We’ve been buying giardiniera (jar-din-AIR-uh) Italian pickled vegetables for years. But, after making these, I will always make it at home.
This recipe has a lot of variations to suit your taste or cravings. Vegetables that can be made into giardiniera include cauliflower, carrots, bell peppers (of all colors), onion and celery. Flavor adding garlic or jalapeños, or other peppers like peperoncinis, may be added, too. Spices you can add to the veggie mix range from coriander seeds (or even ground coriander), whole peppercorns, mustard seeds and red chili flakes to oregano, fennel seeds, or bay leaf. I say you can use ground spices if you are in a pinch – it might make the liquid cloudy, though I find the spices mostly fall to the bottom of the jar. If you are making these for at home, who cares if the liquid is cloudy? (Not me.)
I couldn’t find coriander seeds to save my life (during the pandemic and I’m not going to a ton of stores for this), so I used ground coriander and it was perfect. I also used peperoncini’s from a jar, already pickled. You can also add jarred olives or pickled jalapeños. Do what is easiest for you, this is one of those “you can’t go wrong” kind of recipes.
The beautiful thing is you can make these time and time again, using different herb and spice blends each time. Be sure to write down what you add each time, so you can repeat it when you love it!
In addition to pickling a variety of vegetables, you can pickle just one vegetable alone, or a couple of your favorites. Love pickled carrots? Make a jar of carrots. Just remember that each 24-ounce jar needs about 3-1/8 cups of vegetables, or 6-1/4 cups of cut veggies for two 24-ounce jars.
This recipe calls for pickling salt, again, due to the regular salt clouding up the liquid. I couldn’t find any pickling salt locally, so I used kosher salt I had on hand. I didn’t see any clouding effect from the kosher salt.
Before putting the veggies into jars, you soak them in salty water in a “non-reactive” bowl or pan. “Reactive” and “nonreactive” refer to the type of material used to make your container. Aluminum, cast iron, and copper are reactive. Stainless steel, ceramic, glass and metal cookware with enamel coating are all nonreactive. The soaking removes some water from the veggie pieces and keeps them crunchy.
Though I’ve seen recommendations for soaking the veggies in salt water for at least six hours, I soaked mine for three hours only. The crispiness and saltiness were perfect.
When pickling veggies, the rule is that you must have equal amounts of vinegar and water. You can have more vinegar, but you can never use less vinegar than water. Always make enough vinegar, water and salt (1 tablespoon salt per cup of water) to cover the tops of the vegetables in your container.
You might want to use a canning funnel when pouring the water into the jars. I used mine, although I forgot I was using it and ended up pouring the pickling liquid directly into the second jar. Using wide mouth jars makes the pouring easier, too.
Since this isn’t a “canning” recipe, you can make giardiniera in any non-reactive container that has an airtight lid and can take the heat of boiling water.
Use giardiniera as an appetizer, a side vegetable, or on a charcuterie platter. They can be chopped small to add to pizzas, used as vegan hot dog toppings, or added to sandwiches and salads. Giardiniera is popular in Chicago (though they add oil to theirs) and in New Orleans.
You will want to leave the jars in the refrigerator for 3 days before opening them. The pickled vegetables will stay good refrigerated for up to two weeks.
You might enjoy some of my other homemade condiments recipes.