Prep and steam the artichokes:
Put 1 inch of water and the pickling spice in a pot wide enough to hold all the artichokes. Set a steamer rack in the pot; it should rest just above the water, not touching it. Bring the water to a simmer over moderate heat.
Meanwhile, trim the artichokes. Slice off the stems (save them for steaming if you like) and rub the exposed base with the lemon half. With a serrated knife, cut across each artichoke top, removing the top third. With scissors, cut off the pointed tip of each leaf. Rub-the cut surfaces with lemon. Arrange the artichokes, stem end up, in the steamer. Cover the pot and adjust the heat so the water is at a simmer and the artichokes steam steadily. Cook-until a knife pierces the bottoms easily and an outside leaf pulls out easily, 30-to 45-minutes, depending on size. (Check occasionally to be sure the water hasn’t boiled away.) Drain, stem end up, on several layers of paper towel.
Make the dipping butter:
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Remove from the heat, add the lemon juice and salt. Taste and adjust the seasonings.
Serve the artichokes warm or at room temperature with dipping butter on the side. Pull off the outer leaves, dip them in butter, run your teeth across the tender bottom bit, and discard the leaf. When you get to the hairy choke, scoop it out and discard it. Cut up the bottom and dunk each piece in the dipping butter.
Melted Garlic Dipping Butter: Substitute 1 large clove garlic, minced, for the lemon juice. Add the garlic and salt to the melted butter and warm gently for a minute or two to release the garlic flavor. Taste and adjust the seasonings.
Melted Tarragon Dipping Butter: Subsitute 1 Tbs. chopped fresh tarragon for the lemon juice. Add the tarragon and salt to the melted butter and warm gently for a minute or two to release the herb's fragrance. Taste and adjust the seasonings.
Brown Butter: Omit the lemon juice. Put the butter and salt in a small saucepan and melt over medium-low heat. Continue to heat the butter, keeping an eye on it, until the milk solids in the bottom of the pan are medium brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Immediately take the pan off the heat and pour into another vessel to stop the cooking. Taste and adjust the seasonings.
nutrition information (per serving):
per artichoke with 1 Tbs. dipping butter;