We’re social distancing, but no reason for vegetables to do that! One of the best ways for them to mingle is the Italian garden medley called giardiniera. Your pickled vegetable choices are many: cauliflower, carrots, baby cucumbers, fennel, celery, bell peppers, beets, radishes.
I love pickled vegetables, but don’t want them to be overly salty or taste harshly of vinegar. My giardiniera carries a gentle tang without overpowering the taste buds. It’s made with generous amounts of lovely seasonings such as juniper berries, garlic and peppercorns.
I don’t have the need or space to preserve seasonal vegetables for winter. Instead, I leave them in the pickling solution for several days to build flavor, and then we eat the giardiniera over a period of about 10 days. It’s easiest, with all these vegetables, to make a sizeable batch. One jar stays at home and the remaining two go to family members or friends.
Making giardiniera wasn’t top of mind until I heard that our grandsons have taken to pickled vegetables. Unusual for little ones two and four years old, but definitely to be encouraged!
Our son-in-law told them my giardiniera was dessert. I doubt they were fooled, but they like it and so do the rest of us.
In Emilia-Romagnia, pickled vegetables are a foil for the fatty flavors of the region’s cured meats and cheeses. It’s also an ideal picnic food with, say, roast chicken, fruit and brownies.
I cut the veggies in larger pieces so they can be used as a side. Giardiniera also makes a delightful condiment for grilled sandwiches or quesadillas, and if that’s the plan, I chop the pieces smaller.
Keep a jar or two on hand and you’ll doubtless think of other delicious uses for giardiniera.
Old-fashioned Mason jars are the perfect way to show off your homemade Italian-style pickles. This gentle pickling solution brings out the best in almost any garden vegetable, from baby cucumbers to carrots to fennel. With veggies cut in large chunks, giardiniera serves as a side for many dishes, Chopped finer, it turns into a condiment for sandwiches or quesadillas.
- 1 head cauliflower
- 1 pound carrots
- 1 pound baby cucumbers
- 1 medium red, yellow or green bell pepper
- 1 small fennel bulb or 2 ribs celery
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2 cups white vinegar
- 2 cups cider vinegar
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt or sea salt
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 teaspoons peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon juniper berries or whole cloves optional
- 1 small fresh hot pepper halved and seeded, or ½ teaspoon hot red pepper, optional
Cut cauliflower in florets and similar-sized stem pieces. Halve carrots lengthwise if large; angle cut in 2-inch pieces. Cut cucumbers and bell pepper in similar-sized pieces. Cut fennel in thin wedges. Halve garlic cloves and peel.
Combine white vinegar and cider vinegar with 3 cups water in a large saucepan. Stir in garlic, sugar, salt, bay leaves, peppercorns, juniper berries and hot pepper (if using) and bring to a boil; stir, making sure sugar and salt dissolve.
Reserving cucumber pieces, add cauliflower, carrots, bell pepper and fennel to boiling liquid, pressing to submerge vegetables. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Add cucumbers and simmer 5 minutes longer. Vegetables should be crisp-tender at this point. Remove from heat and cool in saucepan, uncovered.
Transfer vegetables and seasonings to mason jars or ceramic containers, dividing evenly. Pour liquid over, making sure ingredients are covered (if not, add equal parts vinegar and water). Let cure in refrigerator for several days to develop flavor; keeps 2 weeks or probably longer.
To serve: Remove quantity of vegetables you plan to use with a slotted spoon, leaving pickling liquid in the jar.
• Beets would taste great with the other vegetables, but unless you want them all tinted pink, pickle the beets separately and combine at serving time.
• If you want to store pickled vegetables for a longer period, process the mason jars in a water bath, following directions for canning.