We Can Phickle That! – Asparagus Lactopickles to Bid Farewell to Spring
I’m starting a new feature on the blog today: We Can Phickle That! From now through the end of produce season(s), I’ll be hitting up the farmers markets in search of the best seasonal vegetables to ferment. I’ll share my successes and favorite flavoring combinations with you on Thursdays until the produce becomes sad and sparse. If you don’t get the reference, please watch this hilarious video clip that approximately 3,000 of my closest friends and family members have sent me.
We’re at the sad, sad end of asparagus season here in Philly. I think asparagus might be in my top 3 things to lactopickle (Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you consummate creator of verbs, Amanda Feifer!!!). First of all, the smell during fermentation is unbelievable. I keep thinking someone is cooking something very tempting, and then when I follow my nose it leads me to the jar placed, in an inconveniently distracting fashion, on my desk. Secondly, these taste amazing. This is one of those dishes that make you really appreciate the transformative powers of fermentation: Although they are fermented raw, to me they taste cooked upon completion.
My go-to dish for asparagus is one that I’m sure many of you eat: blanched spears topped with a poached egg and drizzled in a mustard sauce. Shkews me. There’s saliva dripping down my chin. Hold on a sec.
Okay, I’m back. You can definitely serve these guys that same way (minus the blanching of the spears) for an added kick. They also make a great garnish for shaved asparagus salads or any other pile o’ green things, since their hue turns something between neon and Swamp Thing during fermentation. The don’t have the beautiful bright green of blanched asparagus, but they make up for that in intense flavor. That aforementioned mustard sauce was my inspiration for seasoning here. I chose to keep it simple and just load them with mustard seeds and a single clove of garlic. If I were growing tarragon this year, I might have thrown in a sprig or two of that towards the end of fermentation.
I mentioned how to serve these, but frankly we eat them plain. I served them at my Collingswood Farmers Market Demo a couple weeks back and had some very smiley faces from people who had never tried asparagus pickles before!
Again, we’re talking lactic acid fermentation here, so the key is to keep your asparagus in anaerobic conditions so the l. bacilli will thrive and eat, allowing their acid by-products to preserve your asparagus and infuse it with flavor. I chose to cut my spears into 2-3 inch pieces, but you can choose to keep them whole (as long as you have a container tall enough) or chop them as small as you like. Full spears may take a tad longer to reach ideal acidity and small pieces may ferment a bit more quickly, but honestly I usually do not notice a drastic difference in fermentation time related to the size of the piece, unless the size difference is enormous.
makes 1 quart, easily scalable
fermentation time approximately 2 weeks at room temperature
Choose medium-thickness asparagus spears that have roughly the same circumference as one another. I had a few of the super-skinny ones get a touch soft in my last batch. I didn’t mind it, but they definitely lacked crisp!
If you’re new to lactopickling, please check out my Pickle FAQ before you get started!
- One bunch of washed asparagus, approximately 15 spears, woody ends trimmed
- 1 T yellow mustard seeds
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 whole glove of garlic, peeled
- 2 cups brine (1 T of salt disolved into 2 cups of room temperature water)
1. (Optional) Chop your asparagus spears crosswise into 2-3 inch pieces, a slanted cut is always pretty.
2. Put your veggies and seasonings in the jar and pour brine over the top.
3. Ensure that veggies are completely submerged underneath the brine using the method of your choice. This is one time you don’t want to grind your ghetto jar method down too hard. I like to fill my jar carefully and then gently place my weight on top of the asparagus. It’s no fun to crush their pretty heads.
4. Let them sit at room temp (somewhere around 70) for 1-2 weeks, or until your desired acidity has been reached, then stick them in the fridge and enjoy them ’til they’re gone.