Homemade antipasti anyone? It’s giardiniera time!

This is the moment to be frugal. To save for the future. To enjoy the little pleasures in life. We’re in between seasons, so the late-winter cauliflower is still tasty, and the spring vegetables like carrots, beans and peppers are starting to really have flavor, so it’s the perfect time to make giardinieria! This is the mix of pickled vegetbales that is often served together with cheese and prosciutto to make an antipasti plate what it is, but it is usually store-bought and pretty forgettable.

Italian pickled vegetables
my homemade pickled vegetables

But if you make it yourself, either as a quick pickle or properly canned to enjoy throughout the year, it is a totally different beast. It is memorable. It will take your tastebuds on a ride they’ll never forget. You’ll pine for more when you finish a jar.

The term comes from “giardino”, which means garden, so the idea is that giardiniera is simply a mix of seasonal vegetables from you garden, which would traditionally be pickled and canned so they could last through the year. So you can really make this with whatever “crunchy” vegetables are in season – zucchini, eggplant, or even mushrooms.

Once again, many thanks are due to the multitudes of Tuscan cooks who have shared their recipes for giardiniera with me over the years. I’ve tried a gazillion different versions, and this is my favorite.

INGREDIENTS FOR GIARDINIERA

makes about 12 pint-size jars

  • 1 lb. shallots
  • 1 lb. green beans or broad beans
  • 2 lbs. carrots
  • 3 bell peppers
  • 1 large head cauliflower
  • 2 tbs whole black peppercorns
  • 12 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 12 bay leaves optional
  • 1.5 L. white wine
  • 1.5 L. white-wine vinegar
  • 150 g. salt (1/2 cup)
  • 150 g. white sugar (3/4 cup)
  • 12 mason jars – pint size
  • 500 ml extra-virgin olive oil

INSTRUCTIONS FOR GIARDINIERA

Sterilize your jars and lids and set aside. You can boil them the old-fashioned (read “time-consuming”) way, or use a bleach sanitizing wash*.

Wash (and peel) all of the vegetables. Set each one aside in its own bowl.

Cauliflower: cut the florets apart, leaving the small ones whole, and dividing the larger ones into 2 or 3 parts.

Carrots: peel, trim ends, and cut into strips that are 1/4-inch wide and 2-inches long.

Peppers: cut into 2-inch long strips.

Beans: trim ends and snap into 2-inch long pieces

Shallots: keep small ones whole and cut large ones into 2 or 3 pieces vertically (try not to cut too much off the bottom so it is clean, but will still hold the layers together when cut )

Put your vinegar, wine, sugar and salt in a large pot and bring to a boil. Transfer about 1/3 of the liquid to another pot. This is because we will be cooking the carrots, peppers and beans in the large pot, and shallots and cauliflower in the other pot because they can make the pickling liquid stinky!

canning pot
the finished product

Put the carrots in the large pot of boiling liquid, cover the pot, and as soon as it reaches a boil again, take the carrots out with a mesh strainer spoon and lay on a clean surface to let them cool. Then put the beans in the pot, cover, bring the liquid to a boil, immediately strain the beans out and let cool. Repeat with the peppers. *Do not throw out the liquid – you will be using this!*

In the other pot (with 1/3 of the boiling liquid) add the shallots, cover and as soon as the liquid starts to boil again, strain and lay out to cool. Repeat in this pot with the cauliflower.

Let the remaining liquid from the big pot cool to room temperature. Then take a whisk (or electric beaters) and slowly pour the olive oil into the liquid, whisking or beating as you pour to try to emulsify the oil with the liquid as much as possible.

Now put 1 bay leaf, 1 garlic clove, and 6 or 7 peppercorns ( or 50 – the more the better!) into each jar. Fill with your pickled vegetables until you reach 3/4 of an inch from the top. Pour the olive-oil and cooking liquid on top, leaving 1/2 inch between the liquid and the lid. Gently tap the jars so any air bubbles can escape, and close tightly with the lids.

If you’re going the quick pickle route, refrigerate immediately and eat it up within 2 weeks. If you want to keep this in your pantry for up to a year, then follow these canning instructions.

Place a clean rag or dish towel in a large canning pot and then place a row of jars on top – if your pot is large enough for two rows, then place another towel on and around the jars, and carefully place the next row of jars on top, being careful that the glass part of the jars are not touching. Fill with cold water, cover, and bring to a boil. Once the water has boiled for 10 minutes, remove the pot from the burners and let it sit overnight, or until the water in the pot has reached room temperature. Now you can take your jars out of the water and admire your finished product! When processed this way, the giardiniera is best if you let it sit for 3-4 weeks before opening.

*For the bleach sanitizing wash: This works if your jars and lids are already clean and just need to sterilize. You can dilute 1 tbs unscented bleach in 1 gallon of cold water, and then fill each jar half-way with this wash, put the lid on tight and shake it around, and leave upside down for 15 minutes. Then pour out the bleach wash, give a quick rinse in clean water, dry your lids and you are ready to go.

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