1 pound (ish) fresh asparagus stalks, well-rinsed and patted dry
4–6 whole garlic cloves
2 large dill tops with flower or seed head
1 large horseradish leaf, grape leaf, OR 1 tablespoon strongly brewed black tea (optional)
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon unrefined sea salt
1/2 cup sauerkraut brine, whey, OR an additional 1 tablespoon salt
1 – 1 1/2 cups filtered water, to cover
First, prepare your asparagus spears. Once they are rinsed and dried, snap the hard, woody ends off. The asparagus will naturally snap right where the fibrous end gives way to tender stalk. Trim them further, if necessary, so the spears are at least one inch shorter than the jar.
Pack the dill, garlic cloves, grape leaf (if using), and as many asparagus spears as will fit into a wide-mouth quart-sized mason jar, preferably head down, leaving about 1 inch of headspace at the top of the jar. Sprinkle the black peppercorns over.
Pour the whey or sauerkraut brine over the spears (if using), then stir the salt into the water until it’s dissolved.
Pour the salt solution into the jar, adding more fresh water if necessary to completely cover the asparagus by at least half an inch.
Cover loosely with a towel and secure with a rubber band, or fasten on a fermentation airlock, then set aside in a cool, dark place – say, a pantry cupboard – for 3-14 days.
Check the top of the jar each day through the glass and remove the towel only if you need to attend to the ferment. Top up with water if there is less than half an inch above the pickles at any time. You may start tasting the asparagus after 3 days, but commonly, the spears will sit for at least 10 days before they’re sufficiently softened and pleasantly soured.