This post is sponsored by the University of Minnesota Press.
“Let’s dispense with the usual old notions of preserving,” Beth Dooley suggests, leading us into Mette Nielsen’s kitchen, where Old-World Danish traditions meld with the freshest ideas and latest techniques. Their approach in the cookbook Savory Sweet: simple preserves from a northern kitchen combines the bright, bold flavors of Nordic cuisines with an emphasis on the local, the practical, and the freshest ingredients to turn each season’s produce into a bounty of condiments.
PICKLED ASPARAGUS WITH JUNIPER AND FENNEL
From Savory Sweet
Makes 2 1½-pint (24-ounce) jars
Unlike most recipes for pickled asparagus, this one does not call for blanching the stalks before brining, so they retain their snap and fresh flavors. Note that the color will change from vibrant green to olive. The juniper adds a nuanced peppery-piney note, while a little fennel seed gives a licorice scent.
Seek out tall 24-ounce jars to hold the stalks upright; otherwise, standard wide-mouth pint jars will work. You can eat the leftover trimmed stalks at your next meal.
Wait at least a week before enjoying this pickle to allow the flavors to marry. The jars will keep several months in the refrigerator.
1 to 1¼ pounds asparagus
4 large garlic cloves, quartered lengthwise
2 teaspoons juniper berries
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1¾ cups water
1¾ cups cider vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1. Wash and trim the asparagus to fit in your jars, allowing for a half inch of headspace.
2. Wash the jars, lids, and bands in very hot soapy water, rinse them well, and place them upside down on a clean towel to drain.
3. Divide the asparagus between the jars. (We like putting the tips up.) Distribute the garlic, juniper berries, fennel seeds, peppercorns, coriander seeds, and crushed red pepper flakes between the jars.
4. Combine the water, vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan, and bring it to a boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar and salt. Pour the hot brine over the asparagus.
5. Cover each jar with a square of wax paper slightly larger than the jar opening, fold in the corners with a clean spoon, and push down lightly so some of the brine comes up over the wax paper. Wipe the rims with a clean wet cloth or paper towel, add the lids and bands, and finger tighten the bands.
6. Label the jars. Cool completely and tighten the bands before storing in the refrigerator.
These tall, delicious spears make an edible stir stick for classic cocktails like Bloody Marys and Gibsons. The pickle’s light juniper flavor pairs nicely with both vodka and gin. This pickle is also delicious layered into a grilled cheese or ham and cheese sandwich. Substitute pickled asparagus for the green beans in a nicoise salad, and whisk a little of the pickle brine into the vinaigrette.