How to Make Artichoke Hearts Preserved in Olive Oil (Carciofini sott’Olio)

Back when the luxury to keep things you don’t need did not exist (as useless things themselves did not exist at all), the idea of storing something plentiful in preparation for times of scarcity seemed almost a war strategy. In spring and summer, when products of the earth abounded to the point of threatening to go to waste, the women of the family were often busy picking, cooking, canning and storing all sorts of imaginable produce, as if they were preparing some sorts of weapons against to fight off the cold season.
Imagine the smell of boiling wine and vinegar permeating the air, the tables and floors stained red with the juices flowing from baskets of plump, ripe tomatoes, or the sweet scent of cherry jam softly simmering on the stove that you could smell even before entering the house. Imagine the excitement of kids who learned at their own damage how painful it is to stick the finger into a pot of blistering jam, and the anticipation of being able to lick all the spoons once the job was done.

I find it appalling how, as of today, we can afford to have so much stuff that we are unable to sort out what we really need. While we often hold on to the most unnecessary junk, we fail to make good use of what we have and use available resources for our benefit in future times.
Most of the props I use for styling are remainders of times gone by: cutlery from Brooklyn thrift shops, dishes from old grandma’s houses, broken doors, vats that were used to harvest grapes for wine. Though it is important to leave our lives uncluttered, it is amazing how something that is plentiful and you have no idea what to do with can be saved for later enjoyment.

This is why every farm has a tradition of pickles – especially in consideration of the fact that produce tends to ripen quickly and all at once. Italy does it Sott’Olio: literally, ‘submerged in oil’. Every preparation sott’olio, which can be flavored with the classic garlic, parsley, bay leaves and peppercorns, is utterly delicious and fairly easy to make, albeit somewhat time consuming.
If you do have the time and patience to do it, though, it pays off. Chances are you won’t be doing it more than 3-4 times a year, and your pantry will be stacked with awesome homemade goodies that you produced yourself (and you’ll find yourself with Christmas gifts ready on your shelves).

Here are a few tips on canning, as well as some links I encourage you to read should you venture into this amazing realm of the kitchen.

THE JARS
Clean your jars very well by sterilizing in a tall pot of boiling water, along with their lids, for 10-15 minutes. Let them dry well on a clean towel before using. No water must remain in the closed jars.
Make sure that the lids fit perfectly for each jar and are not damaged or rusty.
As Francesca kindly suggested, the jars can be popped in a low temperature oven to dry completely.

THE ACIDIC ELEMENT
You will either need to cook your vegetables in an acidic element like vinegar or a mixture or wine and vinegar or you won’t, but each time you will have to squeeze some lemon juice into the jars and swirl it around to completely cover them. Acidity kills the toxin Botulinum, which can develop in canned goods which have been prepared improperly. Take some time to read a little more about the risks associated with this toxin and safety methods if you are new to canning.

TO BOIL OR NOT TO BOIL?
Many preparations, like jams, are boiled into their jars to create a vacuum effect that will seal the contents and prevent any kind of bacteria from forming. In sott’olio preparations, this is not always necessary: if your vegetables have been boiled in vinegar, then the acidity and the oil will act as preserving agents, making boiling unnecessary. Any preparation that does not involve boiling in vinegar, though, must be finished off by boiling the jars.
Again, make sure no water at all gets in the jars!

GENERAL TIPS

  • Always work with clean equipment and towels.
  • Remember to boil the lids/caps as well! Ideally, you should use new, perfectly fitting lids each time you can something – though you can re-use the jar indefinitely.
  • If the jar did not seal properly, toss everything at once. you can easily check sealing by pressing your fingertip on the top of the caps: they should not budge an inch.
  • make sure that the food is completely covered in oil/liquid all the time. Every tiny bit of food that escapes the liquid will produce molds, but as long as everything is submerged it will be fine for a long while.
  • Once open, refrigerate the jars.

I highly recommend you read this article full of precious information by Serious Eats, one of my favorite websites ever.

Also, did you know that the USDA has a whole guide on safe canning? Here is a great guide on canning principles and safety.
If you are serious about home canning and think you will have the resources to do it each season, I do recommend you invest in a good book. It is indeed a skill that, once learned, will come in handy for the rest of your life.

