Canning asparagus at home is pretty simple and means you can enjoy home-grown asparagus year round. While asparagus is often frozen for long term preservation, home canned asparagus is shelf stable, which works much better for those of us living off the grid (with limited or non-existent freezer space).
I’ll admit I have a soft spot in my heart for canned asparagus. Growing up, we never ate fresh vegetables. Just about everything “green” in my life came out of a can. For the most part, it was canned green beans or peas…but on very special occasions, I’m talking birthdays and holidays, my mom would splurge and buy canned asparagus. I remember savoring that flavor as the ultimate treat as a kid.
It wasn’t until I moved away to college that I tasted fresh asparagus for the first time, and I’ll be honest, it’s a completely different vegetable. Barely cooked, sauteed in butter for just a few minutes, fresh asparagus is crisp and crunchy.
The thing is, though I love fresh asparagus, I find myself craving canned asparagus because I miss the taste. It’s part nostalgia, but it’s also in part that I really love how asparagus tastes when it’s canned. The flavor changes a bit, but for the better in my opinion.
As an adult, my life is just the opposite of my canned and microwaved food childhood. Tin canned food, especially canned vegetables, isn’t something that really exists in my pantry. Home canned food, on the other hand, is a big part of our lives.
When we moved to our off-grid homestead, one of the first things we did was plant asparagus. Now that we’ve been here a few years, our homegrown crop is just starting to come into production. It’s time to try my hand at canning asparagus on my own.
How to Can Asparagus
Asparagus is a low acid food, which means that it must be pressure canned for safe storage. If you’re canning pickled asparagus, that can be done in a water bath canner because it’s preserved with vinegar. Regular asparagus, canned in water instead of vinegar, is much more versatile for cooking, but it will require pulling out the pressure canner.
Asparagus pressure canning instructions are pretty straightforward. Pack the jars, leaving 1” headspace, and then process at 10 pounds of pressure in a weighted gauge canner (or 11 pounds of pressure in a dial gauge) for 30 minutes (pints) or 40 minutes for quarts or tall pint and a half jars. If you’re over 1000 feet, you’ll need to adjust the pressure to altitude but the canning times stay the same when pressure canning.
While the canning asparagus is pretty straightforward in terms of the times and pressures, you do have a few choices on pack styles.
Raw Pack v. Hot Pack
As with most canning, you have a choice between raw pack and hot pack. Each has its own pros and cons…
Canning Asparagus Raw Pack
Generally, raw pack is much easier since you’re working with cold, uncooked produce and you’re not burning your hands. The downside is that produce tends to float, since the air wasn’t cooked out of it by blanching before packing. That can affect the presentation and is frowned upon when you’re entering county fairs. For some types of produce, such as home canned peaches, it can also have a big impact on the quality of the finished product.
When canning asparagus though, it’s my go-to method and I don’t think it has a big impact on quality or presentation in my opinion. All the jars pictured in this article are raw pack.
The main consideration is packing the jars tightly. Raw produce shrinks when canned, so you really want to jam as much asparagus into the canning jars as possible. If not, you’ll have half filled jars after the canning process.
If you’re raw packing, you’ll also want to start with the canner slightly cooler. Warm the water in the pressure canner to just barely simmering, but not boiling. A full hard boil can cause thermal shock and broken jars when raw packing.
Canning Asparagus Hot Pack
Hot pack canning asparagus means you blanch the spears for 2-3 minutes in boiling water, then pack them into jars. This helps prevent them from floating in the jars, but it also makes them really difficult to pack. Some people prefer to blanch everything and hot pack, which reduces the chance of thermal shock with the jars go into the canner.
Personally, I’ll take the easy packing of raw pack and then just make sure my canner is a bit below a full boil when I load it up.
Canning Asparagus Whole v. Pieces
I like the presentation of whole canned asparagus, and if you do it right, more fits in the jar that way. Simply take one piece of asparagus and use it to measure the depth of the canning jar. Then chop all the other pieces off at that same length. Pack them in tight standing vertically, and you’ll get as much asparagus as possible in each jar.
The downside…you end up with a lot of asparagus pieces left over. I can those pieces too. Start by chopping them into 1 or 2-inch pieces and then toss them into a canning jar. It’s not as pretty, but it works just as well. If you want, you can just can up all your asparagus in pieces too.
Adding Salt (or Not)
Adding salt when canning asparagus is optional, and completely up to your personal preference. Generally, it’s suggested that you add 1/2 teaspoon to each pint or 1 full teaspoon to each quart jar. Less (or none) is fine too.
The salt is not necessary for preservation, it’s merely a taste thing. If you like salt in your canned veggies then go right ahead. Personally, I like just a tad for flavor but not near as much as the experts recommend. I generally add about half or a third the “recommended” amounts.
Canning Jar Options
There are a lot of canning jar options out there, but a few of them work particularly well for canning asparagus. Canning instructions are written for pint jars or quart jars, and asparagus can’t be canned in anything larger than a quart.
That said, my preference is to can asparagus in extra tall wide mouth pint and a half jars. They’re basically asparagus canning jars, and the box they come in actually has a picture of canned asparagus on it. Wide mouth, so you can pack them efficiently and extra tall so the spears stay nice and long. Follow quart canning instructions when using these pint-and-a-half canning jars.
Lacking that, try other tall canning jars, like these extra tall 12 oz jelly jars. Or just put them in regular quart or pint mason jars, that’s totally fine too.
Pounds of Asparagus per Canning Jar
How much do you need to make it worth canning? It’s kind of impressive how much asparagus you can pack into a canning jar. Using pint and a half jars, I fit about 3/4 pound fresh asparagus in each jar, but I started with 1 1/4 pound before trimming. That leaves a considerable amount of trimmings behind to can separately.
If you’re canning in a standard pint or quart jars, you need roughly 24 to 25 pounds per canner load of 7 quarts, or around 16 pounds per canner load of 9 pints. This assumes quite a bit of waste and trimmings though, and that you’re hot packing which allows you to pack more into each jar. More practically, using up every bit and raw packing, you need about 1/2 pound per pint or a bit over 1 pound per quart.
Above 1000 feet in elevation, you must adjust pressure to altitude. If you're using a weighted gauge pressure canner, that means using the 15 pound setting for any place above 1000 feet. As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Above 1000 feet in elevation, you must adjust pressure to altitude. If you're using a weighted gauge pressure canner, that means using the 15 pound setting for any place above 1000 feet.
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.