GRILL HILLS: How to bottle your own artichokes
Can you give me a recipe for bottled artichokes?
I cleaned and cooked them last year, put them into sterilised bottles and poured over the hot pickling vinegar recipe you published some time ago for peppadews. I did add some oil but unfortunately they grew a fungus and had to be tossed out two months later.
- Carrol Mason-Jones, Eastern Cape
Bottling artichokes involves plenty of PT to reach the prized heart in the centre. I was lucky enough to spend a day with Italian chef Paolo Adamo of Cucina Italiana restaurant in Parkmore last October. Preparing carciofi (Italian for artichokes) is his annual ritual. "It was something my mother taught me," he says. He told us that ideally one should use the smaller artichokes for bottling, "as the big ones are for eating". Here is his step-by-step method.
Using a sharp vegetable knife, peel off the leaves until you get to the white nugget - the heart. Cut off just above the choke, where it starts to go pink, and cut the base of the stem. Peel around the heart and stem to remove all the touches of green.
Place in a large, non-metal container of water with added lemon juice, as the artichokes discolour very quickly. Continue until you have prepared all the artichokes.
While you are preparing the artichokes, bring a very large pot of water to the boil. For every 4 litres of water, add 2 litres of white vinegar and the juice of 6 lemons, also putting the squeezed lemon halves in the pot. Add a couple of cloves, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, black peppercorns, a generous handful of salt and 15ml (1 tbsp) bicarbonate of soda, and bring back to the boil.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the hearts from the lemon water to the boiling liquid. Boil for 30-40 minutes, depending on quantity. Test by cutting one open. "It must be firm, not soft," says Adamo.
Remove from the water, cool immediately by pouring over cold water and let the hearts stand for 15 minutes. Place in a large colander or sieve and allow to drain for 30 minutes.
Arrange hearts upside down on a clean cloth. Adamo uses folded linen tablecloths. Arrange any detached stalks alongside. Cover with another cloth and leave for 24 hours in a cool place. Adamo stresses the importance of this step, as it helps with the preservation of the hearts and prevents them from going mouldy. If not done, the water that collects in the fronds of the artichoke heart will cause fermentation.
Sterilise large glass jars by washing well and placing in a 120°C oven for 30 minutes. Boil the lids in water for 5 minutes. Remove jars and lids using sterilised tongs. Arrange layers of artichoke hearts upright in the jars. In between layers place the stems, fresh bay leaves, black peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, cloves and some red chillies.
When the jar is full, place 3 chillies on top, pointing downwards. Adamo suggests topping up with sunflower oil, but I would use olive oil. Seal and allow artichokes to mature for a month. Adamo stores his jars in the refrigerator. "It is too hot in our country to leave them outside," he says.