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Fermenting vegetables is an easy way to dip your toes in the waters of the slow-food movement. Lacto-fermentation, better known as pickling, preserves just about any vegetable -- including asparagus You only need two ingredients to ferment asparagus: pickling salt and water. The rest is up to lactobacillus, one of the good guys of the bacterial world, which converts the sugars in vegetables to lactic acid. After the lactobacillus does its thing for a few weeks, you’re left with a crisp, tart take on asparagus that satisfies the most ravenous of pickle cravings.
Place one clean, bail-type 1-quart glass jar with a rubber gasket for each jar of asparagus in a 12-quart stock pot. One quart-sized jar holds about 12 to 15 pickled asparagus spears.
Fill the stock pot and jars with water, covering them by about 1 inch. Place the stock pot on the stove over high heat and boil the jars for 10 minutes. Turn the stove off.
Remove the jars from the pot as soon as the water cools enough to touch. Grasp the jars from the outside and place them in a rack to air dry.
Dissolve 2 tablespoons of pickling salt and 1 quart of distilled water for every 12 to 15 asparagus spears in a saucepan placed on the stove over low heat. Stir occasionally with a whisk or spoon while heating. Remove the pan from the stove and let the brine reach room temperature.
Trim the woody portions of the spears from 2 1/2 pounds of organic asparagus spears of approximately equal circumference using a kitchen knife. Chop the asparagus into 2- to 3-inch-long piece, if desired. Discard the woody portions of stem.
Bring a saucepan of water to a boil on the stove. Wash the asparagus in cool running water and place it in the boiling water for about one minute. Drain the asparagus using a colander and immediately place it in a food storage container filled with ice water to cool.
Place rinsed flavoring ingredients and whole spices in the sterilized quart jars to taste. You can use any whole spices and fresh herbs you want, but those that complement fermented asparagus include peppercorns, chilis, garlic cloves and coriander seeds, to name a few. (experience)
Fill the sterilized 1-quart jars to their necks with asparagus until tightly packed. Pour the cooled brine over the asparagus until covered.
Wash one lemon for each quart jar and place it on top of the asparagus to keep it submerged in the brine. Place a piece of cheesecloth over the entire jar and secure it to the bottom of the jar with a rubber band.
Place the jars in an area where they won’t get disturbed for at least two weeks. You can ferment asparagus by keeping it submerged for two months or more to increase tartness. Seal the jars as soon as you remove the lemons and don’t open until you’re ready to eat the asparagus.
- Michael Blann/Digital Vision/Getty Images