Jerusalem artichokes are wonderful, knobby, difficult to clean tubers that are easy to find in the northwest this time of year at farmers markets. They are not artichokes (although they taste a bit like artichokes, hence the name and confusion) and they have no particular connection with Jerusalem (Italians called them Girasole, Italian for sunflower, which sounded like Jerusalem to English speakers, which leads to more confusion still). In an effort to reduce confusion, some folks have started calling them Sunchokes (because their flowers look a bit like sunflowers ), which has probably led to more confusion. If you prefer, you can call them Helianthus tuberosus, but I wouldn’t because your friends will probably give you a hard time. In any case, try smashing some in with your mashed potatoes, or add them to a mix of root veg for roasting, or make cream of sunchoke soup. Or, try my new favorite trick: Jerusalem artichoke pickles.
They are really tasty, and stay extremely crispy. They make a good conversation piece if you set some out for company, they are novel gifts, and we recently used them in place of cucumber pickles in turkey sandwiches. The idea came from a book I got Talley for Christmas called The Joy of Pickling: 250 Flavor-Packed Recipes for Vegetables and More from Garden or Market. It’s a mouthful of a subtitle, but a really good book (she has a recipe for pickled nasturtium pods that I intend to try asap, and pickled whole blueberries which she says are an interesting stand-in for cranberry sauce at thanksgiving). We diluted the vinegar ratio from the original recipe because we found it to be a bit much, and added more spice, but that’s the fun of pickling – it’s infinitely plastic and customizable.
Pickled Jerusalem Artichokes
- 1½ pounds Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed and sliced ¼-inch thick
- ¼ cup plus 1 tsp pickling salt
- 1 quart water
- 4 thin slices fresh ginger
- 2 large garlic cloves, sliced
- 2 small dried hot peppers such as japones or de arbol
- ½ tsp whole corriander seeds
- 1 or 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp whole cumin seeds
- 1⅓ cups cider vinegar
- ⅔ cup water
- 3 Tbsp light brown sugar
Put the artichokes into a bowl. Stir ¼ cup salt into 1 quart water until the salt dissolves and pour the brine over the artichokes. It’s important to use pickling salt rather that regular old salt, you should be able to find it at a grocery store without difficulty. Let them stand at room temperature for 12 to 18 hours.
Drain the artichokes, rinse, and drain again.
Divide the ginger, garlic, hot peppers, coriander and cumin evenly between two pint mason jars or 8 4-oz jars (a good size for gift pickles). Add the artichokes. In a sauce pan, bring to a boil the vinegar, ⅔ cup water, sugar, and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Pour the hot liquid over the artichokes, leaving ½-inch headspace. Close the jars with two-piece caps. Process the jars for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath.
Store the cooled jars in a cool, dark, dry place for at least 3 weeks before eating. After opening the jar, store in the refrigerator.
Makes two pints