Lacto-fermentation workshops have been popular at Toronto’s Westend Food Coop, says Canning Coordinator James Partanen. Past instances have featured kimchi, sauerkraut and fiddleheads. Of this recipe, he says, “These delicately flavoured naturally pickled asparagus spears make an excellent addition to a rustic sandwich, can really perk up a salad, or be used to garnish a dish. All this, and they are a healthy source of probiotic bacteria as well!”
1 bunch asparagus
2 cloves garlic
1/8 teaspoon celery seeds
1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 wide mouth litre jar
1 250-ml jar
1/4 teaspoon chili flakes (optional)
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns (optional)
1/4 teaspoon dill seeds (optional)
2 tablespoons sea salt or pickling salt
1 litre water
Combine the salt and water, and bring to a boil to sterilize, then remove from heat and let cool to to lukewarm. Sterilize your jars and let them also cool to at most lukewarm.
Cut the asparagus spears so that they will come up to the shoulder (not the neck) of your 1-litre jar.
Drop the garlic cloves and spices in the bottom of the 1 litre jar. Pack the jars firmly with asparagus, some pointing tip-up, some pointing tip-down.
Top the jars up to the bottom of the threaded neck of the jar with the brine solution, and insert a small water-filled 250 ml jar inside the mouth of the larger jar, which will sit in the mouth of the jar and stick into the air in order to hold the ingredients below the surface. Make sure there is about an inch of brine above the tops of the asparagus and leave the jar open.
Place in a non-drafty space with a temperature between 17 and 22°C (65 and 74°F) for eight to 18 days. If any mould appears in the neck of the litre jar, prick it out with a paring knife.
After eight days, taste them regularly, and when the desired flavour and sourness has been achieved, put a lid on the jar and store it in the fridge. Do not tighten the lid until the jar is cold; while cooling the bacteria will continue to produce carbon dioxide, and can pressurize your jar.