If we have a dollar to spend on some wild excess, we shall spend it on a book, not on asparagus out of season. – Katharine Fullerton Gerould
Spring vegetables are overflowing in the markets this time of year. I, for one, am excited to get my hands on a few of those great tasting lovelies. There is something about spring that brings out a craving for fresh, crispy vegetables and there’s no better time to buy asparagus, peas, and artichokes than right now. Buying in season is the most beneficial in terms of freshness and cost savings.
When buying spring vegetables, remember to purchase plenty to put away for later. It’s like money in the bank with the added benefit of enjoying a bit of fresh spring flavor throughout the year.
My favorite springtime vegetable, without question, is asparagus. Unfortunately, it is one of the vegetables I have not yet planted here at Pure Grace Farms. So, when I saw asparagus at the bargain price of only 98 cents a pound at Winco (our fabulous local grocery store), I didn’t hesitate to buy a shopping cart full. It is a tasty delicious treat right now and I have more than enough to put away for later.
Preserving asparagus can be done by several methods. Canning, pickling, or freezing are a few ways that come to mind. Though, in my humble opinion, canning can be easily crossed of the list. When canning, asparagus is basically cooked to death. The texture turns mushy and leaves the asparagus resembling a stringy pudding. Not a bit appetizing to my way of thinking.
Pickling is a simple, fun, and tasty way to preserve, but for now this method will be taken off the table and saved for another day.
Freezing asparagus wins the prize and is mostly my preservation method of choice. It is important for me to acknowledge that freezing asparagus is a bit tricky, and many will not dare to tread down this dark alley. It is also true that special care must be taken to preserve the best possible flavor and texture of the asparagus. But have no fear, be brave and come along with me. If a few simple rules are followed, home preservers can have every bit of success in serving up crisp fresh tasting asparagus as the large manufacturers do that stock it in your grocers freezer aisle.
- Prior to freezing, cook your asparagus sparingly -Pre-treating asparagus is necessary to kill the enzymes that cause your asparagus to lose flavor and color during the freezing process. Choose a method that is effective but retains the crisp texture of the asparagus.
- Cool or chill the asparagus as quickly as possible after cooking to stop the cooking process -Yes, I know, an ice water bath is a pain in the tush but it is a necessary and vital step to getting great results when freezing asparagus. It should not be overlooked. When grilling asparagus, an ice water bath is not feasible, so make sure to get that asparagus in the coldest part of your refrigerator as quickly as you can, after it comes off the grill.
- Freeze in small batches to help facilitate a quicker freeze -When freezing, ice crystals form and cause damage to the cell walls of the asparagus, which in turn causes the asparagus to lose texture and get mushy. The quicker the freeze the less opportunity ice crystals have to form.
- Cook frozen asparagus from a frozen state (never thaw) -Texture is retained more effectively when asparagus is steamed or roasted after freezing. The asparagus is already partially cooked from pre-treatment so cooking just long enough to heat gives the best results.