Marinated Artichoke Hearts From Scratch

artichoke header
artichoke header

I already posted about marinated artichoke hearts briefly in my !ARTICHOKES! post a few years ago, but I thought I would revisit it in a slightly expanded and more visual post.  I did a little surfing to see if I should bother writing this up (as in maybe it has been covered well enough already), and was surprised to find that almost everyone recommends using canned or frozen artichoke hearts!  We live in a society besieged by convenience.  If you have the will and inspiration to make your own artichoke hearts, consider doing it from scratch all the way, and even planting some artichoke plants to have them to can in the future.  It's not that bad to process a pile of artichokes.  Just make sure your knife is the right kind and plenty sharp, put on a movie or a book on tape, or just sit in the shade and let your mind wander.  The more you do this kind of stuff, the better you become at it, and that includes that part of falling into a different rhythm of work where time slips away and is measured against quality of life instead of against money.  I wanted to write a detailed post that walks us visually through the steps.  I hope that this post might attract adequate search engine hits to compete with the average short, un-detailed recipes out there using frozen and canned hearts, but it's difficult to compete with sites like ehow which rank high in the engines even though they are often fairly useless. If you find this article really useful, please leave a comment.  Posts with lots of comments rank higher in search engine results which should make it easier to for others to find in the future. Home canned artichoke hearts from scratch are really good and if you have a lot of artichokes, they are hard to beat as a way to preserve what you can’t eat fresh.  I like artichokes a lot but there were way more artichokes than I could keep up with eating fresh this year, so I canned almost 40 half pints.  Your marinated artichoke hearts will be excellent, better than store bought.

Marinated artichoke hearts from the store are often fibrous and may even contain a few weak spines.  That does not have to be the case.  When you can your own, and you can make the highest quality hearts, picked young and peeled down to only the tender parts.  The artichokes must be picked at the right stage though and processed carefully by hand.  the artichokes sold in stores are very mature having hard stems with the scales and base well developed.  The choke, or hairs, in the center of store artichoke are also well developed.  For marinated hearts, you need to pick them when the choke is still soft and edible.  Picking cues may vary by variety, but I look at several things....

Size:  Size is relative, because the artichokes become smaller as the season progresses, but it is still a good que as long as you keep in mind that each time you pick, the average size will probably be a little smaller than the last time.

Scales:  As the artichoke matures, the scales at the base can open out more rather than laying tightly against the bud.

Stem:  the stem on a less mature choke is still somewhat rubbery.  Bend the stems on several immature and mature specimens to get a feel.  Pick chokes that have still rubbery necks.  They don’t have to be super rubbery, but I find that the stiffer they get, the more likely it is that the choke is too far developed.  This is my best que for when to pick, but I use all three parameters listed above.

this photo shows three artichokes at different stages of maturity. The on the left is suitable for canning. Note the level of development of the hairs, or choke, in all three.
this photo shows three artichokes at different stages of maturity. The on the left is suitable for canning. Note the level of development of the hairs, or choke, in all three.

Varieties:  I don’t recommend green globe at all.  It is the most common artichoke variety, but it has always grown poorly for me being disease susceptible, small and unproductive.  If you are canning any number of hearts, you need big, healthy plants that can produce a lot of artichokes.  I grow two varieties.  I like Imperial star, and an unknown variety of a small spiny type that I have grown for many years.  Both are large healthy, vigorous plants that produce lots of buds, 30 and up per plant.  For now, I can recommend the widely available Imperial star with some confidence.

Numbers:  If you want to can a significant amount of artichoke hearts, I’d recommend growing 3 or more of these vigorous types, so you can harvest enough buds at one time to make it worth your effort.   5 plants is working well for me, but I’d prefer a few more and will probably be expanding soon since they are low maintenance.

Paring the buds down:  The following photos illustrate how to prepare the buds.  Use a small sharp knife.

