Okay, I won’t lie, in my house, we’re a little less than patient for spring to really be here. Thinking about warm weather makes me think of grilling, which in turn makes me think about condiments. About a year ago, I discovered my new favorite: giardiniera.
In traditional Italian cuisine, this is simply a medley of pickled veggies, such as carrots, cauliflower, mild peppers, and beans soaked in salt and vinegar. What I’m talking about, though, is actually a variety that originated in Chicago: some of the veggies above with a healthy dose of hot peppers, soaked in brine and then oil. This type of giardiniera can is often found as an option to top Italian beef sandwiches, but adding it to most any sandwich/burger/sausage is tasty. Or steak or chicken. Or fish or eggs…or anything, really. Also, it’s quite easy to make as home, allowing you to put your own unique twist on it. Last summer, I tried my hand at making giardiniera, and just a few days ago emptied the last jar of that batch—time to make more!
Wanting to make my own, rather than just buying the standard, simple options from a big box store, I did my research into recipes, and opted to synthesize ideas from a handful. I used this one from Jeff Mauro, but some of my additions or changes are below.
- 1 cup small-diced carrots
- 1 cup tiny cauliflower florets
- 4 to 8 serrano peppers, sliced into rings (depending on how much heat you want)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 stalk celery, diced small
- 1 red bell pepper, diced small
- 1/4 cup salt
- 1/4 cup diced olives (I used a plain green, but any of the olives we sell by the deli would work well)
- ~2 cups olive oil or olive/canola blend, though most any cooking oil will work.
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano or Italian seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Prep is easy, though a tad time consuming if you decide to make a large batch, like I did today.
- Slice the serranos into coins (leaving in all that wonderful spice of seeds) and dice the rest of the veg up nice and small—getting the carrots cut up took the longest, but having big chunks isn’t ideal in the finished product.
- In a non-reactive bowl, pour on the salt and add enough water to the bowl to just cover everything. Give this a couple good stirs and let it sit in the fridge for a day or two.
- After the soak time, drain in a colander and rinse well—the first time I did this, I didn’t rinse as well as I had thought and ended up with a saltier batch than anticipated.
- Toss the pepper and veggie mixture with fresh ground black pepper and whatever herbs you want to use, and spoon it into mason jars.
- Add enough oil to the jars to cover, close ‘em up, and let sit for another day to fully marinate.
While most recipes I’ve seen suggest using your fresh giardiniera within a few weeks, I’ve not had any problem with leaving my not-in-use jars at the far back of the fridge—the cold here might solidify the oil (which makes it pretty easy to spread, actually), but a few minutes at room temperature liquefies it pretty quickly.
Like most anything by way of homemade condiments, giardiniera lends itself well to personalization. Want some extra heat? Toss in some red pepper flakes or a little of your favorite hot sauce. If you’re a fan of smokey flavors like this guy, try substituting some of the regular salt with the applewood smoked salt that we have available in both packaged grocery and bulk herbs (I tried this this time around—haven’t tasted it yet, but brining in smoked salt certainly imbued the veg mix with the aroma!). If your household prefers more mild flavors, nix the serranos in favor of sweet peppers. Grab some small jars and use this as homemade gifts for family and friends—if you can bring yourself to sharing!
Ben Zamora-Weiss is a staff member and blogger for Mississippi Market’s Eat Local Challenge. As mentioned above, you’ll also find him at the Selby store keeping the shelves stocked with the best locally baked breads we can find.