For this month's Can Jam (a monthly canning challenge) we were asked to can either asparagus or rhubarb. Since Michigan is the #3 producer of asparagus in the U.S. I figured I should make some pickled asparagus. The Can Jam requires boiling water bath canning, and asparagus has a pH of 6.7, so the ONLY WAY you can boiling water bath can it safetly it is to pickle it. I'm not a big scare monger when it comes to home canning - indeed, your chances of dying from food poisoning because of canning are much lower than dying from plain old salmonella that you can get dining out at a restaurant or at a friend's house, but asparagus is the one thing that people canned improperly and caused botulism. Read about it here! So anyway, pickling is your best friend for asparagus....if you want to put some by, roast it with some salt and olive oil and freeze it. It tastes much better that way - less mushy. You will love it come January 2011, when you are sick and tired of eating root vegetables.
But then, what about rhubarb? Michigan has a long storied past with rhubarb, too. For this month's challenge, there was no choice for me but to can both pickled asparagus and rhubarb. I followed the pickling recommendation of Linda Ziedrich in her eponymous Joy of Pickling (a book needed for every pickle lover's library) with a tweak or two. I like my rhubarb straight up, as in stewed rhubarb, nothing in it but sugar and rhubarb, because it is so versatile that way...want a pie? a crisp? Want something to throw in with your pork loin on a busy morning, strewn with some juniper berries and kosher salt so you have instant dinner when you walk in the door? Do you need mood altering in February? A taste of spring? Stir some in your morning vanilla yogurt with some granola. Stewed rhubarb is your friend. It's the little black dress of food preserving - put by as much as you can now. Pretty soon, you will get busy with the strawberry jam and the peaches and the salsas and the dill pickles....but for now, put up some stewed rhubarb, you will be so glad you did. I pickled asparagus and stewed this rhubarb during a canning demonstration at the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market. Here are the recipes I used. Canning outside in an open air market is like a combo of canning and camping, two of my favorite hobbies! Stay tuned for more posts from my AAFM canning exploits this summer.