Asparagus season is upon us. If you haven't made room in the freezer for several batches of asparagus soup, you may feel you're falling behind. Luckily I can help – not with the nightmare that is your freezer but with a delicious alternative to steaming, grilling or pureeing these crisp, nutty stalks, whose appearance at markets signals that spring has finally arrived. Let's pickle them. The recipe below is a quick one – you won't be sterilizing jars or storing anything indefinitely. A half-hour's effort will yield a tasty snack to accompany cheese, put into sandwiches or just eat straight from the jar.
Servings: Makes a one-pint mason jar of pickled asparagus. Double the recipe if desired.
Asparagus (one bundle or about 1 pound)
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup water
4 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 bay leaves, dried
1 teaspoon peppercorns, dried
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds, dried
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds, dried
Wash and cut one bundle of asparagus (about 1 pound) and trim to fit your mason jar – there should be a half-inch space above the tips of the stalks.
Blanch the asparagus: Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil, add the asparagus for one minute (keep the water boiling), remove and cool quickly under cold water to stop cooking. Pack the stalks into the mason jar. Add 1 clove of peeled garlic. Set aside.
For the brine: Into a medium pot, add 1 cup of white vinegar, 1 cup of water, 4 tablespoons of sugar, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, 2 dried bay leaves, 1 teaspoon of dried peppercorns, 1/2 teaspoon of dried coriander seeds and 1/2 teaspoon of dried mustard seeds. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat. Pour the hot brine over the asparagus until the tips are covered. Cool on the counter until warm, then put the lid on and refrigerate for at least 24 hours before eating. (Note: You can make this in any sealable glass Tupperware container as well.)