IT WAS JUST BEFORE LUNCHTIME IN A BIG CONSERVAS FACTORY IN NAVARRA AND THE WOMEN ON THE ASPARAGUS LINE WERE WAITING FOR THE BELL. WITH HANDS LIKE LIGHTNING THEY CLEANED, TRIMMED, STACKED AND PACKED SCORES OF DIFFERENT TYPES OF TINS AND JARS OF WHITE ASPARAGUS. THE BIG SPEARS WENT INTO THE BIG TINS AND THE LITTLE ONES STOOD UP IN GLASS JARS. SEEING THE WOMEN STANDING IN THE STEAM WITH THEIR GLOVES AND HATS, I COULDN’T HELP THINKING OF LAVERNE & SHIRLEY. THE WAREHOUSE WAS LIKE A GALLERY: ROWS OF HAND-MADE PIECES OF ART. BUT IT WAS THE CONSERVED MIXED VEGETABLES THAT REALLY GOT ME. CAREFULLY LAID OUT IN ROWS AND LAYERS, THE JARS LOOKED MORE LIKE ENTRIES IN THE LOCAL AGRICULTURAL SHOW THAN COMMERCIAL PRODUCTS. IT WAS EXPLAINED TO ME THAT THEY WERE INDEED DESTINED FOR DISPLAY, ALBEIT IN RETAIL SPACES-AND NOT SURPRISINGLY THEY ALSO TASTED VERY GOOD.
Wash and sterilise two
Pour the juice of one lemon into a large bowl of water. Working one at a time and using a small sharp knife, slice off most of the stem and the top one-third to half of the top. Pull off the tough outer leaves to reveal the soft, pale yellow inner leaves, then peel the stem and slice the artichoke lengthways into quarters. Using a teaspoon, scoop out and discard the hairy choke. Place in the acidulated water and repeat with the remaining artichokes.
Working from the top, cut the green beans so they come to about
Dissolve the salt in
Cook the vegetables, including the peas, in batches in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until just tender. Drain, then refresh in iced water and drain again. Lay the jars on their sides and arrange the vegetables so they will be upright when the jars are standing up. Cover with the salted lemon water, then place a small plastic insert on top of the vegetables to keep them submerged. Seal the jars.
Place an old plate on the bottom of a large heavy-based saucepan. Place the jars on the plate and transfer to the stovetop. Fill with enough cold water to cover the jars, then turn the heat to high. When the temperature reaches 80°C (175°F), reduce the heat and adjust it to keep the temperature at roughly 80°C (175°F) for 30 minutes.
Carefully remove the jars from the water and allow to cool. Store in a cool, dry place for up to 6 months. Once opened, the vegetables will keep, refrigerated, for 2-3 days.
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