Let's talk about pickles, shall we? Pickling is the act of perserving food using a high acid vinegar solution. Pickling is really easy. If you have never canned before, pickling is a great first project because it not very temperamental & it's pretty close to fool proof. You can pickle just about anything your heart desires - fruit, veggies, eggs, shrimp...ALL THE THINGS! Let's focus more on the simple veggies and fruit pickling today though!
1. Vegetable or fruit to pickle - cucumber, asparagus, cherries, etc
2. Pickling liquid - generally a mix of vinegar with water, perhaps also sugar
3. Seasoning - additives that pack the flavor, mostly herbs or garlic
There are a ton of variations on each one of these components, but you will generally find all of these parts in each pickle recipe. There are two methods of pickling and each recipe varies on which one to use. The first is the hot-pack method which involves heating food and putting it in the jar while hot - this menthod expels the air from the food and allows a tighter pack in the jar. The other is the raw-pack method or cold-pack method which, as you may have guessed, involves not heating the food prior to packing it in the pickling liquid.
The process is pretty basic and the same no matter what you are picking:
1. Sterilize jars & prep your vegetables or fruits (clean & cut them to fit the jars and heat them if hot packing)
2. Put your seasonings in each jar
3. Add vegetables/fruit
4. Fill with hot pickling liquid
5. Process in hot waterbath
Once you have these steps down, you can pretty much pickle anything. You could also even skip the last step and make refrigerator pickles.
Oh, one more note about pickling! All vinegars are not created equally. Each time of vinegar has a different acidity level (white vinegar is much more acidic than champagne vinegar for example), so always use the type called for in your recipe.
I love asparagus! Spring and early summer are the perfect times to find these little spheres of deliciousness at your local farmers market or in the grocery store. When you get tired of roasting or grilling them (but really, how could you get tired of that?), try making them into easy pickles! I like a spicy pickle, but feel free to omit the pepper flakes if that is not your think. The herbs added to a pickle can be customized safely.
Spicy Pickled Asparagus
Liquid ratio: 2 cups white vinegar to 1 cup water.
Depending on how many jars you are filling you will need more or less of this liquid mixture.
1 garlic clove
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 sprig fresh dill (or 1/2 dill seeds)
1/4 tsp salt
1) Wash, snap and trim your asparagus to fit into the size of you jars (I'm using half-pints). Peal the garlic cloves and have them ready to go.
2) Sterilize your jars by dipping them in boiling water for about 5 minutes or use your dishwasher's
3) This recipe calls for raw packing, so snatch up your hot jars and put in all the spices, peppers and garlic at the bottom. Next, pack them with the asparagus, pack as tightly as you can.
4) Once that is done add the liquid heated to just pre-boil, or boil in a large pot on stove (careful - that gas is not something you want to breath in!). Pour vinegar and water mixture over the asparagus leaving just about 1/2 inch head-space (meaning don't fill all the way up leave 1/2 inch).
5)Heat the right amount of lids in boiling water on the stove, when they are ready place them on the jars and screw on the rings. Process in a waterbath canner for 10 minutes.
6) Remove from canner and place on a counter to let them cool. Wait at least 2 weeks for the pickling juices to take effect and enjoy!