My Asparagus Is in a Pickle
I love asparagus! I’m sure you do too and that’s why you’re here. This time of year my family just can’t get enough of it. I did another bulk buy last week and purchased 10 pounds of asparagus for $15. That’s a great price for the beginning of the season.
We ate it with eggs and Hollandaise sauce a few times. We ate it plain with butter (my personal favorite).
After 4 days of fresh asparagus, it’s time to find ways to put the leftovers into storage.
There are several ways to preserve your asparagus for the long and dreary months when it costs $4.99 a pound in the grocery. Believe me, if you love asparagus, you’ll be glad you purchased some now and learned how to preserve it.
Why Is Asparagus So Good for You?
Asparagus is very low in calories (20 calories per 90 grams of cooked plant) full in vitamins, minerals, and protein, which makes it a powerful ally in weight loss diets. It’s especially rich in vitamin K (57% of the Recommended Daily Intake in just 90 grams), which helps with calcium absorption and keeping a healthy cardiovascular system.
Asparagus is also great for pregnant women as it is rich in folate (34% of RDI in 90 grams), which promotes cell growth, DNA synthesis, and other critical bodily processes for both the expecting mom and her unborn baby.
Asparagus is also rich in fiber (1.8 grams or 7% of RDI per cup), which can help improve digestion, alleviate constipation, and help with weight loss. The tiny traces of soluble fiber in this veggie turn into a gel-like liquid in the gut and help feed the good gut bacteria, which beef up the immune system in the long term.
Also, since the plant is rich in antioxidants it is a powerful anti-inflammatory, blood pressure lowering, and even anti-cancerous agent. I’ll stop here. If these facts haven’t convinced you to add more of this superfood to your diet, I don’t know what will.
3 Ways to Preserve Asparagus
#1 Blanch and Freeze your Asparagus
The process for blanching vegetables includes boiling them in hot water for a specified period of time. Usually 2 to 5 minutes depending on the vegetable. The blanching time for medium size stalks of asparagus is 3 minutes. You can get all the details about how to do it in our previous post, To Blanch or Not to Blanch.
I like to take shortcuts with my blanching and freezing if I can get away with it. It’s my personal preference to skip this step with asparagus. It’s not something that the USDA or a Master Canner would probably recommend, but I have personally had great success skipping the blanching step with asparagus.
Here’s what you could do: Cut the spears into 1-inch pieces. If you plan on using them in a frittata or soup in the next three months, skip the blanching altogether. If you plan on keeping the asparagus in the freezer for up to a year, then blanch and freeze is the recommended method.
How to Blanch Asparagus:
There are two methods – boil it or nuke it in the microwave. The former is supposedly healthier, the latter is more convenient. It’s your pick.
Blanching Method #1:
- You’ll need to prepare the ice bath you’ll be putting the freshly blanched asparagus in to stop the cooking, to preserve its vibrant green color, and prevent it from turning into a mushy mess. So, get a large bowl, fill it with cold tap water and add ice to it.
- Bring water with a bit of salt to a rolling boil – you need enough water to cover the asparagus bits but you don’t want it to drown in it. About 1 inch of water and 1 tablespoon of salt is just right.Once the water has reached boiling point, gently add the asparagus spears in it ideally with help from a metal slotted skimmer or a spider strainer. You’ll notice that the asparagus changes color almost instantly into vibrant green.
- Boil the asparagus for 2 to 4 minutes, depending on the size of the spears. You want them tender but not mushy. Crisp is the best texture you should be after.
- Remove the asparagus from water and immediately toss it into the ice bath. It needs the thermal shock to preserve its crispness and wonderful color.
- Once the spears have cooled remove them from the ice bath on a kitchen paper towel, add to a zip lock bag after removing the moisture (ideally remove as much air as you can from the sip lock as well, to prevent freezer burn, and freeze.
- Label and date the bag. Consume within 6 months.
Blanching Method #2:
- Prepare the ice bath (yes, you’ll need to apply thermal shock in this case too even though we won’t be using any boiling water).
- Dampen several sheets of paper towel and roll up the asparagus spears in them.
- Place the asparagus “paper burritos” with the seams down in the microwave oven.
- Blast them on high for 3 to 4 minutes. Check for tenderness (the blanching time largely depends on the size of the plants and their age)
- Remove from the asparagus the oven with silicone mitts or tongs, unwrap the paper towel and plunge the asparagus into the ice bath.
- Once cooled, remove any excess water, and to a zip lock bag, compress to remove as much air as you can, seal, and add to the freezer.
- Label and date the bag.
Note: If you don’t want the blanched asparagus spears to stick together, you can spread the asparagus pieces out in a single layer without the spears touching one another on a baking tray and let them sit like this in the freezer for a couple of hours. When the time’s up, pack them as shown above in freezer bags, and resume freezing.
#2 Pickle your Asparagus
I think this might be my second favorite way to eat asparagus! Here’s how to preserve asparagus spears in a water bath canner. Makes 7 pints, depending on the height of your jars.
