IT’S SPRING! Oh man. Spring, how I’ve waited for you. Can we be best friends? Okay, maybe not, but can I at least try to jar you up and save you? Forever and ever and ever?! *siiiiiiigh* I don’t know, maybe winter just felt too long this year, maybe I’m just in an overly romantic mood since I’m only married for about, oh, 10 days… whatever it is, it feels so good to have SPRING here. It’s been an unseasonably cold spring so far, but this week it’s supposed to be in the high 60°’s F. Exciting!
Spring means summer is coming. Summer means sunshine, longer days, and veggies. Fresh from the garden.
A lot of people hear the word “giardiniera” and cringe. In Italian families, it’s often taken for granted and force-fed to you. It’s also most commonly found crammed flavorlessly into mass-produced jars in an aisle in the supermarket. But it doesn’t have to be that way! We can take it back!
Not to get all Norma Rae, but for real. Giardinera can be a delicious and wonderful way to preserve and make use of any extra veggies you may have, or just ones you want to use to create a beautiful looking jar. Giardiniera means pickled vegetables, or pickled “garden” (giardino). It’s also known as “sottaceti”; or “under vinegar,” which basically leaves it open to a lot of interpretation. So you can use really any mixture of vegetables that strike your fancy. It doesn’t even have to resemble a traditional giardiniera!
Is that not beautiful?
There is no reason it has to be flavorless, or boring, either. But I’ll get to that in a second.
See, I love pickling. And giardiniera is pickled veggies. No dill- just vinegar and garlic and black pepper and salt. I also love doing “quick pickles” or fridge pickles, which don’t require canning and don’t require a vinegar with 5% acidity. This means you can expand your flavor horizon- use a nice red or white wine vinegar, or a rice vinegar for an Asian spin. There is no reason it has to be boring… or even traditional.
And no- radishes and asparagus are not quite in season here yet, so I totally bought *gasp* NON-LOCAL. I know, I know, throw me to the wolves. Whatever.
Of course, you can totally use the traditional vegetables: cauliflower, zucchini, red Bell pepper, carrot. It’s up to you! Mix & match!
QUICK GARDEN MIX “GIARDINIERA”
- 1 large Bell pepper, color of your choice (I chose yellow) cut into rings or strips
- 3-5 carrots, peeled and cut into desired shape (matchstick, slices, etc) and also blanched
- 1 bunch fresh radishes, sliced on the thinner side but not super thin (don’t use a mandoline) or whole if you’re making two separate jars like me
- 1 small head cauliflower (*optional!)
- 1 small bunch fresh cilantro (or fresh herb of choice; basil, dill, etc), washed and dried
- 1/2 lb. asparagus, also blanched and cut into pieces
- 1 teaspoon pickling spice (*optional!)
- 1 small clove of garlic, smashed
- 1 small shallot, sliced (*optional!)
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh black pepper
- 2 teaspoons pickling or canning salt
- 1/2 teaspoon white sugar
- 2 cups white vinegar or vinegar of choice (red wine, white wine, rice, etc)
- 2/3 cup water
- Make sure that your “hard” veggies are blanched; flash-cooked in boiling water for 5 minutes and then plunked into an ice bath to stop the cooking. We don’t want them soggy, we want them crunchy, but not 100% raw. Put them aside in bowls. You can do this a day ahead and pop ’em in the fridge.
- Sterilize your jars. Always sterilize more jars than you think you need. Even if you’re aiming for one pint, you might end up with more veggies and brine and who wants to waste that!? Set aside.
- In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine water, vinegar, sugar, black pepper, garlic and salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat, cover and boil gently for 5 minutes, until the spices have infused the liquid.
- Pack your vegetables in the jar(s). Do it carefully and thoughtfully, don’t just cram them in so they start snapping and breaking. I like to arrange mine in a pretty way, kind of like in color order, also because I know the radish color will eventually begin to bleed and turn the other veggies pink (fun!). Tuck the fresh herb bunch around the side or lay on top. Fill up two jars or one HUGE one- whatever you prefer.
- Pour your hot brine in leaving 1/2″ headspace. You’re not canning these, so there’s no need to soften your lids in hot water, etc, etc. Close lid and when jar cools, pop it into the fridge. Let it sit for anywhere from 3-7 days before eating.
I made two jars: one with sliced radish, carrot and yellow bell pepper with garlic and cilantro. The other with whole radish and cut up asparagus, with pickling spice and garlic. If you’re itching to try other flavor combos, then follow your nose to this post I made last year. Tons & tons of inspiration and ideas in that post! And for a traditional Giardiniera, go here, to this post.