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For a canner, March is an itchy month. There are more hours of daylight and the air has begun to lose its chill. It feels like spring in every way but one. There are still no berries, no baby peas or curly garlic scapes. The abundance of summer and fall is still months off and there's very little that can be turned into jam, pickles or a good jar of chutney.
And so, we cheat. Though most people can as a way to extend their local season, this time of year, it feels imperative to extend someone else's season. This time, in my frenzy to find something fresh and new to pickle, I swept several bundles of Mexican asparagus into my basket. Oh, the locavore guilt!
Pickled asparagus is one of those preserves that you frequently see on the shelves of gourmet markets for $12 a jar. Because of its outrageously high price, I do try to can enough of it each year to see me through until it is in season again. This year, I did not make enough. I've been out since November.
When local asparagus arrives in another month or so, I'll stock up and fill my pantry. In the meantime, this batch has satisfied my itch for a fresh ingredient to work with, as well as my need for just a couple of jars of pickled asparagus to tide me over until the true season shows up.
Before You Get Started
Use the freshest asparagus you can find for these pickles. Older asparagus shrivels a great deal during processing. It happens to some extent with every batch, but the fresher the stalks, the plumper they remain.
Don't skip the blanching step. It softens the asparagus and allows the pickling liquid to soak in more effectively.
If you don't have these 24-ounce jars, opt for the quilted 12-ounce jelly jars. The taller the jar, the less you have to trim away.
Save the woody ends! Simmer them in the blanching water until tender, puree them and strain. A little cream and you've got a springy soup.
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About the author: Marisa McClellan is a food writer, canning teacher, and dedicated pickler who lives in Center City Philadelphia. Find more of her jams, pickles and preserves (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars.