Well pickle my artichokes…

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.

A thing of beauty

A thing of beauty

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.

All ready to go but watch that knife - it's really sharp

All ready to go but watch that knife – it’s really sharp

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.
Floating in lemon water

Floating in 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.
there is way more waste for the compost pile than There is edibles for the pot!

There is way more waste for the compost pile than there is edibles for the pot!

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.

Ready for the jars

Ready for the jars

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.

Not the prettiest of preserves but well worth the effort

Not the prettiest of preserves but well worth the effort

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 )

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12 Comments on “Well pickle my artichokes…

    • HI Glenda. I’d never eaten them before I grew then so I had no idea what to expect! But now they are a great spring favourite, although one of my kids is allergic to them. Apparently it is quite common, but not many people eat them, so it’s not that common.
      Cheers Sarah : o )

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  1. All that effort and you’re still risking incomplete seals with those reused consumer jars. Step up girl, invest in some decent heavy-duty, canning jars.

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    • Hi there. They seemed to have sealed quite nicely and the lids were only on their second time around. Canning jars here are quite costly, however I am in the process of investigating brand new lids, which seems like the best solution in the circumstances. Thanks for your concern. I’m not sure the artichokes will survive any longer than the minimum two week pickling time anyway!
      Cheers Sarah : o )

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      • I always worry when I see your canned goods. Commercial jars are thinner than canning jars, and not designed for repeated use. Double that for the quality of their screw cap lids. Yes, canning jars are pricey, but it’s an investment that you use over and over again–only needing new lids (the flat cap) each time–the screw on rings can be used repeatedly as long as they are in good shape. It seems crazy to go to all the work of growing and canning your food–and have the weak link (for safety) be the jars in which you put it.

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        • Hi there. I investigated your concerns a little further and phoned the leading jar manufacturer in New Zealand and asked a few pertinent questions about the jars that are available in here and they assured me that the jars we have are perfectly suitable for reusing for pickling and preserving and of course are made to withstand their original purpose of commercial preserving. They are food grade and food safe and are made with new glass. The lids are also ok to be reused a couple of times and the biggest risk is absorbed odour from a pickle lid being used on a jam the second time around. I will be ordering more lids any way as they are relatively inexpensive. I never really preserve high risk low acid veggies like tomatoes, beans or corn as I find they freeze easy enough. The things I do preserve are high acid – liberally doused in vinegar or high sugar like jam, so the risk is quite low. I come from a background of working in a food safety laboratory and so am fully aware of the risks. Thanks for highlighting your concerns, now I have looked into it I feel confident that I am on the right track. Just for interest my mum’s generation used a cellophane disk secured with a rubber band to keep their jams and pickles safe! You can still buy them now. I find they are a pain to use because the rubber bands ping across the room when I try to put them on!
          Cheers Sarah : o )

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  2. I was studiously ignoring those artichokes. The possums took out my magnificent 15 foot high artichoke in one fell swoop by leaping into it with gay abandon and snapping it’s luxurious growth off at the base. To say that I was “not amused” was a distinct understatement :(. I have another one out in the garden that appears to be taking up the slack but I am not even looking at it in case the possums tap into my brain waves and think “aHA! That’s how we can get her back for reinforcing her vegetable garden so we can’t get to the tasty silverbeet inside!” If I ignore it, right up to the time it actually produces chokes, I might just be able to contemplate ways to cook them… All I can say for the amount of effort involved with pickling those chokes is o_O and guess who is probably going to have a nice big bunch of artichoke flowers on her table in the future ;). I adore artichokes and might even put in the effort to prepare some but I will eat them all rather than preserve them. Now strawberry vodka? Do tell! 🙂

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    • HI Fran. Bloomin’ wildlife – just who do they think they are?
      Artichokes are worth the effort which is probably why people bother to go to the trouble at all. Having said that they do make lovely purple flowers and the bees love them too! I’ve left a few on the bush.
      Stay tuned for the strawberry vodka – I’ll put up a post when I do it.
      Cheers S : o )

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