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Gourmet Traveller (Australia) - - Masterclass -

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At Noma, we pre­fer white as­para­gus for its del­i­cate flavour, but green as­para­gus fer­ments well, too. This method will make 500gm of lactofer­mented white as­para­gus.

The amount of salt and wa­ter needed will de­pend on the size of the fer­ment­ing ves­sel. For 500gm as­para­gus, a 2-litre ma­son jar should be a good size. In or­der to de­ter­mine the re­quired amount of salt and wa­ter, first place the jar on a scale and tare it (mean­ing ad­just the read­out to zero to dis­count the weight of the con­tainer). Stand 500gm white as­para­gus spears up­right in the jar (trim if nec­es­sary) – they should be packed rel­a­tively tightly but not so tight that you bruise the as­para­gus. Pour in enough wa­ter to cover the as­para­gus, and take note of the to­tal weight of the wa­ter and the as­para­gus. 2

Cal­cu­late 3 per cent of that weight, and add that much non-iodised salt to a large bowl. Pour the wa­ter out of the jar into the bowl. Whisk to­gether the salt and wa­ter un­til the salt has dis­solved. Slice half a lemon into 5mm-slices. Pour brine into the jar over the as­para­gus and dis­trib­ute the lemon on top. Keep the as­para­gus spears sub­merged be­neath the level of the brine by weight­ing them down with a wa­ter-filled zip-lock plas­tic bag, a fer­men­ta­tion weight, or some other clean ob­ject wedged be­neath the neck of the jar. Cover the jar with a lid, but don’t seal it so tightly that gas can’t es­cape.

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Fer­ment the as­para­gus spears in a warm place (about 21°C) for 2 weeks. Be­gin check­ing af­ter a cou­ple of days (above, day 4). If you taste lightly sour notes – be­yond the lemon – you’re on the right track. 4

The fin­ished prod­uct will have crunch, bal­anced bit­ter­ness and umami (above, day 7). Once the as­para­gus has pick­led to your lik­ing, leave it in the brine, seal the con­tainer, and trans­fer to the re­frig­er­a­tor. It will keep for sev­eral months. Serve as an ac­com­pa­ni­ment to char­cu­terie, or use as a crunchy ad­di­tion to sal­ads.

The new gherkins We like to de­ploy lacto-fer­mented as­para­gus spears the same way you would gherkins, as re­fresh­ing palate cleansers or tart gar­nishes. Serve them sim­ply doused in a bit of olive oil as a side, whether you’re hav­ing lasagne or grilled ribs. Or, the next time you’re mak­ing burg­ers, thinly slice a spear of lacto-fer­mented as­para­gus and shin­gle the slices on one side of the cooked patty, then con­tinue with your usual condi­ments. You’ll be count­ing down the days un­til white as­para­gus comes into sea­son again.

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