Pickled Asparagus or When the Canning Gods Are Angry

  Last weekend I snagged 15 pounds of asparagus at the Farmer’s Market for only $25. It was the end of the harvest, but it was still in great condition. I hadn’t made pickled asparagus in a few years and it was time to fill the pantry. Sounds simple. That’s where everything started to go wrong.

On the way home from the market, feeling all smug about my great deal and anxious to get canning, we got a flat tire. Not a slow leak, “we can make it home” kind of flat tire. No, a “there’s a 4 inch allen wrench sticking out of the tire” kind of flat tire. Luckily Mr. Muscles was with me and we were able to pull in to an empty lot where he handily changed it. My job was to provide moral support while munching on a cranberry-orange bagel. Did I mention he was hungry?

Once home, I soaked the asparagus as it was full of sand from the field and started pulling the ingredients together.  I like to use my small canner as a stock pot when making a big batch of pickles. It’s just the right size and saves me from having  too many pots in my small kitchen. Except the admittedly well-used canner had developed a rusted-through hole. So much for that idea.

“No problem” I thought, still in the midst of canning euphoria, “I’ll just use the top of the steam canner.”  Note: If you are not familiar with the down side of a steam canner, be sure to sign up for 7 Secrets of Canning Pros in the sidebar. The cooking directions were simple; add the ingredients and bring to a boil. Except I couldn’t get the pot to come to a boil. Ten minutes went by. Then twenty. Then 40. Then 50. By that time euphoria was wearing off and frustration was setting in. I finally realized that the pot had too many ridges on the bottom to make good contact with my glass-top stove, so it couldn’t get enough heat to boil.

Still optimistic that I would get the asparagus pickled, I moved the pot full of vinegar and spices to the deck – and started up the gas grill. Surely this would work. More minutes went by. Nothing. I checked the temperature to see just how far I was from boiling. The digital thermometer gave a 190 reading – and then completely died. At this point I was down one canner and one digital thermometer and still had warm, but not boiling, brine.

So to make a long story a little shorter – I finally dug out a large pot that worked on my stovetop and had boiling brine in mere minutes. Got the jars all ready, put them in the water bath canner, and heard a “pop.” It was a jar – the bottom had popped out and spears of asparagus were floating freely in the canner. Tongs to the rescue and thankfully there were no other incidents. The canning gods were certainly angry that day. Hopefully they only took it out on me and your canning experience was less frustrating!

Despite it all, I made 11 quarts of pickled asparagus using two different recipes. Aren’t they beautiful!

Have you ever crossed the canning gods? Share your story with us!

by Renee Pottle

Renee Pottle, a freelance writer and Home Economist, is fanatic about all things food. She blogs about canning and food preservation at SeedToPantry.com. Find her professional food writing info at PenandProvisions.com.

June 19, 2012

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