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I was all of four or five years old when my parents decided I was old enough to join them in having artichokes for dinner. A willing eater from an early age (my first sentence was, "more mayonnaise, please"), I was always happy to try a new food.
The table was set with plates, napkins and the biggest mixing bowl we had, empty in the middle of the table. My mom put a steaming artichoke on each plate and gave us each a tiny bowl of melted butter with garlic. My dad taught me how to pull the leaves off, dip them in the butter and then scrape the edible flesh off each leaf with my bottom teeth.
Since that night, I have been firmly on board the artichoke bandwagon. I still like eating them just like we did that first time (though a dish of Hellman's/Best Foods Mayo spiked with grated garlic and lemon juice is also a winner when it comes to dipping), but truly, I do not discriminate when it comes to artichokes.
I like using frozen artichoke hearts in pasta and will frequently buy them from the grocery store, marinated in flavorful oil. When presented with artichoke dip, I will not say no. And in the springtime, I do love ordering them lightly fried and dressed with lemon juice from an Italian spot in my neighborhood.
Despite this lifelong appreciation for the artichoke, it wasn't until recently that I tried to trim a batch and marinate them myself. And like so many things, doing it myself increased my enjoyment many times over. These marinated artichoke hearts are light, punchy and so good dropped into a springy pasta salad.
Before You Get Started
Gather your tools for paring the artichokes. If you've never done it before, there's a really helpful slide show here.
Don't skip that tip about using some lemon halves in your artichoke water. They start to brown the minute you cut into them, so keep that acid handy. Some artichoke lovers swipe a lemon slice across every cut to prevent browning, though I never go that far.
Know that trimming artichokes down to their hearts is hard work. If you want all the taste without the work, frozen artichoke hearts are quite good and a heck of a lot easier to work with.
Once the artichokes are in the jar and covered with their pickling liquid, tuck the jar into the fridge and let it mellow for at least a day. They need some time to become one with the pucker of the vinegar.
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About the author: Marisa McClellan is a food writer, canning teacher, and dedicated pickler who lives in Center City Philadelphia. Find more of her jams, pickles and preserves (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars. Her first book, also called Food in Jars, will be published by Running Press in May 2012.