In Season: Asparagus!

Asparagus is good source of iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, selenium, copper, manganese, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, and the B vitamins.

Asparagus is in season in from mid-May to mid-June, for around $3.50 per pound. Our local source is Duggan Farms:

2651 Camp Road
Lake Country, BC V4V
Tel (250) 766-2628

* Please call ahead.

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Place your order for asparagus about 3 days before you want to pick it up. Purchase or gather together other needed supplies, and set them up in the kitchen.

Supplies and Ingredients:

Ziplock large freezer bags, or reusable containers for refrigerator storage

Food-Saver vacuum sealer

Food-Saver plastic, 2 rolls of 11×16, $21.97

sharp scissors, to cut the Food-Saver plastic

water bath canner

kettle, for boiling water as needed

large pot

small pot

canning funnel

canning tongs

24 jars and rings

Bernardin canning lids, 2 packages of 12, $9.98

25 lbs of asparagus

cutting board

sharp knife

large bowl

colander

dish towels and cloths

kitchen scale

measuring cups and spoons

4 L of 5% natural vinegar, $2.98

pickling salt, $2.49

granulated white cane sugar, $3.32

dill seed

dried dill

cayenne pepper

mustard seed

celery seed, $4.99

garlic, $2.31

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Ok, so here are my steps for preparing and preserving asparagus, for the fridge, the freezer, and two kinds of pickles.

The first main task is to trim off the woody ends, sort into sizes, measure the weight, and wash the asparagus. It may take about 3 hours.

1. Using a good knife, gently cut the end of each asparagus stem on top of a cutting board. If the stem is soft, cut it all the way. If it is hard, move the knife up the stem little by little until the asparagus is soft. Put the woody ends into a large bowl. Working through all the asparagus stems, make four separate piles: long and thick, long and thin, short and thick, and short and thin.

2. Measure the weight of each pile. This year, my categories are as follows:

Total:

25 lbs of asparagus, x $3.50 lb = $87.50

25 lbs of asparagus x 453.59 g = about 11000 g or 11 kg

$87.50/11 kg = $7.95 per kg of asparagus.

Trimmed and sorted:

Long and thick: 3 kg = 3 ziplock bags of 1 kg each, to put in the fridge for fresh eating. 3 kg x $7.95 = $23.85

Long and thin: 2 kg = 2 bags of 1 kg each, to vacuum-seal and freeze. 2 kg x $7.95 = $15.90

Long and thin: 2 kg, set aside for pickles.

Short and thick: 1 kg, set aside for pickles.

Short and thin: 1 kg, set aside for pickles.

4 kg x $7.95 = $31.80

Bernardin canning lids, 2 packages of 12, $9.98

4 L of 5% natural vinegar, $2.98

garlic, $2.31

Cost of pickles: $47.07/ 24 jars = $1.96 per jar

Woody ends: 2 kg, to vacuum-seal and freeze, to include in vegetable broth next fall. 2 kg x $7.95 = $15.90

3. Fill a sink half full of cold water. Gently swish each pile of asparagus seperately, place in a colander or bowl to remove excess water, and then onto a dish towel. Bag and seal asparagus for the fridge and freezer. Each step here may take 2 to 5 minutes. (Ziplock bags or containers work great to keep asparagus fresh in the fridge. For the freezer, I always use a vacuum-sealer now. I have had vegetables keep 2 to 4 years even!)

4. Set out ingredients for asparagus pickles: 12 garlic cloves, dill seed, cayenne pepper, 4 L of 5% vinegar, a kettle of hot water, canning salt, celery seed, mustard seed, dried dill, and white cane sugar.

5. Fill a clean dishwasher (or sink, to wash by hand) with 24 pint jars and rings, a small amount of dishwasher detergent, and wash on the hottest setting. Fill a water bath canner with water.

6. Break for lunch.

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The second main task is to make the pickles. It may take another 3 hours from start to finish, including clean up.

7. Batch #1: Asparagus Pickles with Garlic and Dill.

Bring canner to a boil. Peel 12 garlic cloves. Place one in the bottom of each of 12 pints. Add 1 ml of dill seed to each jar, and a few shakes of cayennne pepper to 6 jars.

8. Trim the asparagus so that it will fit 3 cm down from the rim of the jar. Stems that have no tops, cut into short pieces.

Short and thick: 1 kg 200 g

Short and thin: 1 kg

This will make 6 pints of asparagus spears and 6 pints of pieces.

9. In a large pot, combine 4x 250 ml each of hot water and 5% white vinegar. Add 120 ml canning salt. Stir, and bring to a boil. Add 12 canning lids to a small pot of water, and bring to a boil.

10. Using a canning funnel and a measuring cup or ladle, fill each jar with brine, leaving 1 cm of headspace. Using a butter knife, remove air bubbles and add more brine if necessary. Wipe rims of jars with a clean, hot, damp cloth. Apply canning lids and loosely tighten rings.

11. Using canning tongs, place jars in a boiling water canner, and boil for 10 minutes. Set on a towel or rack to cool. Repeat with the next 6 pints. The jars should seal within 20 minutes of being out of the canner, but may take longer. Check the seals by pressing on the lids. If the lid moves or makes a sound, it hasn’t sealed and can be boiled again with a following batch, or refrigerated in a few hours if it hasn’t sealed by then.

12. Allow jars to sit for 7 days for best flavour development. Yield: 12 pints.

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13. Batch #2: Sweet Asparagus Pickles.

Bring canner to a boil. Set out 12 pints. To each jar, add: 1 ml of celery seed, 2 or 4 ml of mustard seed, and 10 ml of dried dill.

14. Trim the asparagus so that it will fit 3 cm down from the rim of the jar. Stems that have no tops, cut into short pieces.

Tall and thin: 2 kg

This will make 6 pints of asparagus spears and 6 pints of pieces.

15. In the same large pot, with any remaining brine, add 6x 250 ml of hot water and 8x 250 ml 5% white vinegar. Add 400 g white cane sugar and 80 ml canning salt. Stir, and bring to a boil. Add 12 canning lids to a small pot of water, and bring to a boil.

16. Using a canning funnel and a measuring cup or ladle, fill each jar with brine, leaving 1 cm of headspace. Using a butter knife, remove air bubbles and add more brine if necessary. Wipe rims of jars with a clean, hot, damp cloth. Apply canning lids and loosely tighten rings.

17. Using canning tongs, place jars in a boiling water canner, and boil for 10 minutes. Set on a towel or rack to cool. Repeat with the next 6 pints. The jars should seal within 20 minutes of being out of the canner, but may take longer. Check the seals by pressing on the lids. If the lid moves or makes a sound, it hasn’t sealed and can be boiled again with a following batch, or refrigerated in a few hours if it hasn’t sealed by then.

18. Allow jars to sit for 7 days for best flavour development. Yield: 12 pints.

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19. Load the dishwasher, wash counters and tables, and sweep the floor.

20. Let the canner cool, and wash it the next day. Also the next day, tighten the rings on the jars, wash jars gently if they are sticky, and store in a cool, dark place.