Is the asparagus season too short for you?
Read on to learn how to ferment asparagus with this step-by-step guide!
This year we decided to give up selling at farmers’ markets. We’re so small that the irregularity of the sales, the amount of hard physical labor it takes to prepare and set up for a market, and the amount of time away from the farm all pointed us toward going full time on our farm share (CSA) program. Our weeks are more manageable, on the whole, we have more energy, and we get to visit markets as customers!
Recently Bob wanted to go back to his childhood neighborhood in Catonsville, MD, so we started by first visiting their farmers’ market. Catonsville is an adorable suburban neighborhood just outside of Baltimore. Always known for its music scene, easy access to Patapsco State Park, and rich local architecture, the neighborhood now is exploding with quaint restaurants and a bustling Main Street!
The market was excellent – great vendor mix and a good attendance by shoppers. I bought tasty pickles from Phil’s Dills, very tasty Tell Tale Dark coffee from Zeke’s, and two pounds of asparagus from one of the many excellent produce vendors. So, it must be time for me to pull out my fermented asparagus recipe!
Here at Stony Ridge Farm, we had to put our current asparagus bed to rest. Weeds and heat stress from last year’s roaster of a summer had taken a toll on its vitality. We started a new bed, but as you may know, it takes about three years to get to your first asparagus harvest. I went to this farmers’ market looking for a nice bundle of asparagus both for this week’s meals and to pickle some for this year’s Thanksgiving dinner. The asparagus was pickled with a salt brine, garlic, bay leaf and some of last year’s fermented jalapenos. The ferment was capped with a grape leaf to preserve the vegetable’s crispness.
Fermenting has become my go-to food preservation method for fresh vegetables. I’ve gotten tired of all the vinegar taste of hot water bath canning, plus it steams up the kitchen and is a time-consuming process. Fermentation also allows more of the flavor and nutrition of the vegetable to be available when consumed. Finally, fermentation is great as a probiotic, increasing your gut microbiome. Here’s a pic of the final product, it will sit in my fermentation fridge until the fall when I am sure its contents will be gone as soon as the lid is off the jar!
I used Fermenting Vegetables by Ferment Works for my basic recipe, but have been fermenting so long I just kinda read the recipe for guidance on flavorings and get all artsy from there.
What you’ll need:
- 2 pounds fresh asparagus
- Wide mouth quart Mason jar
- Good salt, we use J.Q. Dickinson
- Good water, non-chlorinated
- Bay leaf
- A hot pepper
- Grape leaf or horseradish leaf (optional)
What to do:
- Make your brine by adding ¾ cup of salt to a gallon of warm water and stirring until dissolved. You won’t need all this brine, but it keeps for about a month in the fridge and is good to have on hand during the growing season.
- Cut the asparagus to fit in your Mason jar standing upright. They will be pretty and maintain their shape.
- First place the garlic, chopped, in the bottom of the jar. Use at least one clove, but more as your taste informs.
- Place one bay leaf in the bottom of the jar.
- Place your chili in the bottom of the jar to taste. This is also optional. Like I said above, I used ¼ of a fermented jalapeno I had in the fridge from last year. I also added about a tablespoon of the brine from that ferment to kick-start this ferment.
- Now, place the trimmed asparagus tops in the jar, standing upright like little green soldiers. You can pack fairly tightly.
- Pour the brine into your jar, leaving about ½ inch headspace.
- Place the grape or horseradish leaf on top of the asparagus, submerged in the brine. This helps keep mold to a minimum and preserves the crispness in your pickle.
- Either weigh down the ferment with a plastic bag filled with brine or use an airlock to help prevent mold growth in your ferments. Click the hotlinks to see what I am referring to.
- The ferment sits at room temperature, out of direct sunlight, for 7-10 days depending on the temperature. You can open the jar and remove the leaf (if used) and check for mold and test the asparagus after about 5 days.
Anytime you are ready you can eat the asparagus pickles, but the longer they sit in the fridge the more the flavors will blend and mature. Use them on a relish tray with other ferments and pickles, as a side with just about any meal, as a topping on a fresh garden salad…a midnight snack…
Let me know how yours turn out with a comment below or a post to our Facebook page!