For years, I was the one doling out food tips to fellow Mail Tribune staffers, including the design guru behind so many editions of the newspaper’s food section.
This week, I was on the receiving end, as my friend and food-section counterpart filled me in on how to grill artichokes. Clearly, some variations on this prickly but oh-so-delicious vegetable are in order. Although “artichoke” was one of this blog’s most searched terms this summer, most of the references are to commercially prepared artichoke hearts.
So I’m going to do one better for artichoke aficionados. Way better. And it’s still in time for many of us who have artichokes coming on in the garden. The need for tightly formed buds, firm and weighty, makes this recipe for homemade, canned artichoke hearts an ideal treatment for those tiny artichokes that so often sprout up around a central, much larger blossom.
Be forewarned: This recipe is an involved process with a very small yield, just three jars to treasure. But cookbook author and food blogger Cathy Barrow swears the results are worth it. “So spectacularly different from the vaguely metallic, overly acidified versions on the grocery store shelf, it is a revelation,” she writes for The Washington Post.
Once cured for a month or more, these artichoke hearts are velvety, tart and full of flavor. Layer them on pizza, flatbread or sandwiches; strew them into salads and frittatas; combine them with cured black olives, roasted red peppers and goat cheese for a charcuterie platter, coarsely chop them for bruschetta topping or enjoy them on their own as a side dish.
To trim the artichokes, break the leaves away from the heart until the tender, yellow-bottomed center leaves are revealed. On a baby artichoke, that will be only a few of the outer leaves, but larger artichokes have many more fully formed leaves. If all of the leaves have thorns, remove them all and scrape away the furry inner choke.
Work quickly. The hearts will darken when exposed to air. A lemony water bath will preserve their light color. Beware: The tannins in raw artichoke will stain your hands. Lemon juice will remove the stain.
If you choose to skip the water-bath canning called for here, refrigerate sealed jars of artichokes for one month before serving. (Artichokes that are not water-bath-canned will not achieve the same silky texture as those that are.)
Home-Canned Artichoke Hearts
9 medium or 15 baby artichokes
1/4 cup plus 3 teaspoons kosher salt or sea salt
1 cup distilled white vinegar, plus more as needed
1/4 cup white-wine vinegar
1/4 cup mild olive oil, or more as needed
1 tablespoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes
3 garlic cloves, peeled and root ends trimmed
3 (1-inch) strips lemon zest
Halve and juice the lemons. Place spent lemon halves in a 5-quart, nonreactive (not aluminum or copper) pot; fill it with cold water. Strain juice and reserve it for marinade.
To trim the artichokes, pull leaves from each one, snapping them where they naturally break. Use a sharp knife or vegetable peeler to peel choke, then make a clean cut across end of stem, retaining tender portion. Use a grapefruit spoon, melon baller or side of a teaspoon to scrape away fuzzy choke, revealing meaty part of it, then quarter entire choke. (For baby artichokes, trim only to any inner leaves without a thorn.) As each choke is trimmed, drop it into pot.
Add the 1/4 cup salt. Bring pot filled with lemon water and artichokes to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium or medium-low so water is barely bubbling. Cook, uncovered, until artichokes are fork-tender, for about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, make marinade: In a small saucepan over high heat, combine reserved lemon juice, the vinegars, oil, oregano, crushed red-pepper flakes and garlic cloves. Bring to a boil; cook for 5 minutes, then remove from heat.
Use a slotted spoon to transfer artichokes to sanitized jars, dividing them evenly and stacking small ones and first cutting medium ones into quarters. Tuck them in as tightly as possible without breaking or bruising them.
Whisk marinade well and divide among jars. If there is not enough marinade to cover, add oil as needed to leave 1/2 inch head space at top of each jar. Make sure 1 garlic clove, 1 strip of lemon zest and 1 teaspoon salt go into each jar.
Run a chopstick or flat plastic knife along inside of jar to dislodge any air bubbles. Clean rim of each jar with distilled white vinegar to cut residual oils, place warmed lids on and finger-tighten rings (not too tight). Process in boiling-water bath for 15 minutes, ensuring water is at a low boil before starting timer for processing. Turn off heat and let jars rest in pot for 10 minutes. Use tongs to transfer jars to a clean, folded dish towel to cool over several hours.
Store water bath-canned jars in a cool space to cure for 1 month. Once opened, jars should be refrigerated and used within a month.
Makes 9 to 15 servings (makes 3 pints).
Recipe from Cathy Barrow, author of “Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry: Recipes and Techniques for Year-Round Preserving” (Norton, November 2014).