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.
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.
• 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.