Happy Earth Day! To celebrate I made some pickled asparagus. Doesn’t that sound like more fun than cleaning out a polluted river, my first Earth Day “celebration”?
In truth, cleaning up the river was fun, venturing out with the high school ecology club. And the origin of the pickled asparagus idea was only partly from Earth Day. What kind of blogger would I be if I lied to you!
You see the prior weekend I had attended a food swap. These are becoming increasingly common across the country but are new to Milwaukee. In food swaps, people exchange home grown and prepared items, increasing everyone’s bounty and sharing camaraderie as well!
Right before the event, I almost bailed. My canned goods had dwindled to almost nothing and daughter #2 would have traded me for a new mother if I tried to swap our last jar of green tomato chutney. In the end I set out with two kinds of muffins, a couple jars of milk jam and some homemade lip balm. I came back with a haul. Eggs, honey, sauerkraut, dilly beans, basil jelly, pickled jalapeño spears and more…
Not to mention a ton of inspiration. First, I’d like to do some canning all year round. Typically I take out the canner as an act of desperation when the green deluge hits in the fall. Tomatoes, salsa, pickles… But one accomplished canner there talked about canning seasonally. Hmmm, what could I make to celebrate spring?
Second, to enjoy the magnificent flavors that are only available if you make your own. I had already decided that my home canned green tomato chutney and salsa were better than commercially available products. The samples shared by other food swappers provided even more examples!
I also learned a bit about what products exchange well at food swaps. Baked goods seemed to be the weakest item at ours while canned goods, eggs and honey went like wildfire. Our swap didn’t include any plants but I think that bedding plants would be another great item for spring or perhaps potted herbs for fall.
And so canning pickled asparagus became an Earth Day project for me. I used a recipe from the National Center for Food Preservation skipping the pepper in the vinegar mixture but adding extra herbs to the jars. Jar #1 included two springs of fresh dill, 1/4 t mustard seed and a pinch of dried pepper along with the original recipe’s garlic clove. For jar #2, I added three sprigs of fresh thyme and 1/4 t mustard seed to the jar to the garlic. The other change I made was blanching the asparagus first (drop in boiling water for a minute then cool quickly in ice water). I’ll give you feedback on flavor in a few weeks when they are ready to be opened.
Were there any lessons learned? The biggest challenge was finding good, really fresh, asparagus. My first purchase had to be returned because the tips were so soft. For my second attempt, I really looked for good tips, but struggled to find enough and still had a lot of waste. I think there is soup in our future.
And maybe an asparagus bed?