Perfectly Pickled Asparagus – Say That 10 Times, FAST!

Pickled Asparagus Recipe

Okay – I am rolling out the spring recipes!

My farmer’s market had beautiful asparagus this week, so I indulged and whipped up a batch of perfectly pickled asparagus. Later in the year, I will serve these yummy spears with cheese, crackers and wine. But of course they also make a tasty snack right out of the jar.

There are several advantages to this recipe:

  • Quantity adjustments are easy! You can make more or less based on how much asparagus you have. Just mix up the amount of brine you need but always keep the ratios the same (vinegar/water/sugar/salt).
  • Make it your own! The spices I have listed here give it just a little bite. But you can add, subtract or substitute spices as you choose. Want to add more heat? No problem. Want some dill or fennel in there? Go for it.

Once you have your jars filled and processed, let them set on the shelf at least two weeks so the spices have a chance to flavor the veggies. After that, all bets are off and you can open the jar anytime!

Choose Your Jar Size Carefully:

To make this recipe you have to cut the asparagus to fit inside the jar while leaving the proper headspace. You can place them inside tip up or tip down. But either way, some of the asparagus must be sacrificed to fit. So pick the tallest jar you have on hand.

Pickled Asparagus

I originally created this recipe (years ago) using the tall 12 oz. jars for filling. (That is a 12 oz jar on the right. They are taller and skinnier than 1/2 pint jars.) And yes – in case you are wondering – you could even use 1/2 pint jars if you wanted to as long as you understand the shorter jar means you would only have pickled “tips” (no long spears). For me, I think the taller the jar is better.

However, recently Ball Canning started making the wide-mouth, pint and a half jars again. (That is a 1.5 pint jar – or 24 oz. jar – on the left.) Have you seen these? They are great for things like asparagus. They have been off the market for years, but you can find them now or buy them online. (Affiliate link)

The down side is that each jar holds a lot more pickled asparagus and you may prefer the smaller jars for an evening of wine and cheese. But because these jars are so tall, you end up with a lot more pickle for your effort. I like that. Another option is to use the tall Weck jars. (As seen in my lemon vodka recipe.) But they are much more expensive. Just pick the tallest jar you can so that you get more pickle for your…well, buck (so to speak).

But Isn’t Cutting Off The Tips Wasteful?

Pickled Asparagus

Well…ONLY if you through all those beautiful asparagus stems away! So don’t!!

In our house, the cut off stems are what’s for dinner! I just cut off the very bottom because that is usually dry & tough. But on a truly fresh asparagus stem, the middle portion is tender and delicious. You don’t want to waste that.

The Trick To A Good Pickle:

You KNEW I would give you a secret master canner tip, right? Well, here it is…

The secret to a good pickle (any pickle) is in the freshness of the thing you are pickling. You always want to use fresh picked produce. Don’t walk into the grocery store, buy produce that was picked weeks ago and expect to get a pickle that holds up well. Nope. You need produce that is fresh as possible – as in HOURS not DAYS from the garden.

Here is your recipe:

Pickled Asparagus

Makes 5 (12 oz. jars) or 2-3 (1.5 pint jars)

This recipe uses lemon slices and spices for flavor. It is okay to omit these and change the spices to something else. It is NOT okay to adjust the vinegar, water, sugar or salt. The vinegar/water are set for safety. The sugar/salt affect the acidity flavor balance. Use pickling salt for a clear brine. (See this post on salt for more info.)

  • Making Pickled Asparagus5 round slices of lemon
  • 5 peeled cloves of garlic
  • 25 whole black peppercorns
  • 20 whole allspice berries
  • ½ tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
  • About 3 pounds asparagus (trimmed to fit into jars)
  • 3 cups white wine vinegar
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tbsp. pickling or kosher salt

1) Prepare your water bath and jar lids. Place a round of lemon at the bottom of each jar. Then divide the garlic, peppercorns, allspice and red pepper flakes among your clean canning jars.

2) Pack the asparagus (spears up or down – your choice) until each jar is full. If you have one jar that is less than full, that is okay.

3) In a non-reactive saucepan, combine vinegar, water, sugar and salt. Bring to a boil until sugar and salt is dissolved.

4) Ladle the hot liquid over the asparagus, leaving a ½ inch headspace. Use a plastic knife to run around the edge dislodging any bubbles. Refill if necessary to keep the proper headspace.

5) Wipe the rims and add canning lids to finger tight. Process in a water bath for 10 minutes for 12 oz jars or 15 min for 1.5 pint jars. Cool and label. Store any unsealed jars in the refrigerator. Seal jars may be stored on the pantry shelf. Try to wait at least 2 weeks before eating so that the asparagus has a chance to absorb the flavors.

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About the Author

Theresa Loe is the Co-Executive TV Producer and the On-Air Canning/Homesteading Expert for the national PBS gardening TV series, Growing A Greener World. She is a lifetime canner and a graduate of the Master Food Preserver Program. She studied both sustainable horticulture and professional culinary arts and she is a wrangler of chickens and two teenage children. (Not necessarily in that order.)

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