That rolls of the tongue really well. I think I’ll bust it out next time I feel like saying ‘well shiver me timbers!’ The only thing is I don’t think I’ve ever said that except dressed as a pirate and I’m not sure how well pickled artichokes and pirates mix.
Artichokes are so tender and delicious when you pick them young and my personal favourite way to eat them is fried on the BBQ in loads of butter with a squeeze of lemon juice for the last couple of minutes. Oh my gosh so good.
But they are a bit of a phaff to prepare, especially when you let them go beyond that tender young stage. But even when they are big they are still worth the effort to get to that wonderful heart in the centre. The other day I harvested a basketful of huge artichokes, you may have seen them on my latest video tour of the garden. They had been staring at me from the tops of their plants in the garden, filling me with guilt each time I walked past them, because I knew I needed to find time to process them. They also sat in the basket for a couple of days with their guilt inducing stares until I finally made time to deal with them before they went to waste.
We have probably seen the last of them for a season and so I really wanted my preserve them so we could enjoy artichokes throughout the year and pickling seemed like the best option. But first I had to tackle them to get to the inner goodness. It is important to have two things when preparing artichokes – acidified water – the juice of a lemon or two in a large bowl of water is fine, and a very sharp knife. But safety first, don’t cut yourself with the knife because that acidified water is quite stingy. I tested this out (twice) so you don’t have to.
I broke the process down into steps:
- Pull off the outer leaves and put the artichoke in the lemon water while you deal with the next one.
- Then with the sharp knife (be careful here) cut off the tough green leaves and stalk at the bottom, trim up the sides and return the artichoke to the lemon water.
- Next is dealing with the choke, and it is a bit of a pain because your hands are all wet by now the choke is fluffy like feathers so it sticks to everything, and there can be some spikes in there too so be careful. I use a spoon to scrape away as much as I can and then return it to the lemon water.
- Once all the clingy annoying fluffy stuff is dealt with and cleaned away I take the meagre but delicious artichoke disc shaped remnant and scrape once again with my spoon to remove all trace of the choke. By now it will probably have started to go brown so scrape it away. Then I trim the sides and edges for aesthetic purposes and return it to fresh clean lemon water so it stays a nice pale colour, while I prepare the pickle juice.
Now I’m not one to follow instructions to the letter, however with pickling and preserving you can’t stray too far or you’re likely to poison someone and nobody wants that. So I messed with the flavours and used different herbs and vinegars.
In a large stainless steel pot I added a cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice, a cup of apple cider vinegar and a cup of white vinegar (just to make sure it was acidic enough), half a cup of olive oil and half a cup of sunflower oil. I thought sage and peppercorns would be a nice combo so I gathered some fresh sage leaves (about 6) from the garden and grabbed some bay leaves (about 3) while I was there and put them in the pot with a large pinch or two of black peppercorns and brought the whole lot to a boil and then added the artichokes and continued to boil for 10 minutes.
In very clean jars that had been rinsed in boiling water, I packed the artichokes and poured in the hot pickle juice to fill them but not to the top – leave a centimetre or two for air. It is important to wipe down the rim of the jar and the screw bits on the side so you can get a good seal with the lids, which now go on, but not too tight.
This is where I needed my giant pot which by now was fill of water at a rolling boil and I popped my artichoke jars in there so they were covered and boiled them for 25 minutes. I removed them and put them on my wooden chopping board. A plain bench surface could be too cold and could cause the jar to break and then all that effort would be wasted. Popping it on a tea towel would be just as good. Now is a good time to tighten the lid. As it all cools down the metal will contract and you’ll hear the jar go pop. It is such a satisfying sound and you know the jar is sealed and will last for up to a year in the cupboard.
They look a bit murky and don’t look all that pretty, not like some of those glamorous gherkins you can get, but they will taste awesome. It’s a shame we have to wait at least two weeks for it to be at its pickled best.
Come again soon – things are starting to come ready in the garden, I may need to get prepare ourselves for the strawberry vodka!
Sarah the Gardener : o )