Giardiniera, or mixed pickled vegetables, is usually referred to in Italy simply as sottaceti, literally meaning "under vinegar."
These often appear as part of a standard Italian antipasto misto, and they also work very well with boiled meats in the winter months.
This recipe will make about 2 1/2 pounds. It would be better to store it in several smaller jars, rather than one large one because the contents of an open jar lose their freshness. Select jars with lids that seal well, and (optional, but handy) the little plastic mesh depressors that keep the contents of a jar submerged.
Be sure to use a good-quality vinegar, for the best results and the ingredients can be varied (see below).
- 1 quart/1 liter white-wine vinegar (plus more, as needed)
- 1 to 2 bay leaves
- 2 to 3 whole cloves
- 1 teaspoon peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 medium-sized head cauliflower
- 10 ounces/250 g pearl onions (peeled and soaked in cold water for 1 hour)
- 10 ounces/250 g carrots (peeled and cut into rounds or sticks)
- 10 ounces/250 g celery (stripped of filaments and cut into small chunks)
- Pour the vinegar into a large, non-reactive pot (such as stainless steel, glass, or enameled cast iron—do not use an aluminum or uncoated iron or cast-iron pot to avoid unpleasantly metallic-tasting, not to mention unhealthy, pickles) and set over high heat with the bay leaves, cloves, peppercorns, and salt and bring to a boil.
- Meanwhile, separate the cauliflower into florets.
- When the vinegar comes to a boil, add the cauliflower, onions, carrots, and celery. Lower the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes.
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked vegetables to the sterilized jars and pour the hot vinegar over them. (Have more boiling-hot vinegar handy in case you need more to top off the jars.)
- Seal the jars tightly and let them cool. Store them in a cool, dark place for a couple of weeks, and they're ready for use.
- The giardiniera should have a shelf life of 1 year.
The vegetables listed in this recipe are the standard, most common ones, but you can add other things to suit your taste, for example mushrooms, green beans, zucchini, cucumbers, hot peppers, or artichoke hearts. Feel free to experiment with the spices as well—mustard seeds would work well in this recipe.
How Giardiniera Is Eaten
Italian-American versions, rather than being eaten alone or as part of a mixed antipasto platter, are often used as condiments for other dishes, such as sandwiches and hot dogs, and are often made spicier with the addition of hot chile peppers.