- 5 pounds of asparagus spears, washed, dried and cut 1 inch shorter than your pint jars.
- Pack them vertically into clean, hot jars.
- On the stove top: in a non-reactive pan, combine 5 cups apple cider vinegar, 1-1/4 cup water, a heaping 1/4 cup of canning salt, 2 tablespoons sugar, 2 tablespoons of pickling spice, 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional) and 2 tablespoons fresh, chopped, garlic.
- Bring the brine to a low boil for 5 minutes.
- Divide the hot brine and spices evenly between your canning jars by ladling in the brine until the asparagus is completely covered.
- Leave 1/2 inch of headspace between the top of the jar and the liquid. Process for 15 minutes in a water bath canner.
You can safely adjust the amount of spice, pepper flakes and garlic to make your asparagus spears more or less spicy. You cannot safely change the vinegar -water – salt ratio if you plan on water bath canning this recipe. See our previous post on water bath canning for in-depth directions.
Of course, you could create the brine, cover them and place the jars the refrigerator. It will take about 48 hours for the brine to flavor the asparagus. These will last in your refrigerator for an extended period of time – to up to 30 days (if you can keep them around that long).
Pickled asparagus is jam-packed with fiber and pro-biotics so it is a boon for digestive health. You can eat it on its own as a snack or add it to sandwiches, use it as a side dish with things that pair well with sauerkraut such as roast meat or ham strips with mayo, or combine it with other appetizers. Some people, even like pickled asparagus with their Bloody Marys or beer.
#3 Use the ends to make your own Asparagus Stock
Once you have those beautiful spears pickled, you will be left with six to eight cups of leftover stalks. These are perfectly good for using in soups, with eggs and other ways you would normally use asparagus.
Simple Asparagus Stock. Makes about 2 quarts.
-// 6 cups asparagus ends
-// 9 cups water
-// 1 medium onion, chopped
-// 1 large carrot, grated
-// 1 handful parsley sprigs
-// 1 tsp. black pepper
-// Salt to taste
Combine all ingredients in a 4-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Skim off any impurities that rise to the top. Turn heat down to low and cover with lid. Simmer for an hour. Remove from heat and strain or use a stick blender to create a smooth consistency. Cool completely before storing.
Keep your vegetable stock in the refrigerator for about two weeks or in your freezer for six months.
Bonus Way to Preserve Asparagus: Drying It
If you’re obsessed about having only fresh asparagus on your table, skip this method. But for the rest of us, drying the excess asparagus can be a cost-effective way of having this delicious veggie year-round on hand. You can use dried asparagus in soups, marinades, stews, but you’ll need to reconstitute it in simmering water for 30 to 40 minutes first.
Some home cooks even grind the dehydrated asparagus into a fine powder and use it as a nutritious soup base. Drying, or dehydrating asparagus, is the most convenient way of securing your asparagus harvest when you’re really tight on time.
How to dehydrate asparagus:
- Choose only freshly picked stalks in order to preserve the flavor. Wash the stalks, drain them dry, and cut them in small pieces cross wise (around half inch long) or lengthwise in half.
- Prepare an ice bath as shown above
- Blanch the asparagus in boiling water for 3 to 4 minutes (you could also put it in a steamer and let it there for five minutes or until tender but not mushy. (Blanching is needed as a pre-treatment to inactivate the emzymes that might spoil the dried plant later on)
- Pat dry with kitchen paper towels.
- Spread the blanched asparagus on your dehydrator’s trays and dehydrate at 125°F for up to 8 hours or until the bits are crisp and there’s no trace of moisture in them. If you don’t have a dehydrator you can leave the stalks in full sun, but make sure that you place something transparent over them such as cheesecloth to protect them against bugs and curious pets.
Note: One surefire way to tell whether the asparagus is bone dry is to leave it in a mason jar overnight in a hot environment. If there’s moisture left in it, you should see condensation on the jar’s walls. Resume the drying process with the whole batch if moisture is present in your dehydrated asparagus.
I have published an entire post dedicated to drying asparagus (yes, that’s how much I love it!). You can check out my step-by-step guide (with pictures!) here: Dehydrating Asparagus – Another Method of Preservation.
I’ve created a free handy checklist for you! I call it The Canning Checklist. It doesn’t have a fancy name…but it sure is handy when you’re canning!
Use it as a reference for the entire canning process. You’ll find it helpful to have a step-by-step reference for where you’re at in the process – when do you adjust the heat, how long should you process these jars for, how much water goes into a pressure canner? You get the idea.
The canning checklist has it all spelled out in simple steps, so there is no more guessing. If you find yourself lost in the process of canning, this may be the answer.
What are bulk buys? I like to purchase fruits, vegetables, and grains at wholesale prices and “put them up” for future use. It saves my family a ton of money! Some previous bulk buys I’ve done – tomatoes – chia seed – quinoa – oranges – sweet potato – Yukon gold potato – Walla Walla onion
What is your favorite way to preserve asparagus? Share your favorite way in the comments below.
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This post was first published on Mar. 12th, 2014, and was last updated in July 2020.