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Asparagus is easy to can! All you need is a pressure canner (it is a very low acid food, so a plain water bath canner won't work). If a water bath canner is all you have, you can still make pickled asparagus (see this page). Here are the directions to can your own asparagus, so you can eat better, save money and have better tasting canned asparagus!
This is a good time to start a large pot of water boiling on low heat (to fill your jars, around the asparagus; and also to start your canner heating up (with the lid off and a few inches of water in the bottom - leave the heat very low so you don't let it boil dry!). You can also get your canning jars cleaning in your dishwasher. The pressure canner will ensure they contents and the jars, lids, etc. are sterile, so you don't need to pre-sanitize, but you certainly want to start with a jar that is clean! Lids can start softening in a pot of hot, but not quite boiling water.
Wash asparagus and trim off tough scales. Break off the bottom tough part of the stems (when you bend the stems in your hands, they tend to naturally break off when the stem starts to become tender) and wash again.
You can cut the spears to fit your jars (leaving room for 1 inch of headspace) or you can cut them into smaller sized peices, as you prefer! Some people like whole spears, some like 1 inch pieces and some in between..
We're using the raw pack method here, since the jars will spend plenty of time in the pressure canner at higher temperatures anyway! Fill jars with raw asparagus, packing as tightly as possible without crushing, being sure to leave 1-inch headspace at the top of the jar.
Add 1 teaspoon of salt per quart to the jars, if desired. It is only to suit your taste; it does not add any preservative properties here.
Add boiling water to the jars, again, leaving 1-inch headspace.
Put the lids and rings on and make them snug, but don't over tighten them.
Using the jar tongs, put the jars on the rack in the canner. By now the water level has probably boiled down to 3 inches. If it is lower than that, add more hot tap water to the canner. When all the jars that the canner will hold are in, put on the lid and twist it into place, but leave the weight off (or valve open, if you have that type of pressure canner).
Put the heat on high and let the steam escape through the vent for 10 minutes to purge the airspace inside the canner.
After 10 minutes of venting, put the weight on and close any openings to allow the pressure to build to 11 pounds.
Once the gauge hits 10 pounds, start your timer going - for 30-40 minutes - see the table below. Adjust the heat, as needed, to maintain 10 pounds of pressure.
Note: the chart at right will help you determine the right processing time and pressure, if you have a different type of canner, or are above sea level.
It is important to learn how to operate your pressure canner by reading the owner's manual that came with your particular canner. If you cannot find your owner's manual, you can obtain find one online: Here is where to find some common manufacturer's manuals:
or by contacting the company that made your canner. Give the model number to the manufacturer, and they will send you the right manual. Click here for more information about pressure canners and a variety of models you can order.
Adjust lids and process as recommended below, according to the method of canning used.
|Table 1. Recommended process time for Asparagus in a dial-gauge pressure canner.|
|Canner Pressure (PSI) at Altitudes of|
|Style of Pack||Jar Size||Process Time||0 - 2,000 ft||2,001 - 4,000 ft||4,001 - 6,000 ft||6,001 - 8,000 ft|
|Hot and Raw||Pints||30 min||11 lb||12 lb||13 lb||14 lb|
|Table 2. Recommended process time for Asparagus in a weighted-gauge pressure canner.|
|Canner Pressure (PSI) at Altitudes of|
|Style of Pack||Jar Size||Process Time||0 - 1,000 ft||Above 1,000 ft|
|Hot and raw||Pints||30 min||10 lb||15 lb|
When the processing time from the chart above is up, turn off the heat, and allow the pressure canner to cool and the pressure to drop to zero before opening the canner. Let the jars cool without being jostled. After the pressure drops to zero (usually, you can tell but the "click" sound of the safety release vents opening, as well as but the gauge. Let the pressure in the canner drop to zero by itself. This may take 45 minutes in a 16-quart canner filled with jars and almost an hour in a 22-quart canner. If the vent is opened before the pressure drops to zero OR if the cooling is rushed by running cold water over the canner, liquid will be lost from the jars. Too rapid cooling causes loss of liquid in the jars!
Lift the jars out of the water and let them cool on a wooden cutting board or a towel, without touching or bumping them in a draft-free place (usually takes overnight), here they won't be bumped. You can then remove the rings if you like, but if you leave them on, at least loosen them quite a bit, so they don't rust in place due to trapped moisture. Once the jars are cool, you can check that they are sealed verifying that the lid has been sucked down. Just press in the center, gently, with your finger. If it pops up and down (often making a popping sound), it is not sealed. If you put the jar in the refrigerator right away, you can still use it. Some people replace the lid and reprocess the jar, then that's a bit iffy. If you heat the contents back up, re-jar them (with a new lid) and the full time in the canner, it's usually ok. You're done!
This document was adapted from the "Complete Guide to Home Canning," Agriculture Information Bulletin No. 539, USDA, revised 1994. Reviewed June 2006.
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