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August 29, 2017

My Giardiniera "Recipe"

One of my favourite all-time snacks has got to be Italian Giardiniera. I grew up with the crispy, vinegary veggie preserve, quite often eating it directly out of a bowl, without any bread or accompaniment. Still to this day, in fact. 

Giardiniera can be made many different ways, with a variety of ingredients. It's typically made with a vinegar or oil base, and incorporates a bunch of different, seasonal vegetables. My grandmother often made her giardiniera with a medley of cauliflower, celery, carrot and hot or sweet banana peppers. Of course, she often put chunks of hot chilli pepper in there as well. But that's totally optional. In fact, a few years, she made a mild batch for me, and a hot batch for Donny.

A few years ago, I decided to start making my own. Every so often, people ask me for my recipe.

Here's the thing -- no recipe. Come on, you know me.

The good news is, for the last few years, every single batch of giardiniera turns out well. So here's' my advice: read a bunch of recipes online, find some commonalities, and make your own.

Here's a basic guideline:

  • Vinegar to Water ratio -- last year, we did a 2:1 white pickling vinegar to water ratio and it was sooooo vinegary. My husband loved it, but it was a bit much for me. Especially eating as a snack. This year, not only did I switch to Apple Cider Vinegar as per my mom's batch in 2016, I adjusted my ratio to equal parts vinegar and water. Whichever you use, you'll need about 5L of boiled liquid. As it comes to a boil, shut off the heat and it's ready to use. (5L will yield about 16 500ml jars)
  • Salt. You need salt. It's a preservative after all, and a natural one at that. Salt and vinegar are the only preservatives I use in my giardiniera. I put about a tbsp in each 500 ml jar.
  • Veggies -- Go for FRESH. Farm fresh if you can, and make it as soon as possible. I typically use one head of cauliflower chopped, about 20 carrots, peeled and chopped, one full stalk (bunch) of chopped celery, 10-15 sweet banana peppers, cut in chunks or rings. Last year, I was able to find pearl onions at the farm (cipolline), but this year they didn't have them yet. So instead, I sliced fresh onion, green beans and even added some crushed Ontario garlic. I only added onion and garlic to some of the jars cause that's an experiment! The chopping is also a great time to get the kids involved. We have a blunt chopper and the kids love to help.
  • To blanch or not to blanch? Again, up to you. I don't blanch my veggies. I don't have time. But many recipes suggest blanching. I prefer my veggies stay crispy.
  • Technique -- many recipes suggest you prep all the ingredients, toss into a bowl to mix and then add them to the jars. The result is a colourful array of veggies. This year, I opted to stack my veg, filling every little crevice before adding my liquid.

And so, a step-by-step guideline for a delicious giardiniera:
  1. Prep and chop all veggies. Mix into one large bowl or keep separate. Up to you.
  2. Add 1 tbsp of pickling salt to each 500ml jar. If you're using a bigger jar, use a bit more.
  3. Add veggies to the jars.
  4. Top with hot vinegar water liquid.
  5. Immediately seal with lid and ring. 
  6. When the jars are cool enough to handle, carefully place in a large pot full of water. Add tea towels to the pot to prevent shaking and breaking.
  7. Boil jars for 20 mins.
  8. Store in a cold cellar or pantry. Giardiniera will be ready in a couple of months. Once you open a jar, enjoy straight up, on crunchy bread, in a salad, in a sandwich or as a side. Some people add oil and other herbs, but we like it au natural. Once opened, refrigerate. Or consume the entire jar. That's what we do.

How do you make your giardiniera? I'd love to learn your technique!


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