The original giardiniera is a versatile mix of pickled vegetables that is served as part of an antipasto spread. Crunchy, colourful vegetables that remind you of a spring garden, it is a refreshing side to any charcuterie board of cheeses and salumi. Find out how to make this Italian giardiniera and learn how, with a little twist, you can turn it into the hot Chicago-style giardiniera to add as a relish on sandwiches, hot dogs, or any dish that can take a touch of spicy, crisp vegetables. Taste the clean, fresh flavours of giardiniera alongside Sanpellegrino Limonata, or mix up a Lemon Cardamom Sparkler that will elevate any simple social occasion.
Giardiniera in Italy, also called giardiniera sott’aceto (“in vinegar”), is one of the many preserved vegetable dishes that make use of vinegar or a mix of vinegar and oil, to keep fresh produce that can be enjoyed over the year.
Origins of the giardiniera are unclear, as it appears all over Italy and is so commonly found. An interesting story however is that of the giardiniera that is famous in the United States, referred to as the Chicago-style giardiniera, or hot giardiniera. This style of giardiniera, featuring hot jalapeno or serrano chilies, and smaller chopped vegetables is said to have been created by the Italian immigrants of the 1920s in Chicago. They brought the original vinegar-brined vegetables eaten as an antipasto in Italy, and turned it into a delicious condiment that has become a Chicago staple, found topping the windy city’s famous Italian beef sandwich.
Use good quality vinegar – and oil, if you are making the Chicago style hot giardiniera. Their flavours will determine the pickling solution and part onto the vegetables.
Follow the step-by-step guide below for the original Italian giardiniera recipe, or look further down for modifications for the Chicago hot giardiniera. Smaller pieces of vegetables plus a few simple additions such as jalapeno or serrano (or both if you dare), oregano, garlic will take you from a trattoria in Italy to an Italian American sandwich shop in Chicago. This of course is just one of the popular versions that Italians – whether in Italy or Chicago – like to make, and many variations exist. Experiment with different vegetables and marinade styles and find your favourite giardiniera recipe.
1. Combine the vinegar, wine, 450 mL water, salt, sugar, pepper and bay leaves in a large pot, bring to a boil.
2. Add carrots, celery and green beans and boil for 2 minutes, then add cauliflower florets, fennel, the bell peppers and let boil for a further 2 minutes before finally adding the rest of the vegetables to the pot, letting all the vegetables boil together for 2 more minutes.
3. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked vegetables to a colander to cool. Keep the cooking liquid – this will be the liquid in which the vegetables will be conserved. Strain and let cool.
4. Once the liquid has cooled to room temperature, start arranging your vegetables in sterilized jars. The above quantity should fill three 1L-capacity jars. Fill with the vinegar mix to make sure all the vegetables are immersed. Seal the jars and sterilise them, store in a cool, dark place for a couple of weeks until ready to serve. Once opened, consume within a couple of days.
For the Chicago-style hot giardiniera, follow the recipe above but cut the vegetables into smaller pieces (1-2 cm chunks) and also add 5-6 jalapeno or serrano chilies along with the last round of vegetables in the cooking stage. Whisk in 300 mL of oil to the cooled vinegar mixture and 1 tsp of chili flakes, 2 tsp dried oregano, 3 garlic cloves. Arrange the vegetables and oil-vinegar mix in jars as indicated.