Slip the knife under one of the lowest bud scales so that you are cutting through a few of the lowest scales when you cut the base off.
Slip the knife under one of the lowest bud scales so that you are cutting through a few of the lowest scales when you cut the base off.
artichoke 1
artichoke 1
Peel off most of the scales. There is a knack to snapping them cleanly off downward with a pushing motion. I can’t describe it well, but ideally you would like to snap the bud scales off without leaving any part of them behind. The first couple of rows will not usually snap off so clean, but you can trim off any bits of the scale bases that are left behind. Snap off scales until there is very little if any green color showing on the remaining scales. You can pull off a scale and bite it to get an idea of whether you are down to the tender scales. You should be able to bite the scales off easily at least half way up the scale, if not a little more. it may not be super tender, but still easily bitten through with the teeth.
Peel off most of the scales. There is a knack to snapping them cleanly off downward with a pushing motion. I can’t describe it well, but ideally you would like to snap the bud scales off without leaving any part of them behind. The first couple of rows will not usually snap off so clean, but you can trim off any bits of the scale bases that are left behind. Snap off scales until there is very little if any green color showing on the remaining scales. You can pull off a scale and bite it to get an idea of whether you are down to the tender scales. You should be able to bite the scales off easily at least half way up the scale, if not a little more. it may not be super tender, but still easily bitten through with the teeth.
Pare out the tip of the bud with a sharp knife tip. this step may not be absolutely necessary, but it just takes a few seconds and insure that there will be no spines or fibrous parts left and it wastes hardly anything.
Pare out the tip of the bud with a sharp knife tip. this step may not be absolutely necessary, but it just takes a few seconds and insure that there will be no spines or fibrous parts left and it wastes hardly anything.
I like to cut the hearts into sixths or eighths so that they are already in good bite sized pieces straight out of the jar. Don’t cut them until you are ready to proceed with adding the vinegar and stuff to the jar, and work quickly to minimize oxidation.
I like to cut the hearts into sixths or eighths so that they are already in good bite sized pieces straight out of the jar. Don’t cut them until you are ready to proceed with adding the vinegar and stuff to the jar, and work quickly to minimize oxidation.
Pack the hearts into jars about 1/2 inch from the tops. I like to use 1/2 pint jars. Anything larger is likely to not be used up in one or two meal. Add white wine or rice vinegar to fill about half of the jar. Fill the rest of the jar with water to about 1/2 inch from the top. sprinkle in some Oregano and add a small piece of bay leaf to each. 1/4 teaspoon of salt, some fresh ground black pepper and a teaspoon or two of olive oil floated on top complete the marinade. I’ve found this simple marinade to be excellent, complementing the subtle flavor of the artichoke hearts rather than overpowering it with heavier herb or garlic flavors.

Pack the hearts into jars about 1/2 inch from the tops. I like to use 1/2 pint jars. Anything larger is likely to not be used up in one or two meal. Add white wine or rice vinegar to fill about half of the jar. Fill the rest of the jar with water to about 1/2 inch from the top. sprinkle in some Oregano and add a small piece of bay leaf to each. 1/4 teaspoon of salt, some fresh ground black pepper and a teaspoon or two of olive oil floated on top complete the marinade. I’ve found this simple marinade to be excellent, complementing the subtle flavor of the artichoke hearts rather than overpowering it with heavier herb or garlic flavors.

Wipe the jar rims and place the lids on, screwing them down moderately tight.  Place the jars in cold water, completely covered and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, boil hard for 50 minutes.  50 minutes is longer than they need to cook for canning safety purposes, but they still need to cook that full amount of time to become adequately tender.

Once the time is up.  Turn off the heat for a couple of minutes until boiling completely subsides.  Remove the jars and allow to cool before removing the rings, rinsing the jars and labeling.  If giving the jars away as gifts, don’t be afraid to ask for your jars back.  They are expensive, and most people won’t use them again, which is just wasteful.

Mostly I use my artichoke hearts in salads.  They are also good on pizza, to nibble on with bread, cheese and olives, topping a simple pasta, minced in tapenade or other spreads or just eaten straight out of the jar.  The marinade makes a pretty good salad dressing too.  Making your own marinated artichoke hearts is not only tasty and indicative of good wholesome values, but it will also enrich your life and make you sexier and more popular; so what are you waiting for!

Happy canning, and happy eating!

towerng artichoke hearts
towerng artichoke hearts