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Herbed Pickled Asparagus

Lately, I’ve felt as though I’m continually engaging in a Sisyphean battle with the 8-ball; I’m finding that I’m perpetually behind it. Maybe it’s on account of the colossal shift in my schedule since late March, when I handed over the remaining bit of text on my last book, “Keeping Bees” (the fourth in the “Homemade Living” series). My days opened up into wide expanses of time. The schedule of the past two years coming to an abrupt halt, I’ve found myself attempting, futilely, to juggle all of the balls that have fallen to the wayside and been relegated to the back burner while I’ve labored fastidiously on writing.

In any event, I know things will settle. I’ll fall into my new schedule. I’m digging my new job. Exciting prospects are on the horizon. I was featured in this magazine. I’ve got an interview with a reporter for the Washington Post at 11 a.m. today. I’ll be hopping up to the Big Apple next Tuesday and Wednesday for a dinner at this place with the entire sales staff of Sterling, my publisher’s parent company. I haven’t been to New York in a good number of years, so I’m especially looking forward to that tiny vacation.

One of the many tasks I’ve been intending to get to that fell, somehow, through the cracks, involves participation in this month’s Tigress’ Can Jam. The chosen ingredient to bottle up in jars for April was herbs, chosen by Marisa over at Food In Jars. Tigress, in her endless graciousness, sent me a head’s up that I’d missed the deadline, but said she’d still allow my recipe’s inclusion if I could post by Wednesday. And so, I offer you “Herbed Pickled Asparagus.” The recipe, one of the Spring offerings in my “Canning & Preserving” book, couples fresh, seasonal asparagus with a medley of herbs. I chose marjoram and oregano, but in truth, you could just use whatever your preferred herb is, or whatever you might simply have on hand. Thank you, Tigress, for the grace period. Happy canning, everyone!

Oh, and 8-ball, consider your self forewarned; I’ve got my eye on you.

Herbed Pickled Asparagus
Yield: 4 pints.

You will need:
-3 pounds fresh asparagus
-2 1/2 c. white wine vinegar
-2 c. water
-2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
-1 1/2 tsp. pickling or kosher salt
-4 sprigs fresh oregano
-4 sprigs fresh marjoram

To prepare:
1. Sterilize 4 pint-sized mason jars, lids, and screw rings. Fill a canner of large stockpot with water and set over medium-high heat. Bring just to the boiling point. Place the lids in a small saucepan, fill with water, bring to a boil, turn off the heat, and set the pan aside.
2. Wash the asparagus and trim each spear to 4 inches. Quickly blanch the spears by placing in boiling water for 1 minute, then immediately plunging into an ice-water bath. Remove from water and pat dry.
3. In a heavy, medium-sized stainless steel saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the vinegar, water, sugar, and salt. Bring the brining solution just to the boiling point, cover, and remove from heat.
4. Place the hot jars on top of a kitchen cloth on the counter. Pack the asparagus spears into the jars, tips pointed down. Add 1 sprig of oregano and 1 sprig of marjoram to each jar. With the help of a canning funnel, ladle the brining solution evenly over the asparagus, reserving 1/2-inch headspace. Use a nonmetallic spatula to remove any trapped air bubbles and wipe the rims clean with a damp cloth. Place on the lids and screw bands, tightening only until fingertip-tight.
5. Using a jar lifter, place the filled jars into the canner. Process for 20 minutes, beginning processing time only once water is at a full, rolling boil. Remember to adjust for altitude.

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