Pickled Asparagus

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      Pickled Asparagus
      5 lbs. asparagus
      6 pint jars with lids for canning
      3 cups cider vinegar
      3 cups water
      3 tbs fine sea salt
      3 tbs pickling spice
      6 slices lemon (optional)
      6 garlic cloves (optional)
      6 small dried chilies (optional)
      Bring a canning kettle or really big pot full of water and a medium or large pot of water to a boil (this second pot is for blanching the asparagus).
      Meanwhile, trim the asparagus into lengths that fit in the jars leaving 1/2 inch of head space.
      When the pot of water for blanching comes to a boil, prepare a large bowl of ice water and set it on the counter near the pot. Blanch the asparagus by dipping it into the boiling water for 10 seconds and then immediately cooling it off in the ice water. Drain the asparagus and lay it to dry on a clean kitchen towel or layers of paper towels. When the water in the canning kettle boils, sterilize the pint jars by boiling them for 10 minutes. Remove from the kettle and set them on a drying rack. Simmer the lids and rings for a few minutes and set them on the drying rack as well.
      Meanwhile, bring the vinegar, water, salt, and pickling spice to a boil in a medium saucepan.
      While that mixtures comes to a boil, put the asparagus spears in the jars. Add the lemon slices, garlic cloves, and chilies to the jars, if using.
      When the vinegar mixture boils, pour it into the jars, just covering the asparagus and leaving 1/2 inch of head space in each jar. Try to make sure the pickling spices are more or less evenly distributed between the jars.
      Place lids on jars and screw on the rings. Process the jars in the boiling water bath in the canning kettle or giant pot for ten minutes. Remove the jars and let them sit in a cool, dark place for at least 24 hours before eating. The pickled asparagus should keep at least 6 months in a cool cupboard. Refrigerate the jars after you open them.
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