Canned Goods: Carciofini Sott'Olio - Baby Artichokes Preserved in Olive Oil

Canned Goods: Carciofini Sott'Olio - Baby Artichokes Preserved in Olive Oil

Canned Goods: Carciofini Sott'Olio - Baby Artichokes Preserved in Olive Oil

Carciofini Sott’Olio (Baby Artichokes Preserved in Olive Oil)
(makes about 3 0.5qt/1 pint/500ml jars)

100 baby artichokes (about 4kg not cleaned)
(Choose small, purple artichokes, or ask your local farmer/grocery which variety is best for canning)
1/2 liter (17 fl. Oz.) White wine vinegar
1/2 liter White wine
1 heaping tbsp Salt
2 Lemons

About 1/2 liter (17 fl. Oz.) Olive oil, plus more*
A bunch of parsley
4-5 Garlic cloves
Dried chilli, to taste

* NOTE ON THE OLIVE OIL: Choose a regular, decent but inexpensive olive oil, as you will need quite a lot of it and using high quality olive oil does not necessarily make a difference. If you want to use a more flavorful olive oil though, all the better! It will make your jarred artichokes shine through.

DAY 1
On the first day, we are going to prep and cook our baby artichokes. For this step you might consider the use of gloves, as artichokes will stain your hands quite heavily.

Prepare a couple large bowls and half fill them with water. Cut one of the lemons, and squeeze a half in each bowl, then dump the half itself in as well.
Clean the artichokes: remove the tough outer petals until you see the point where they are a green hue that fades to purple. Cut off the tip, and trim the stalk by cutting all around it, as if you were peeling an apple (see picture below). More info on cleaning artichokes is available in this post.
As soon as each artichoke is ready, put it in the bowls with acidulated water. This will help prevent oxidation, as artichokes turn black very easily.

When you’re about halfway through this cleaning operation, prepare a large pot that can fit your artichoke hearts, and fill with the vinegar and wine. Bring to a boil, and add the salt. Drain the artichoke hearts very well, add them to the pot and let them cook until they are about 80% cooked. It might take around 10 to 15 minutes.

Prepare a clean cotton tea towel where you are going to wrap the artichokes. Once drained well and slightly cool, put them into the towel and squeeze it closed as well as you can. Make a sort of parcel, and let it sit for 24 hours.

Canned Goods: Carciofini Sott'Olio - Baby Artichokes Preserved in Olive Oil

DAY 2
On the second day, we are ready to put the artichokes into jars. For this amount of artichokes, you can use 3 1 quart mason jars, or smaller ones. The only important thing is to pack the artichokes tight, and make sure everything is well covered in oil.
Sterilize your jars by boiling them (along with their lids) for 15 minutes. Remove from the pot, let them drain well, and squeeze some lemon juice in each. Swirl it around to fully cover the whole jar, rims and lids included, then pour out the excess.  This will help prevent the formation of bacteria and fungi of sorts.

Finely chop the garlic, parsley and dried chilli, and keep them at hand.
Working in a circle, tightly pack the artichokes into the jars. Once you finish a layer, sprinkle some chopped parsley, garlic and chilli on, then add some oil and proceed with another layer (see picture above). Sprinkle on the flavorings and add the oil until you fill the jar almost all the way up – leave about an inch. Top with olive oil to fully cover everything. Make sure that nothing sticks out of the oil!
Once done, close the jars, and leave them be for yet another day.

DAY 3
Day 3 is for finalizing the canning. You might have noticed that, as you were topping the jars with the oil day before, small bubbles of air inevitably formed between each layer. By leaving them to rest, the oil will have time to penetrate into every nook and will push out the air. If you check the jars now, you’ll notice how the oil has considerably reduced.
Fill the jars with the oil once again. You might need to do this for another couple of days, until the oil does not reduce anymore. Once you see the oil stays at a stable level, close the lids as tightly as you can.

It is best to wait another 20 days or so before opening your first jars, as flavors will have time to meld and develop and the artichokes will turn softer.
You can now store your jars away in your pantry. They will keep for a long time and will not produce bacteria or molds, as long as they are fully covered in oil. When you open a jar and fish out artichokes, make sure nothing sticks out of the oil and keep refrigerated.

Have you ever made pickles or canned goods? What are your favorites to eat and what are your favorite to make?
I’m curious to know!

