it to you.

I’ll be taking this to Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen, Full Plate Thursday.