Tarragon, two ways

Posted by Anita on 04.23.10 4:53 PM

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This month’s CanJam roundup — hosted by Marisa at Food in Jars — focuses on herbs, a fitting subject for a month when many canners have little fresh produce close at hand. Our garden is overflowing with herbs, but in the spirit of exploration I decided to make use of a big bunch of tarragon from our latest Mariquita Farm delivery. My only problem was deciding whether to make a sweet preserve or a savory pickle.

Eventually I rationalized that there will be plenty of time later in the year to put up fruit, and pondered the early spring crops I know I would be craving later. Top of that list is asparagus, so I started by using my herbal ingredient to flavor a batch of asparagus pickles. After all, béarnaise sauce — essentially a Hollandaise flavored with tarragon and shallots — and asparagus are natural partners.

Aside from the fiddly task of trimming each spear to the height of a quart jar, the pickled asparagus was simple enough. but I found myself with plenty of leftover tarragon. Rather than wait another week for the next farmers market to put up more asparagus, I rummaged around to see what else I had on hand that would pair well with this anise-scented herb. A quick turn through my canning books yielded a simple recipe for fresh herb jelly, using a base of dry white wine.

I didn’t want to crack a full bottle of vino to get the cup and a half I needed for the recipe, but I did have a half-bottle of bubbly leftover from a recent brunch; swapping in Champagne vinegar for the recipe’s white wine vinegar made the Champagne theme complete. The resulting preserve isn’t the sort of thing you’d spread on toast, or swirl into yogurt — at least to my palate. Much like other savory-sweet jellies (like popular ones that feature jalapeno or mint) this jelly works well as a companion to cheese and crackers, or as a condiment for roast meats.

Asparagus Pickles with Tarragon
- adapted from Jan Roberts-Dominguez, Eugene Register-Guard

2-3/4 cups white distilled vinegar
2-1/4 cups water
3T canning salt
2 sprigs tarragon, about 4 inches long
3 bunches tender asparagus, preferably thin stalks, washed
2 small shallots, peeled and partially split in half
2 garlic cloves, peeled and partially split in half
2 tsp mustard seed
2 tsp whole peppercorns

Prepare canner, lids, and two narrow-mouth 1-quart jars according to the usual method; keep jars hot until needed. canjam01

In a medium saucepan, combine the vinegar, water, and salt over high heat.

Meanwhile, trim the asparagus of any white or tough ends, then cut to the height of the jars’ shoulders. (There are usually enough tender trimmings to make asparagus pesto.)

Divide the tarragon among the two jars, then pack the trimmed asparagus into the jars, along with 1 shallot and 1 clove of garlic per jar. Sprinkle in the mustard seed and peppercorns, then pour in the boiling brine, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Wipe rims and center lids on jars. Screw band to fingertip-tight.

Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely submerged. Bring to a boil and process covered for 10 minutes. Remove canner lid; wait 5 minutes, then remove jars. Cool, check for seals, and store in a cool, dark place for up to a year.

(For crisper spears, you can also make these as refrigerator pickles: Seal the jars after pouring in the brine, but do not process. Cool completely to room temperature, then store in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.)

Champagne Tarragon Jelly
- adapted from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving

2 cups loosely packed, coarsely chopped tarragon
1-1/2 cups sparkling wine
1 cup water
1 cup Champagne vinegar
1 packet powdered fruit pectin (1-3/4oz) *
5 cups granulated sugar

Prepare canner, lids, and five 8-oz jars according to the usual method; keep jars hot until needed.

Combine tarragon, sparkling wine, water, and vinegar in a large stainless steel saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then remove from heat and cover, steeping for 15 minutes. Stir well, pressing tarragon to extract flavor.

Pour the tarragon mixture through a dampened jelly bag (or a strainer lined with several layers of dampened cheesecloth) set over a deep bowl. Let drip, undisturbed and without squeezing, until all of the liquid has fallen from the tarragon. (At this point, you should have 3-1/4 cups liquid.)

Transfer the liquid to a clean deep stainless steel saucepan. Whisk in the pectin* until completely dissolved, then bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently. Add sugar all at once and return to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil hard, stirring, for 1 minute. Remove from pan from the heat and quickly skim off any foam as needed.

Using a stainless-steel canning funnel, pour hot jelly into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Wipe rims and center lids on jars. Screw band to fingertip-tight.

Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely submerged. Bring to a boil and process covered for 10 minutes. Remove canner lid; wait 5 minutes, then remove jars. Cool, check for seals, and store in a cool, dark place for up to a year.


* If using Pomona’s Natural Pectin, use 3T pectin powder, and combine it with 1 cup of the sugar before proceeding.

CanJam, preserving & infusing, recipes
9 Comments »

 

9 Comments »

Comment by Jennifer Hess

Wow, these both sound fabulous! I might try the refrigerator pickle route this weekend – just found out we’ll have our first local asparagus at the market tomorrow!

Posted on 04.23.10 at 4:59PM

Comment by Heather in SF @HeatherHAL

How fantastic, I have such a passion for tarragon, I think it is so underused and unappreciated. It’s not ready yet here but I’m hopeful it will be soon so I can go play!!

Posted on 04.23.10 at 5:30PM

Comment by Kat

This is fantastic! I should try this one of these days. I saw some lovely asparagus ready to pick at the farm where I volunteer and I’m hoping to bring some home! :)

Posted on 04.23.10 at 5:32PM

Comment by Doris the Goat

I so admire people who have the force of will to put aside some asparagus for pickling–I want to eat it all right away!

Posted on 04.24.10 at 7:01AM

Comment by Lucy

This is a really great idea and I will be putting some up this year with your recipes. Thank you, Anita!

Posted on 04.25.10 at 11:23AM

Comment by suz

Could you use these in a bloody mary? I’m a bit thrown by the tarragon (for some reason I can’t pull up a tarragon taste memory!)

Posted on 04.29.10 at 1:02PM

Comment by Anita

I think pickled asparagus is great in a bloody Mary. Tarragon has a sweet, almost anise-like flavor, vaguely reminiscent of fennel but with a softer, less-green bite.

Posted on 04.29.10 at 1:11PM

Comment by talia

These look great! Plus you managed to finish up next months canjam too it seems :)

Posted on 04.29.10 at 1:51PM

Comment by Colin Hall

pickled asparagus is my kind of dish. Forgive me for being crass, but I’ve never thought of asparagus as having much in the tank. So the thought of spicing them up with some pickling zing is a superb idea. I think I’ve missed this season though :-(

Posted on 06.11.11 at 12:13AM

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