Roadside stands and farm markets selling fresh asparagus is a sure sign of Spring in Michigan. At our house we love asparagus roasted, in risotto, in quiche and, of course, pickled. Anyway it’s served! The pickled spears make perfect Bloody Mary swizzlers, make a relish tray look fancy and are just great for munching. Several people were joking about asparagus and smelly pee so I decided to do a little research to see what causes the smell. Asparagus, they say, contains asparagusic acid…not a very creative name…which breaks down into sulfur containing compounds when ingested. Apparently everyone’s urine is pungent after eating asparagus however not everyone has the special gene that allows them to smell it. Interesting. In my research I came across a quote by French novelist Marcel Proust from the early 1900s. He wrote “asparagus transforms my chamber pot into a flask of perfume”. I can tell you I do not have the “flask of perfume” gene. In my reading I also learned that to cultivate white asparagus the shoots are covered with soil as they grow. No exposure to sunlight causes them to remain white. White or green, asparagus is very low in calories (about 3 calories a spear) and high in vitamins and fiber. So enjoy guilt free!!
I bought about 25 pounds of asparagus and turned the majority of it into pickled spears…20 pint and a half jars. I used taller jars allowing for longer spears but you still trim off several inches. So as not to let that all go to waste I made asparagus soup. Recipe follows.
Pickled Asparagus Ingredients:
7-8 pounds of asparagus trimmed to the appropriate length
2 quarts of water
1 quart of white vinegar
1 cup of granulated sugar
2 tsp mustard seed
1 T dill seed
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 T black pepper corns
1 T kosher salt
14 cloves of garlic peeled
1 onion sliced
Trim the spears to approximately 6″ and wash them thoroughly. Sterilize the jars in a water bath. In a heavy kettle combine the water, vinegar, sugar and spices and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and maintain the brine at a simmer.
In the meantime clean the garlic cloves and thin slice the onion.
Once the asparagus is trimmed, brine is simmering and onions and garlic are ready begin filling your jars. I find it easiest to lay a sterilized jar on it’s side to fill it with spears adding some onion slices and a couple cloves of garlic to each jar. Once the jar is filled top off with hot brine leaving 1/4 inch of head space. Seal the jars.
Once all of the jars have been filled process them in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Remove the jars and allow them to cool completely. As with all other canned goods I store them in a cool dry place, Make sure the jars have sealed before stowing them away. If a jar did not seal put it in the refrigerator and enjoy within a few weeks. The quantities above made 7 pint and a half jars.
Allow the jars to sit for a couple of weeks prior to sampling. That allows the brine to permeate the asparagus spears.
NOTE: If you like your spears kicked up, add some sliced fresh jalapeño to each jar or increase the red pepper flakes.
All of these yummy pieces of asparagus (and more) were left behind after my pickling and I did not want them to go to waste so they became soup.
Cream of Asparagus Soup Ingredients
2 pounds of asparagus pieces
1 medium onion rough diced
2-3 cloves of garlic
2 T butter
24 oz chicken broth
2 medium potatoes peeled and rough chopped
3 ribs of celery rough chopped
1 tsp of thyme
lemon juiced (approximately 1/4 cup)
12 oz half n half
Salt and Pepper to taste
In a Dutch oven heat the butter and saute the onion and garlic for 2-3 minutes.
Stir in the asparagus, potato and celery. Saute for 2-3 more minutes.
Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for approximately 20 minutes until all of the vegetables are tender.
Add the thyme and using an immersion blender blend until smooth. Stir in the lemon juice.
Stir in the half n half and season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring the soup back to a simmer.
While the soup is warming blanch some asparagus tips and pieces and set aside to add to the soup.
Ladle the soup into bowls. Add some asparagus pieces and garnish with Parmesan cheese. Serve with homemade croutons or crusty bread.
NOTE: Discard the thick tough stalks and wash and cut the tender left over stalks into 1-2 inch pieces. Blanch, bag and freeze. They can be used in soup, quiche, or other recipes.