——–

PS: I’m stumped at how nice the person who took care of my travel arrangements for the Saveur event was. Maybe It’s just me being used to cold-a$$ emails, but I felt the need to state this fact. He must be from California or something. New Yorker’s emails aren’t that nice.
Thank you, oh Kind Saveur Staff Person.

Canned Goods: Carciofini Sott'Olio - Baby Artichokes Preserved in Olive Oil

  1. I live in California and my emails are not always nice… ahhahaa. Anyways, can you send some to California? My market does not carry baby artichokes. I can only find old ones and I take all of the hearts out like a bloody flower killa.

    • Your market does not carry baby artichokes? No baby artichokes in SF? ;_;

      I’d probably be scared an amazed at the same time if I read one of your not-nice emails…now I’m curious. I still hope I’ll never get a not-nice email from you :P

  2. Lovely artichokes. A little thing we do here when sterilizing old jars. After boiling them, we pop them in an oven to dry ( a low oven or even left over heat from baking) They dry perfectly this way. I would never towel them dry. I love your second hand props, they really add so much to the photos.

    • BAHAHA quote from a friend in NY:

      “One time I was in SF and I just got out of Best Buy. There was this person standing there and she just asked what I was up to and if I were having a good day. WTF?”

      I love talking to random people. The city is a playground for me.

  3. Valentina ~ Brava on the Saveur award. It is justly earned! I wish beyond the dream to have baby artichokes available in the high altitude of Montana where I live, but alas no. But I have tasted baby artichokes in Italy alla Romana and in southern Peloponnesos Greece. Your photos are exquisite.

    • Thank you, Deborah! So happy to see your comment here!
      I agree that Montana is probably not the best place for artichokes…Do you get any kind of artichoke at all?

  4. Beautiful post Valentina. I definitely agree with you regarding our attitude to “stuff” these days. It’s quite shameful how so many of us associate success or comfort or being loved with stuff. It makes me fear how things are going to be for future generations. It’s not the things you have it’s all about experiences and taking time to enjoy genuine moments, rather than multi-tasking (another modern day disease). However, on a happier note, your preserved artichokes look absolutely divine. Sadly the artichokes I’ve come across in greengrocers here in Australia are not a patch on these beauties, so I’ve never bothered preserving them, but I’d love some of these.

    • I totally share your thoughts. Letting go of things can be a difficult thought, but once you really strip yourself of the unnecessary it feels so much better, and it so helps you to bring the focus back on what matters. Fun fact – food photography aside, I almost never take pictures. I like to enjoy whatever’s going on outside the internets :)
      What kind of artichokes do you get in Australia? I thought your climate would be favorable for growing them. Globe or bigger artichokes are great for preserving too, they’re just a real pain to clean.

    • I tend to only see globe artichokes here, but they are often very sad and withered looking by the time they get to the greengrocer. I wonder if it’s a demand issue, as I know a lot of people tend to not know what to do with them, so I guess we don’t get a great variety if people don’t buy them here. :)

    • In many areas of Australia, particularly in the region around Adelaide, artichokes grow wild as a weed.

  5. Such beautiful, beautiful photos and these look delicious. I am a huge aficionado of secondhand, vintage, picking up things from the side of the road so I hear you on ‘stuff’. So many great things that already exist we can still get use out of. I have rarely seen artichokes at growers markets I have been to and never the teeny cute ones. (In Australia as well.)

  6. I simply adore artichokes, I am traveling to Italy in less than 1 month (!!) and I cannot wait to go to the fresh market and pick up some artichokes:) I’d love to preserve them and bring them back to the states, but not sure that will happen!

    • :O Great Alison! Where are you going exactly? If you want/need some tips I’d absolutely love to help – I know my way around food in the major cities :)

  7. Love this, lady. As usual, I’m just savoring each and every photo, but I love all the added info on preserving veggies — something I know so little about! P.S. to your P.S. YES to the travel arrangements!!! Woohoo!!!!! (Also, whoa! One month exactly! Double woohooo)

  8. I have been obsessing over this recipe ever since I first spotted it on Pinterest. I adore carcioffini sott’olio but have only ever bought them in shops, never made my own. I love how laborious this process is but how rewarding the results are. And I love how you’ve added fresh chopped herbs to the jar.
    I am going to try making my own this week with castraure which are so tender and available aplenty in the market in Venice at the moment.
    Thank you for a truly beautiful post.

