Testing Asparagus, “A, B, C”

Years ago, I posted a recipe on this blog for fermented asparagus, in which I described the amazing nutritional benefit as a source of good microbes and a prebiotic. The resulting flavour of the recipe needed some work, however. It was one of those ferments that I ate only because I knew it was good for health (as if that is a great reason for our food choices).

As one lady who tried the recipe remarked, “The store-bought [canned] pickled asparagus spears have better flavour than these fermented asparagus.” These words launched a challenge. This spring, I resolved to improve the flavour of this fermented asparagus recipe. I wanted people to prefer it over canned varieties. Nutritionally, fermented asparagus surpass canned, though nutritional food must also be pleasurable for best absorption. Where we eat, with whom we eat, and the enjoyment with which we eat improves digestibility and absorption of nutrients. Only in times of complete desperation to regain health may people force themselves to eat unpalatable foods. I certainly did.

Last May, when asparagus were in-season, I fermented three different spice and herb concoctions with asparagus. This August I sampled these batches with my husband. “B” was our least favourite – a total flop, to put it bluntly. It had mustard seeds and garlic cloves. My husband and I ate it first to get rid of it, hence, the empty jar. We prefer “A” and “C” (recipes below).

The spears were soft when I began sampling in August. Busyness delayed my sampling. Fermented asparagus is ready to eat after a week on the counter-top. Adding a couple raspberry, grape, oak, or horseradish leaves to the jars will keep the spears crisp. These leaves have tannins, compounds that keep cucumbers, zucchini, and other soft-skin vegetables crisp during fermentation.

Note: These jars originally had more asparagus packed inside. The spears were pack tightly enough to ensure they remained straight up and down and submerged under brine. Packing too tightly may bruise the spears. Find the right balance. My husband liked them a little more than I realized before I had time to take these photos.

Fermented asparagus, two ways

Vessel: 1 L Airlock Fermenter
Brine concentration: 2%

3 medium garlic cloves, peeled
1 tablespoon dill seeds
2 bay leaves
1 jalapeno, seeded and sliced
1 1/4 pounds asparagus
1 to 2 tannin-rich leaves, i.e. raspberry or grape

1000 mL non-chlorinated water
20 grams unrefined sea salt

Vessel: 1 L Airlock Fermenter
Brine concentration: 2%

2 medium garlic cloves, peeled (1 large, halved)
1/2 teaspoon red crushed pepper
1 tablespoon fresh dill weed, chopped
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1 1/4 pounds asparagus
1 or 2 tannin-rich leaves, i.e. raspberry or grape

1000 mL non-chlorinated water
20 grams unrefined sea salt

Note: photo shows a 3/4 L Airlock Fermenter

Dissolve salt into warm water, making a brine. Set aside to cool.

Wash asparagus; trim woody ends. Cut in half (leave whole if you are using a 1.5 L Airlock Fermenter). Measure one half vertically against the side of a 1 L Airlock Fermenter. When held against the side of the jar, the height should measure in line with the shoulder of the jar. Trim the spear accordingly, then trim all other spears to match this length. Spears should be submerged under brine by 1 inch with 1/2" of headspace when the jar is filled.

Put the garlic, crushed pepper, dill weed, mustard seeds, and oregano at the bottom of the jar. Pack the asparagus spears, snugly. Put a tannin-rich leaf over top. Pour the room-temperature brine into the jar, covering the leaf by 1 inch while leaving 1 to 1/2 inch of headspace.
Insert airlock filled to the fill-line with non-chlorinated water; place on counter for 7 days at 18-22ºC. Asparagus are ready to eat, but can be stored in a cold room or fridge, <12ºC, until ready to open. Once opened, replace airlock with the plug and store in a fridge.

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