Pickling And Canning Asparagus

pickled asparagus

I have been harvesting asparagus now for a little over a month. I have another week and then will need to let the plants grow to provide food for next year’s harvest. My favorite way to eat asparagus is to roast it with olive oil and garlic (just 10-15 minutes in a 400 degree oven), but I also like it pickled. It makes a great appetizer using softened cream cheese or goat cheese mixed with garlic and spread on any type of deli meat, then rolled around a pickled asparagus spear (pickled beans are good, too). Yum…I literally could (and have!) made a meal out of them.

Pickling vegetables is really easy, especially if you have an extra refrigerator to store them so you don’t need to do any canning. But even if you need to can them to keep them shelf stable, using a boiling water canner adds only a few extra minutes to the process.

Warning: there are a lot of pictures with this post, but bear with me- canning is an area where having step-by-step illustrations is extremely helpful. At least it would’ve been for me if there had been anything like the Internet or blogs when I was learning! I hope it’s helpful to you…

Begin with your jars. A canner load fits 7 jars and I use either regular pint jars and/or 12-oz quilted jars (I like the way the asparagus looks in the straight-sided 12-oz jars). Clean them well with soap and hot water. I use the old baby bottle brush from when my kids were little.

Now, the Ball Blue Book (great resource you should have if you want to can), has you put the jars into the canner to keep warm, but I find it too hard to get them in and out again quickly, so I just fill with the hottest tap water and leave in the sink. I refill if they get too cool. My friend always puts hers in a 200 degree oven upside down on a towel-lined tray. The point is to keep them warm until you need to fill them.

UNLESS you are not canning and just want to keep them in the fridge! Then just clean them.

Put one spear in a jar and cut it to 1/2″ below the jar top, then I use that as my measure for cutting the remainder of the asparagus. You can see in the picture that I like to make seven little piles to represent the seven jars. It just helps me visualize how many I need and when I’m close to having enough to fill the jars.

You will also need to peel seven cloves of garlic. I suppose you could get all your spears cleaned and cut first and then clean your jars…you just need to have these two steps completed before moving to the next steps.

Measure 5 cups water and 5 cups vinegar (I use apple cider vinegar because it’s a bit more mild, fancy places use white wine vinegar, but regular would work, too), 5 TB canning/pickling salt, and 4 TB. sugar into a large non-reactive pot. Stir well and bring to a slow boil.

Place the garlic clove (I like to cut it in half to release more flavor), a few peppercorns, and a few shakes of red pepper flakes in the bottom of one of the drained jars. These are optional, except for the garlic, with I don’t believe should ever be optional.

Start packing the spears in, points down (although apparently there is some debate about this- some like their spears pointing up!), squeezing in as many as you can without breaking them.

I really should have tried to fit a few more in, but I was in a hurry.

Keep filling the jars. I like to have them all filled, because the next steps need to be done quickly. I know it allows the jars to cool somewhat, but I’ve never had a problem when I fill them with the boiling liquid.

In the meantime (usually as I’m filling the first jar), heat some water in a kettle just to the boiling point and pour over the canning jar lids in a small pot. Let sit for at least 3 minutes.

UNLESS you are not canning, then just use clean lids.

When the vinegar mixture comes to a boil and lids are ready, pour the mixture into one jar at a time using a canning funnel. Fill to within 1/2″ from the top.

Use a non metal spatula (I love these flat plastic ones!) to go all around the jar to remove any air bubbles.

Make sure the liquid is still 1/2″ from top (called the headspace), adding more if necessary.

Wipe the rim of the jar with a damped cloth. This is an old t-shirt…remember that cottage mentality?

Place a lid on the jar. Here I’m using a fancy “lid lifter” which is just a magnet on the end of a wand. For many years I used tongs with great success.

Screw the ring on, tightening to just fingertip tight. Don’t wrench it, but make sure it’s secure. If you are storing the jars in the refrigerator, you are done! Just let them cool on the counter and place in the fridge.

Read on for canning steps if you want to store them in your pantry:

Using a jar lifter– this is an essential thing to canning, regular tongs do not work and I lost a jar when I tried to use them- lower the jar into the canner of 1/2 to 3/4 full of simmering water. Continue filling each jar and placing in the canner until all are done.