    • Thank you so much, Skye!
      Castraure would be perfect for this job – if you can get a hold of a bunch of those, totally try and make this! Some recipes make artichokes with bay leaves and peppercorns, but I’ve never tried that. Let me know how it goes!

  9. Congratulations on your selection as a finalist in the Saveur Food Blog Awards!

    I would to personally invite you to share your gorgeous food photos with us over at Food Foto Gallery . com – In March alone, we had 26,382 visitors to the site & there’s no complicated approval process like the big guys. Any photos related to food (that are not watermarked) are accepted & get posted automatically. Being a food blogger, myself, we also share our daily faves on social media, giving exposure to fellow foodies whenever we can.

    Let me know if you have any questions and hope to see you at the site :)

  10. Valentina il tuo blog è fantastico…leggendoti pratico un po’ d’inglese
    sai che sono marchigiana ma vivo a Faenza pertanto come te sono divisa tra queste due regioni!!!
    sto aspettando anche io i carciofi dell’orto per farli sott’olio

    ciao
    Silvia

    • Ciao! Peró Faenza giá mi fa Emilia…mi piacerebbe includere piú cose di ispirazione Emiliana nel blog, adoro quella cucina! Se hai suggerimenti… ;)
      Grazie per essere passata!!

  11. I love, love , love these photos!!! It is amazing how much useless junk people will invite in to their lives : )

  12. Before I start canning the wonderful artichokes I’ve just bought, I have one question: Why do I have to let it sit the artichokes for 24 hours? Is there a special reason?

    • Yes, there definitely is a reason! They are wrapped in a tea towel to drain as much excess moisture as possible, without drying out too much. They will remain soft and get rid of the extra acidity. There’s no need to go a full 24 hours, I think you can start canning after 12-15 hours too :)

  13. l’arte del conservare é qualcosa che appartiene al passato e che per fortuna tramandato da madre a figlia, come almeno, nel mio caso , viene mantenuto nel tempo e non é mai fuori moda, sopratutto in questi difficili periodi, sempre meglio é conservarsi le verdure da se che comprare quelli già pronti. Adoro i carciofi e aspetto quelli che ci arrivano qui dall’Italia per potermeli invasare proprio come hai fatto tu. Bravissima come sempre, no so se te ne rendi conto ma hai un grandissimo talento per la fotografia, sempre spledide sono :)

    un abbraccio!

  14. Like you already know, I made this treat. The beautiful jars are now sitting on the shelves developing their flavor, and I can’t wait to have a taste. So thank you again for the inspiration, sweet Valentina.

    I grew up in a home of preservers. Berries were freezed, or made into jam or juice; mushrooms were either dried or preserved in vinegar; herbs were freezed or dried. My great grandfather preserved vegetables but I don’t remember my mom continuing with that tradition. So yes, I’m a preserver as well, and as you said, I think it’s a good skill to know. I’ve never preserved anything in oil, which is, now that I think of it, quite weird. I buy things preserved in oil but I never make them at home! Well, I guess it’s because it never was made at my home. Nordic people haven’t had the abundance of oil as you Italians have so we’ve developed other methods of preserving which have then been adopted by later generations. I was so happy to learn this new preserving method and can’t wait to try it on other vegetables as well!

    xo, Sini

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  16. Valentina, Love this post! I live on the Monterey Bay coast of California (near Castroville, CA which calls itself the “Artichoke Capital of the World”… don’t know if its actually true tho!) and have been to lucky to have all the lovely farm stands loaded with artichokes at my disposal (I’d send them to Jennifer @ Delicious Everyday in Australia or Montana if there was a way! We are inundated with literally miles of artichokes farms here. I’ve bought 20 small artichokes for $1.00 too many times to count, with the thought of learning how to preserved them!!! But I’ve never done it because no recipe had hit my fancy until yours! I’m going right down to the farmers market today and get them and do it! Thanks!!! Vicki

    • Hey Vicki! Wow, that’s amazing! You live in a place with such GREAT produce (and weather)! Aaaah I miss Cali so much!If you can buy artichokes for such a small price you should definitely jar some! Let me know how it goes if you do!

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