There are few things in life that I adore more than a surprise. I actually like the feeling of being surprised more than the content of the surprise myself. Those who have been reading for a while may recall the story of one of my most favourite servers in the world, Heather, who would regularly serve me my favourite beer in the world which was anything but Coor’s Light. It wouldn’t matter what was served, I simply adored the surprise.
We receive a number of comments at WellPreserved – many more come through direct messages on our Twitter feed or through our email. Each time a new one comes in, I get excited. A surprise message from someone with a comment, a question and the odd complaint. We love them all and your comments really are a giant reason of why we pursue this hobby so passionately. We also want to ensure we provide you with a reason to visit and a reason to come back.
We received a kind message from a Mom and Three Boys (check out this neat blog of a busy family of 5 – I have no idea how Mom has time to blog but) love the optimism that is apparent in her posts). She kindly pointed out that we made it difficult to learn how to make the pickled asparagus mentioned yesterday. This has really got us talking and thinking and we’re working on something to really make these recipes much easier to follow (without repeating how to sterilize jars and how to seal them 50 times). In the meantime, I thought we’d share a bit more detail.
If you are looking for more detail than what we have in this post, pop bye the preserving page and the step-by-step case study will help you out. If you can’t figure it out from there, pop us an email and we’ll fill in the blanks.
Get your ingredients ready and get a few pots on the stove. One has to be full enough to submerge clean jars under boiling water to sterilize them in boiling water, another for new seals and rings (you don’t want them actively boiling – bring that pot to a boil and dump the seals in and turn off heat at last minute), get the pressure steamer going (if you have one – some argue it isn’t needed, especially with pickled items because of the acidity) and a final pot of the pickling brine. If this sounds complicated, stay with us and read the following and it should start to come together:
- Mix a 50-50 batch of white vinegar and water. We are fans of using distilled water and pickling vinegar (you can buy 4L jars of the stuff and it’s 7% acidity as compared to the normal 5% – you need a minimum of 5% and if it’s not market, skip it). We used 2L of each for our 5 jars (750ml) of asparagus. You want to bring this to a boil and leave at a steady simmer before jarring.
- Pre-cut your ingredients. Asparagus deteriorates the most in it’s first 24 hours so use the freshest you can. Clean it well – dirt is an enemy. Cut it such that it will stand about .75 inches from the top of the jar – you want to leave room for headspace and asparagus will expand when it cooks in the preserving process).
- We pre-cut our other ingredients and put loose items (such as sugar and salt) into wide-mouth glasses that can be poured into the jars quickly. Once you start filling a jar you want to move fast. Our ingredients included:
- 5 or 6 pearl onions (we placed about 3 halves in each jar)
- A few bulbs of fresh garlic (we used about 2 or 3 large bulbs, halved in our jars)
- Some dried chilis – we used 2-4 in each jar.
- 1 tablespoon of pickling salt per jar. Pickling salt is important because it stop discoloration of your brine and, thus, your pickles. The grocery store has this as well.
- 1 tablespoon of sugar per jar – your choice of type. White will maintain sweetness while brown will add a bit of flavor (and discolor your brine slightly).
- 1 tablespoon of mustard seed per jar. Your choice as ling as it is dried – we used black and yellow.
- 2 teaspoons of dill seed per jar.
- Boil your jars to sterilize. Pull them out of the water (one at a time) and throw in all of the dry ingredients into a jar. Stuff tight with asparagus (this helps stop them from floating to the top). Try not to touch the rim as you need to keep this sterile. We put the asparagus in tip-first as it makes it easier to pack the final ones in tightly – pushing the thin tops is very difficult).
- Use a food funnel to fill the jars, leave about 1/2 inch head-space – all the asparagus should be covered.
- Use a food magnet to place a sterile lid from the boiling water on top of the jar.
- Twist a ring seal on top of the lid and place the jar in the steamer (everything should still be hot so use care).
- Finish the rest of the jars and seal – we use a pressure cooker to steam seal them (10 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure).
- Let the pressure cooker cool down, remove the jars and place on racks to cool down.
- Place away for 6 weeks+ for pickles – most of ours will be stored until a minimum of 4 or 5 months.
Cleanliness and measurements are extremely important as are using a tested recipe (do not invent your own). There is a lot of complex science going on here, despite the insistence of all of our Grandmothers. We cook and serve all of these recipes to our friends and families and we believe they are safe to do so. Ultimately do your own research and ensure you protect yourself and those you love.
Steps 1-3 are particular to this recipe, the others are fairly generic to all preserves and pickles. I highly advise you read our preserving section in full for more info and use some trusted sources such as the incomparable Joy of Cooking (though their website does not have enough detail to help you determine the basics)