January is for Giardiniera

giardiniera-jars

Nothing beats the cold crunch of giardiniera on a blustery January day. I don’t know what it is exactly about this ubiquitous Italian mixed pickle ~ the tumble of vibrant colors, the peppery spices, the sharp tang of vinegar ~ but I always crave it at this time of year. My guess is that my is body simply telling me, “Basta with the Pandoro and Christmas cookies.

You can find jars of giardiniera on any supermarket or deli shelf. But those will never be as good as the giardiniera you make yourself. Homemade giardiniera is crisp and assertive without being abrasive (as commercially produced versions tend to be).

giardiniera-ingredients

I usually make giardiniera in late fall, before my little local farmers’ market closes for the season. As much as I want to dig in right away, I try to let it cure for at least a month or two, so that all the ingredients and flavors ~ the vegetables, the spices, the vinegar ~ have a chance to mix and mellow. By January it’s just right.

Don’t worry if you missed the boat on the fall vegetables. Even now when winter is in full swing, you can still make an excellent batch of giardiniera. Most winter markets carry a range of cold-weather vegetables ~ cauliflower, carrots, onions. The rest you can find at the grocery store. You don’t have to wait two months, but do let the giardiniera cure for at least a week before cracking open a jar.

This recipe, based on my mom’s, is meant to be tampered with, by which I mean adapted to your own taste. I use a minimal amount of sugar because I enjoy the sour brine, but I know there are others who prefer giardiniera that is more agro-dolce (sweet and sour). You can also play around with the mix of vegetables, and with the type of vinegar ~ generally I use white wine vinegar and distilled white vinegar, but cider vinegar works too, and has an appealing fruity flavor. Just steer clear from red wine or balsamic vinegar, as they will muddy the color of the brine. And please don’t reduce the amount of vinegar ~ the acid is a necessary component to preserving the vegetables and making them shelf-stable.

If the idea of water-bath canning puts you off, skip that part and just refrigerate the pickles; they will last at least a couple of months in the fridge. Canning them properly, though, will give them a longer shelf life; they will last up to a year (after that they will start to lose their crispy texture).

 

giardiniera-fork-edit

Serve giardiniera with a wide range of foods; it makes an excellent cheese platter garnish. It cuts the richness of winter stews, sausages, and roasts. I love it with eggs, especially cheese frittatas and runny poached or fried eggs. I also like to chop it finely and add it to hard-boiled egg stuffing. And it makes a surprisingly good topping for cheesy pizza.

Makes 3 quarts

Classic Giardiniera

Giardiniera ~ mixed garden vegetables in vinegary brine ~ is probably Italy's most popular pickle. If the bottled supermarket version of giardiniera is your only reference, you are in for a happy surprise. Homemade giardiniera is much more appealing, crunchy and assertive without being abrasive. This recipe is from Preserving Italy: Canning, Curing, Infusing, and Bottling Italian Flavors and Traditions (2016 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

Ingredients

  • Ingredients
  • 1 medium head cauliflower (1 1/2 pounds), separated into florets
  • 1 pound young carrots, sliced on the bias if large, left whole or sliced in half lengthwise if small
  • 8 ounces pearl or small cipollini onons, peeled
  • 6 to 7 ounces green beans, sliced into 2-inch lengths (2 cups)
  • 4 large celery stalks, sliced on the bias into 2-inch lengths (2 cups)
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored, trimmed, sliced into thin strips
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, cored, trimmed, sliced into thin strips
  • 2 cups white wine vinegar
  • 2 cups distilled white vinegar
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons fine sea salt
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red chile pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole juniper berries
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • Equipment
  • 3 sterilized 1-quart jars or six 1-pint jars, and their lids
  • Basic water-bath canning equipment (see NOTES)

Instructions

1. Have the vegetables prepped and ready. Combine the vinegars, water, salt, sugar, peppercorns, crushed red pepper, cloves, juniper berries, and bay leaves in a large pot and bring to a boil. Add all the vegetables and stir. Cover the pot and let the vegetables steep, still on the heat, for 1 minute. Turn off the heat and, with a skimmer or large slotted spoon, transfer the vegetables to a bowl.

2. Add 2 tablespoons oil to each quart jar or 1 tablespoon to each pint jar. Pack the vegetables into the jars, adding a mix of each vegetable and some of the spices to each jar. Pour the hot brine over the vegetables, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Use a bubble remover to dislodge any air bubbles. Screw the lids on tightly and process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath. (Alternatively, fill the jars as directed, screw on the lids, let cool to room temperature, then store in the refrigerator.)

3. Store sealed processed jars in a cool, dark place and let the giardiniera cure for at least 1 week before serving (1 month is better if you can be patient). It will keep for up to 1 year. Refrigerate any jars that failed to seal properly and enjoy those first.

NOTES
You can find detailed instructions on water-bath canning in Preserving Italy, and also online at sites such as PickYourOwn.org.

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16 Responses to January is for Giardiniera

  1. David January 5, 2017 at 4:23 pm #

    When we first got your book, Mark’s first question was, “Is there a recipe for Giardiniera in there?” It is his favorite! Now that he has seen your post, I think I will be making some in Gianuary!

    • Domenica Marchetti January 6, 2017 at 9:22 am #

      Ha! I almost spelled Gianuary that way in the title of this post. I’ll bet you can still get lots of good veggies at this time of year in your part of the world. Enjoy!

  2. familystylefoodkaren January 5, 2017 at 6:06 pm #

    Happy new year Domenica! Your new book has inspired me for months now. I always think of giardiniera as a summertime pickle, but crunchy, tangy bites are always a good thing. I actually have everything on hand to make this, except for green beans.

  3. Marilena @ marilenaskitchen.com January 5, 2017 at 9:58 pm #

    Those colors, against your bright green tiles look incredible – what a great photo!
    I will definitely try to make this recipe Domenica!

    • Domenica Marchetti January 6, 2017 at 9:23 am #

      Thank you Marilena. I love that green tile, too. Let me know if you try the giardiniera. xo

  4. ciaochowlinda January 5, 2017 at 10:54 pm #

    Your giardiniera looks so festive. I did not make any this summer, but you have me thinking of my next snowy day project. I can just imagine eating them with charcuterie and a cheese platter.

    • Domenica Marchetti January 6, 2017 at 9:25 am #

      Yes, exactly. Now we just need a snowy day ~ it’s cold here in VA, but no snow.

  5. Aaron Turpin January 6, 2017 at 5:02 am #

    Thanks for the post Domenica – a great reminder of how good home-made giardiniera is. I used to make this often in late summer with veg from my garden but in recent years have made piccalilli instead. I think next year I’ll go back to giardiniera. Just wishing I had a jar now…

  6. pblevitt January 6, 2017 at 6:43 pm #

    Giardiniere brings back memories of my Zia who prepared neatly packed jars and arranged them on shelves in her NY basement. You are absolutely correct, nothing compares to Giardiniere fatto a casa.

  7. Frank Fariello January 15, 2017 at 9:59 am #

    What at treat. I put up some giardiniera this year myself but I should have made more. It’s already gone!

  8. elisa January 17, 2017 at 4:30 pm #

    I like to chop the giardiniera and add it to potato salad, with T.J’s mayo, lots of it!

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