Bring the water to a boiling over high heat, set the timer for 10 minutes, and adjust the heat so the canner continues at a soft boil. I usually leave the lid slightly ajar and lower the heat to medium-high.

When the timer goes off, turn off the burner and remove the lid. Place a towel on a surface where you will be able to leave the jars for 24 hours. Use the jar lifter to remove each jar and set on the towel as gently as possible.

Leave to sit, undisturbed, for 24 hours. Check to make sure all the lids have depressed in the center. Then unscrew each ring and check the lids for proper seal by trying to lift off with your fingers. Lids that are properly sealed should not move or come off with that pressure. Store any that did not seal (yes, it happens!) in the refrigerator, and store the rest, without the rings, in the pantry. If I’m giving as gifts, I will put the ring back on, but the recommendation is to store them without the rings.

Here’s my biggest asparagus (or bean) pickling tip: after pickling, the spears look all shriveled for a few weeks. I thought I’d done something wrong, but when the pickles were ready after a few months, they looked normal again. SO, don’t worry- try them, they’ll be great!

Now- what to do with the leftover vinegar mixture? I’ve never yet made a batch of pickles where it was just right, and I made too little only once before deciding I’d prefer to have too much.

So, I just put it in a jar in the refrigerator waiting for the next pickling day. Sometimes I will just add vegetables right to the mixture in the jar over the space of a few weeks, let it sit in the fridge for awhile before I’ve got some great pickles.

Whatever you do, don’t throw it out. Bet you knew I’d say that. :-)



  1. Anonymous says

    Jami –

    Thanks for posting the pictures and sharing you’re insight into pickling and canning asparagus. This is the first year I’ve planted anything (tomatoes & bell peppers) and plan to give canning a try.

    Perhaps I can hit you up for tips and techniques?


  2. Jennifer says

    Every year I say I want to try canning but never do. Thanks for this post. I will try it this year.

  3. Jami @ An Oregon Cottage says

    I’m glad you both found it useful! I didn’t know much about canning when I started 15 years ago, but I love it now, or actually the results. Seeing the jars all lined up on the shelf…

    Feel free to email me (address in About Me) with any questions.

    I also plan on posting about other things I can regularly like salsa, tomato products, roasted peppers, and sauces and chutneys. Look for these when these are ripe in the garden.

  4. Dana says

    I canned some asparagus last night and they turned out small and shrivelled. Thank you for saying to wait a couple of weeks and they will look better- I will give it a try!

  5. Anonymous says

    I am trying this today, I only was able to do one quart but I was doing pickles so wanted to try it. My husband will love it.

  6. Anonymous says

    Thank you so much for the tip on why my asparagus looked so shriveled when I was done! I honestly thought the whole batch was ruined but I couldn’t figure out what I did wrong. Now that I know they will plump back up in a few weeks, I think my first attempt at pickled asparagus was a great success!

  7. Jami @ An Oregon Cottage says

    Yeah! It probably is a success- so happy to pass that tip onward, ’cause I was just like you when I first did it. :-)

  8. Rachel says

    I did a lot of canning this year but didn’t get to try this recipe. Definitely going to save it for next year. Thanks for sharing! Will have to look into growing it…I know people do grow it around here.

  9. Tammy says

    just wondering if you could tell me if I want to use a pressure canner for pickleing Asparagus how long would I cook it for???

    • says

      I don’t pressure can pickled asparagus, Tammy, and a quick search only mentioned pressure canning unpickled. I’d think, though, that cooking them the same amount of time as regular – though you might end up with pickles that aren’t very crisp. Here’s the link to the national preserving site’s asparagus page: http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_04/asparagus_spears.html It might be a trial-and-error type of experiment. :)

  10. Fran Smith says

    I have canned for decades (used to help my mom) and I really thought I had goofed when I checked the asparagus this morning and they were all shrivelled. Thank you for stating that I have not become a miserable failure after all these years.

    I took the cut off the chunks and put them in a separate jar and pickled them too, not knowing what to do with them. Now for an appetizer, I will try your suggestion of spears in a blanket. Case closed. BTW I use the pickled spear as a swizzle stick in a Caesar cocktail. YUM!!


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