Converting the Asparagus Skeptic

Fresh asparagusI hear a lot about asparagus this time of year, and for all you asparagus lovers out there, I ask your forgiveness. This post isn’t an ode to your favorite spring-time vegetable, but rather a tale of an asparagus skeptic. Yes, I love spring. Fresh greens, radishes, spring raab…But asparagus? I can’t seem to muster the same excitement for this vegetable, despite it’s ancient credentials.

Asparagus packed into jarsAs manager at the Portland Homestead Supply, I’ve had the opportunity to learn and practice many skills over the past year and a half. Water bath canning is one of them. Two weeks ago at the Milwaukie Sunday Farmers Market, I decided it was time to start brushing up on my canning skills. I (gasp) picked up several bunches of the most tender asparagus I’ve ever seen, took them home, and pondered their fate.

While I may be skeptical about asparagus, I wholeheartedly love spicy. After looking for a spicy pickled asparagus recipe, I adapted this recipe from Marisa who writes for Food in Jars. I found that the two pounds of asparagus I brought home fit into three jars rather than the two she recommended. I also increased the amount of pickling liquid (and spices) because the amount listed wasn’t enough to fill my jars.

Many of the recipes I found called for blanching the vegetables before canning, but these spears were so thin that I worried blanching would be too much for them. If you start with thicker asparagus, be sure to blanch them for 60 seconds in boiling water, then rinse with cool water before canning.

After waiting a week for the flavors to mingle, I dug into the first jar. And, I’ll admit it: (pickled) asparagus is delicious.


  • 2 lbs asparagus, trimmed to fit jars (Ball’s 24 oz Pint & Half jars are designed for asparagus)
  • 2 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 3 Tbs pickling salt
  • 6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 3 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 tsp cayenne pepper






  1. IMG_0191Prepare a boiling water bath canner. Add three 24-ounce jars to sterilize them before adding asparagus. Place lids in a small pan of water and bring to a bare simmer.
  2. Combine apple cider vinegar, water, salt, garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, and cayenne pepper in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
  3. Wash asparagus and trim to fit in your jars.
  4. Remove jars from the canning pot and drain. Pack asparagus spears into jars.
  5. Stir pickling liquid to evenly distribute spices, then pour over the asparagus, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Tap jars gently to remove any air bubbles. Add more liquid to return headspace to 1/2 inch, if necessary.
  6. Wipe rims, apply lids and rings, and process jars in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes.
  7. When time is up, remove jars from canner and let them cool on a folded kitchen towel.
  8. Let them cure for at least a week before eating.



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