After a few weeks of harvesting, my daughter, Emery, and I are getting a little bit tired of asparagus. We’ve eaten it several times a week, and have definitely enjoyed this perennial vegetable in a variety of preparations.
A few years ago, I planted 25 Jersey Knight crowns I purchased online for $25, which is plenty for my family of four. Since then, Emery and I have enjoyed many meals accompanied with our garden-grown asparagus. And thank goodness she likes it because my husband and son are barely willing to eat any vegetable other than potatoes and sweet corn (perhaps a slight exaggeration, but slight nonetheless).
However, we’ve got a few more weeks of asparagus availability, and rather than let it go to waste, it’s time to turn our efforts toward preserving the harvest. Now, I know there are recipes for canning asparagus out there in internetland, but excuse me while I dry heave. Canned asparagus is about as appealing as canned … well … I don’t know what. That’s just how appealing canned asparagus is to me.
So, once we’ve had our fill of fresh-eating asparagus, it’s time to preserve the rest to eat later in the season and well into the fall. My preferred method for asparagus is to freeze it. It’s really a simple process, taking little time and equipment, and maintains a better texture as opposed to canning.
What You’ll Need To Do
Basically, you need a dutch oven or stock pot, a bowl, a slotted spoon, a freezer bag, water, and a couple pounds of asparagus to make it worth your time. That’s it. I don’t even use a knife. Heck, I barely rinse the asparagus after it’s picked from the patch.
Over high heat, cover your pot and bring the water to a boil. I’ve never measured how much water I use, but it’s usually filled halfway, give or take. While the water is coming to boil, rinse the spears. Now is the time to snap off the tough bottom of your asparagus. If you haven’t done this before, it’s all done by feel. Slightly bend the spear from top to bottom with your thumb and index finger (the pointer, as Emery calls it), and when you feel it get a little harder than the top, that’s the spot where you break off the bottom to discard. You keep the tender tops and middles. Then, I snap the spears just like I do for green beans, giving me two-inch pieces.
Once my water is boiling, I carefully toss the asparagus pieces into the water, returning the cover to the pot. This is called blanching. You may want to stir the asparagus around a bit, but that’s your call. The purpose of blanching is to help the vegetable to retain its color and texture. It’s a quick cooking process, oftentimes leaving the asparagus (green beans or whatever) slightly undercooked. You want a crispish texture, not mush. While the asparagus is blanching for three to four minutes, depending on the thickness of the spears, I fill my bowl with cold water. Now, some fancy-pantsy chefs on television put ice in the bowls, but I don’t. So, again, that’s your call.
After three or four minutes of blanching, it’s time to use a slotted spoon to remove the asparagus from the pot and drop it into the bowl of cold water. Give the asparagus a quick stir. Then, remove the asparagus from the bowl (again with the slotted spoon) and drain the water from the spoon and arrange the spears on a cookie sheet. I line my cookie sheet with waxed paper, but this isn’t necessary, and I wouldn’t bother if I didn’t have any in the cupboard.
Once I have a single layer of asparagus on the cookie sheet, I place it in the freezer. I haven’t timed it, but an hour or two is probably enough. If you forget about it, don’t freak out. I’m sure it’s fine. It is important to do this step (rather than just tossing them in a bag before freezing) because it prevents clumping, which is a pain in the you-know-what if you’re cooking only a partial bag of asparagus and have to thaw the entire thing. Once the spears are frozen, pull the cookie sheet out of the freezer (you’ll probably want to use an oven mitt or kitchen towel to handle the ice-cold metal pan because that could be unpleasant).
Finally, I pull the spears off the wax paper and toss them into a quart freezer bag. I usually double bag by placing all my quart bags of the same vegetable in a gallon bag, which I have clearly labeled. Then I return the bag to the freezer to keep until I need it for a recipe later in the year. The frozen asparagus should be good for a few months, perhaps until Thanksgiving, if it lasts that long. Frequently, I’ll use frozen asparagus as I would frozen peas, tossing some in a pasta dish, like ham and cheese tetrazzini or tuna noodle casserole. It’s also good in a mushroom frittata or a homemade pizza with crispy bacon and a drizzle of balsamic.
Now, I feel that it’s important to mention that it is not worth freezing fresh asparagus if you have to buy it. I noticed the other day that my local grocery store is selling asparagus for $4.99/pound, but a bag of frozen asparagus is only $2.99. And you can usually find asparagus at a farmers’ market for $4 or $5 per pound, which is perfectly fine for fresh eating, but not economical for preserving. It might be worth investing $25 or so in a bundle of asparagus crowns to start your own patch, which will give you many returns over many years.
Corinne Gompf is a writer and hobby farmer in Morrow County, Ohio. She is a graduate from the University of Toledo, with a BA in English, creative writing concentration. Along with her husband, Matt, and two children, Fletcher and Emery, Corinne raises poultry, Boer goats, rabbits, and chemical-free produce. Connect with Corinne on her Heritage Harvest Farm Facebook page.
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