The ranch house that Dayton called home during his childhood in the San Francisco East Bay was unique in that it contained two kitchens. One of them was outfitted for everyday use and the other was a multipurpose kitchen dedicated to home canning and preservation as well as the making of cheeses and sausages. It was a large room containing an immense stove, a large deep sink, a milk separator and dozens of floor to ceiling open shelves for the storage of all of the wonderful goods processed during the months as fruits and vegetables ripened and readied themselves for preservation and enjoyment through the winter months. Dayton’s Mom Frances spent innumerable hours in this wonderfully fragrant room when it came to life… and she wasn’t always alone! Dayton remembers well the days when the fresh fruits and berries came into season and the local women would converge upon the ranch bringing with them not only beautiful unblemished fruits for canning but their rations of sugar obtained by the redemption of their coupons doled out during the time of World War II. The days of canning became a community affair. The women all worked together, sharing their time, their talents… and their sugar rations. Everyone would go home with beautifully sealed jars of delicious fare to be opened in later months… as well as the latest on all of the local gossip! Dayton remembers well those many shelves filling with jars of freshly picked corn, vibrant red cabbage, luscious black berries picked from bushes growning wild on the south end of the ranch… as well as firm peaches, pears and apricots gently plucked from the orchard branches.
My youthful days on the farm in Minnesota included home preservation and canning as well. Mom would put up hundreds of quarts of fruits and vegetables every year to sustain our family of sixteen through the long cold Minnesota winter months. The fruit cellar in the basement was always a favorite place of mine and it was a treat to be asked to go down to the basement and select a fruit for dessert… or a jar of favorite pickles… or a quart of tomato sauce for a pasta casserole. The shelves laden with the fruits of harvest sat as a gastronomic treasure chest promising delights and pleasures to be enjoyed for weeks and months to come!
The satisfaction of home canning and preservation, as well as the rediscovery of the unmatched and unparalleled flavors that literally leap from each jar as its seal is broken has found its way into our kitchen. We’ve found it creatively satisfying to prepare and preserve foods as both of our moms did back in the olden days… and the rich, luscious flavors, untainted by the broad spectrum of food preservatives so prevalent in all of our processed foods, just cannot be beaten. As I was preparing to embark on this adventure last spring Dayton bought a book that has become a food-stained resource nearly ever time I pull out the empty Mason jars. The book, “Well-Preserved… Recipes and Techniques for Putting up Small Batches of Seasonal Food” by Eugenia Bone is a must have for anyone inclined to embark on this wonderfully satisfying adventure. Her techniques are perfection personified. She not only delves into the science behind successful and safe home canning and preservation according to standards set by the United States Department of Agriculture but includes many fine recipes in her book showcasing the incredible fare she has preserved. We had questions that needed to be answered regarding the preservation of a caponata we had done. I relentlessly searched her out on the internet in order to find answers to the few remaining questions I had. I’ve appreciated her wisdom as a result of our ensuing correspondence and faithfully follow her blog with the Denver Post. She has, as well, sparked creativity in our kitchen as we develop even more delectable goods preserved by proper technique and the ping of a lid! Thank you, Eugenia!
Thanks to Eugenia we have stocked our pantry with several items we consider “must haves.” One of these ‘must haves” is marinated baby artichokes. I’ve always loved them but purchased them infrequently because of the priceyness of a small jar… this is no longer a concern of ours! Last season I put up a total of thirteen pints when the price of fresh baby artichokes was rock bottom. We enjoyed them immensely, utilizing them in pasta dishes, dips and salads, but found we had to ration them to make them last until the bounty of this year’s yield would make them once again easily affordable. Several weeks ago the price of fresh baby artichokes was at a low point and over the course of three days we put up three cases, which yielded 36 pints… I trust we’ll have plenty on hand to last us through the next twelve months!
Our canning adventure, obviously a bit more than a few small batches, provided us with a wealth of information to use henceforth. Each case of baby artichokes weighed in at 20 pounds and contained approximately 150… yes, we counted them! Each case also provided us with 12 pints of finished product, making it easy to calculate the amounts of olive oil, lemon juice and white vinegar needed per batch. We also processed each case in two batches, first processing two-thirds of the artichokes using additional liquids during the cooking process to ensure an adequate amount of liquid to cover each of the eight pints then adding liquids to the saucepan or kettle as necessary for the final four pints by assessing the amount remaining in the pan. This technique worked well on each of the three occasions… and we are more than pleased that our pantry is stocked for another year! Should you be inspired to have a few jars of these beautiful artichokes grace your pantry shelves, purchase the number of baby artichokes you wish to work with… the rest of the math is easy!
Marinated Baby Artichokes
20 lb (1 case) baby artichokes, approximately 150 artichokes
Gripping each individual artichoke, remove the tough outer leaves with your fingertips until the color of the leaves of the artichoke becomes pale green to a light yellow. The remaining leaves should be soft to the touch and the artichoke itself resembles the gentle flame of a candle. Flatly trim the base of the artichoke, removing any apparent blemishes. Cut each trimmed artichoke in half:
Place in a bowl of acidulated water until cooking time.
Chef’s Note: There will be noticeable darkening of the halved artichoke hearts as they sit in the acidulated water… be not concerned! Once the artichokes begin cooking in the white wine vinegar and lemon juice they become beautifully blanched as they are prepared for placement in the glass jars and ultimate sealing.
To a large non-reactive saucepan add:
2 1/2 C bottled lemon juice (the acidity is more consistant than that of fresh)
5 C white wine vinegar (with 5 per cent acidity)
2 1/2 C extra virgin olive oil
6 – 8 whole peeled garlic cloves, thinly sliced
5 tsp salt
6 fresh bay leaves
Bring to a boil over moderately high heat and add:
the trimmed and halved artichokes
Bring to a boil and boil for 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaves from the pot with a pair of tongs. As the artichokes are cooking scald 8 pint jars in boiling water. Since the artichokes will be processed in a water bath per USDA guidelines (over 10 minutes) the jars have no need to be initially sterilized. Simmer the new lids in hot water to soften the rubber ring. When the jars have dried, using a slotted spoon divide the artichokes among the 12 jars… they will be approximately 3/4 – 7/8 full:
Cover the artichokes with the hot marinade, being sure to distribute the garlic slices amongst the jars. Fill the jars to within 1/2-inch of the top of the jar with marinade:
Wipe the rim of each jar with a clean towel dipped in hot water. Set on the softened rubberized lips and screw on the bands finger-tight only:
Place in a pot fitted with a wire rack on the bottom, adding enough water to cover the filled jars by 3 inches:
Cover the pot and bring the water to a boil. Process for 25 minutes, turn off the heat and remove the lid. Let set for several minutes then remove to a wire rack to cool with a pair of canning tongs. Allow to cool completely before checking the seals. It is not uncommon, however, for the seals to set almost immediately. Allow to season for several weeks in a cool dark place before use. Versatile and exquisitely delicious in many dishes, these beautiful artichokes will be a staple in our pantry for many years and seasons to come… Bon Appetit!
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