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In case you missed it, there was a story on preserving food in the New York Times the day before yesterday, including a recipe for preserving asparagus (not pickling it). Here’s a snippet on the hipness of preserves:

Preserving food cannot be considered new and trendy, no matter how vigorously it’s rubbed with organic rosemary sprigs. But the recent revival of attention to it fits neatly into the modern renaissance of handcrafted food, heirloom agriculture, and using food in its season. Like baking bread or making a slow-cooked tomato sauce, preserving offers primal satisfactions and practical results. And in today’s swirl of food issues (local, seasonal, organic, industrial), home preserving can also be viewed as a quasi-political act. “Preserving is an extension of the values that made you shop in the farmers’ market in the first place,” Ms. Bone said.

“There’s an incredible surge of interest recently,” according to June Taylor of Berkeley, Calif., a pioneer in using local, seasonal produce and as few added ingredients as possible in her expensive, delicious fruit preserves. “People want to take back their food and their skills from the industrial giants.”

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Ingredients for pickled asparagus

It’s asparagus season and bunches of them keep appearing in our fridge. I could eat the spears with butter three meals a day but I managed to save a bunch for pickling after a friend’s recommendation. The recipe I used is simple:

-1 bunch of asparagus
-1 or more carrots to fill jar
-4 radishes
-4 cloves garlic
-1 teaspoon coriander seeds
-1 teaspoon black peppercorns
-2 cups water mixed with 1.5 tablespoons salt
-1 wide-mouth, 1-quart mason jar

Note: you can substitute a second bunch of asparagus for the carrots and radishes, depending on space in your jar

Wash the veggies. Snap off the woody bottoms of the asparagus and see how they fit into the jar, heads down. If they stick out from the mouth of the jar, cut more off the bottom until they do. You can toss these bits into the jar or compost them. Cut each carrot lengthwise and then cut each half lengthwise again. Cut each of these four carrot lengths in half. Cut the radishes into quarters. Slice the garlic cloves thinly. Add the carrots, garlic and radishes to the jar and spoon in the spices. Pour the thoroughly-mixed salt water into the jar. The water should cover the vegetables completely. If they don’t, you can either add more veggies or more salt water. I put in the carrot and the radishes because I still had space. If you prefer, start with two bunches of asparagus and forgo the root vegetables.

Here they are in the jar:
asparagus ready to pickle

To seal them from the air (which keeps them from molding and allows fermentation to occur), I used a different method than I described in my post on how to pickle anything. I took a smaller jar filled with water and placed it into the mouth of the one-quart jar like this:

Jar sealing pickles from the air

Cover the top with a towel to keep out dust and then put the jar in your cabinet. You might want to put a towel under it, too, in case the carbon dioxide released during fermentation makes some brine bubble over. After a week or two, they should be ready.

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