Something about the salty, briny taste of fermented foods that’s slightly sour (like a pickle) is so good to me!
My wife and I love asparagus, so we decided to try this fermented pickled asparagus recipe. We were so pleasantly surprised with the result that we’re making this regularly now!
Asparagus is one of those vegetables for us that we can eat pretty much any way you prepare it — grilled, roasted, sauteed, stir-fried — you cook it that way, we’ll eat it!
When we thought of fermenting asparagus, my wife was a little wary. She’s not overly fond of fermented foods, but she’ll try anything once, so we decided to give it a whirl.
I got out the Fermentools kit, a mason jar, and got to work.
Health Benefits of Pickled Asparagus
When I first started my fermenting journey, I learned all the health benefits of fermented foods (and shared them in my article Fermented Foods — A Primer on Lactofermentation).
Because asparagus has so many added health benefits, it is truly a “super food” in my book.
Asparagus is a great source of fiber and is loaded with vitamins A, C, E and K. There are tons of trace minerals and micronutrients in asparagus, too. One of those trace minerals is chromium, which aids in the ability of insulin to transport glucose from the bloodstream into cells.
Asparagus is a rich source of glutathione — a detoxifying compound that helps break down carcinogens and other harmful compounds. A diet filled with asparagus could very well help protect against certain forms of cancer, such as bone, breast, colon, larynx and lung cancers. (It won’t prevent cancer, but it’ll sure help guard against it.)
Because it is loaded with antioxidants, asparagus ranks high in the list of fruits and vegetables that have the ability to neutralize cell-damaging free radicals. This helps slow the aging process and may also help slow the decline of cognitive function in our brains.
Couple all of that with the healthy bacteria produced from the fermentation process, and there’s no reason not to call fermented pickled asparagus a super food!
How to Make Fermented Pickled Asparagus
Like any other fermented food, pickled asparagus is extremely easy to make. You could pickle it the way standard pickles are made (using this canning method), or you could put the spears into vinegar and let them pickle in the fridge (like these refrigerator pickles). But we’ll be working with the fermenting method so we can get the added awesome health benefits of those beneficial bacteria.
Step 1 – Wash and cut the asparagus. I typically wash my asparagus by floating them in a sink full of water and sloshing them around a little. This basically rinses any dirt or other nastiness off the spears.
Then, I trim them so they’ll fit in whatever size Mason jars I’ll be using. If you use a half-gallon jar like this one, you probably won’t have to trim much off them at all. I usually use pint-sized Mason jars, so I cut my asparagus in half after trimming the woody ends off the bottom.
Step 2 – Pack your jars. Put the asparagus spears into the jars with any additional spices, seasonings or other flavorings you’d like (like whole cloves of garlic, dill, or hot peppers). You should put the add-ins into the jar first so the asparagus holds them down.
How you put the spears into the jar is completely up to you, your jar, and how much asparagus you have to work with. You could put one layer in with all the tips facing up, then fill in the gaps with the tips facing down. You could also just pack it initially by alternating tips up and down (which is basically the same principle, only you’re not packing them as tightly).
Just be sure you’re leaving about an inch and a half of headspace between the top of the asparagus and the rim of the jar to account for the brine and the weight.
Step 3 – Add the brine. You’ll want to make a 2% brine mixture with room temperature filtered or distilled water (tap water will contain chlorine and other chemicals that will ruin the fermentation process) and your salt (any salt will do as long as it isn’t iodized — iodine kills bacteria and won’t let the fermentation process work).
If all you have to work with is tap water, you can boil it before hand and allow it to cool to room temperature.
Pour the brine solution over the asparagus so that all of the spears are completely under water. Anything floating on the top will mold and ruin the entire batch. Be sure to use a wooden spoon or one of these plastic canning tools to knock out any air bubbles that may have formed in the jar.
Step 4 – Add weight, lid and air lock. The Fermentools kit I use comes with a glass weight like this one that will help hold everything under the brine. I add one weight, then wipe the rim off to make sure there isn’t anything that will prevent a proper seal.
Add the rubber gasket, the Fermentools lid, and tighten it down with a ring. Don’t over tighten it — you don’t want to have to use a pair of Channellock pliers to open the jar later!
Insert the stopper with a hole into the hole of the lid. Fill the air lock half way with distilled or filtered water (or boiled and cooled tap water), and push it into the hole in the stopper.
Step 5 – Wait. That’s it, really. You’ve got it ready to ferment. Now all you have to do is wait for the fermentation process to work.
I usually wait a week or two for the fermentation to complete. I have heard of people waiting as little as 3 days or as long as a month. This is really up to you. The longer the ferment time, the stronger the ferment will be.
Be sure to keep an eye on the jar. If the solution drops below the weight as it soaks into the asparagus, just add a little more brine — remember, any food not fully submerged is likely to mold and ruin the entire jar of food.
Step 6 – Refrigerate. It’s alright to open the jar and taste it every few days to make sure you get exactly the taste you want. Be sure when you put the airlock lid system back on, you wipe the rim every time to make sure there’s nothing to prevent that seal from doing its job.
When you’ve reached the taste you want, you can either put the regular stopper into the hole in the lid, replace that Fermentools lid with a regular one like this, or remove the ring and all and cap it with a plastic lid like this.
As your ferment stays in the fridge, it will mellow out over time. It will keep for up to 10 months, but typically we eat it all within a few months, so I don’t know for sure how long mine would have kept.
Enjoy your fermented pickled asparagus goodness!
Now that you’ve got the hang of how to make fermented pickled asparagus, it will be much easier next time. You’ll already know the best method of packing the jars, how to make the brine, and how long to let the ferment work to suit your taste buds.