08 September 2008

Giardiniera for a crowd

I've been wanting to do a post on this much loved Italian antipasti for over a year now, but have only now gotten around to it now that it's canning season again. If you've ever had the grocery store variety and liked it you should really love this recipe. Store bought types lack that certain flavorfulness that I am always been in pursuit of and find most commercial ones really lacking in real flavor. Ever since I had my Mom's and grandmother's home canned pickles, I've been making my own for years. It was a bit of a bitter pill when I realized that Italians for the most part aren't very keen on dill or bread and butter pickles, although I did find some cukes in the market last year and make a wonderful batch of each, but that seems to be an exception. I have to look pretty hard for pickling cukes and our mountain garden just can't turn out enough for even a small batch, sigh.
Oh well, giardinera is a versatile wonderful substitute and is much loved in this family. This belongs to the broad termed variety of dishes called agrodolce, which loosely translates to sweet and vinegary, sort of like bread and butter pickles, if you are familiar with those.
My mother-in-law, Egle, gave me her recipe when I was still working at the art school and I used it to make up some to use for a quick antipasti or on a buffet. I have another recipe from a local Tuscan neighbor that I used also. Along the way, of course, I modified it to my taste, as I'm sure you will too. It never comes out the same as I tend to add or subtract different items as I have things on hand. I now usually make a batch or two to put away for the winter when the family celery or cauliflower is ready and supplement other items from the market vendors. This year we had some wonderful tiny onions to add in as well.
You can make this to use for a large gathering and I think you will find it disappears quickly. Just remember to make it at least two days ahead for the flavors to meld. I preserve this in small batches and this amount yields about 6 pints. I find myself forever confused with what measurement to use having all the different measurements to choose from all my different sources and experiences. My mother-in-law uses bicchiere or glasses as her measurement which is pretty much along the lines as an American cup. I now only have a digital scale that measures in grams/kilos so if you find my measurements confusing, then welcome to my world.
This a rough estimate on all and you definitely need to taste your mixture as you go along and adjust to suit yourself. Egle use to always tell me that my giardinera was redder and sweeter than hers, but this year she said she had gone a bit sweeter and redder and she thought she liked it better. We still have to see what Dante, my father-in-law, says, as he's the consummate traditionalist wen it comes to Piemontese food. So far, so good. I think he has approved this years batch. Try if for your family if you haven't already and I think you'll be making it again too sometime.

Egle’s Giardiniera


1-2 celery (500 g), sliced into half moons
6-8 carrots (500 g), diced
1 -2 heads of cauliflower (1-1 ½ kg) small flowerettes, dice stem
(4 ¼ lb (2 kg) in total, approximately)
½ cup or so olives, black and green
3 T capers
These are the essential ingredients.
I have listed some other possibilities if they strike your fancy, or if, like me, you have a few odds and ends of things that you prefer.
My giardinera varies from year to year.

¾-1 liter olive oil
1 ½ -2 cup vinegar
¼ c sugar or to your taste
¼ c tomato paste
4 sliced garlic cloves
4 whole cloves
2 bay leaves
2 tsp salt, if you use very salty water to blanch the vegetable, you might cut back a little

Optional additions
tiny onions
green beans
mushrooms, this can only be fresh porcini for local purists

6 Hot sterilized pint jars, if preserving for later


Was and cut all of your raw vegetable into similar sized pieces.
Gather together all of the assorted additions and have them all ready to add.
Bring some salted water to a boil to steam or blanch all of your raw vegetables,
including the onions and mushrooms.
You want to make sure to stop any bacterial growth by this step.
Olives, capers and other already tinned or processed food doesn’t need to be blanched as it has already gone through this process.

Prepare your agrodolce marinade, like you would a vinaigrette, whilst your water is coming to a boil to blanch the vegetables .
Use a fairly large bowl that will fit everything later.
Whisk your oil, sugar, vinegar, salt and tomato paste all together.
Add the sliced garlic, cloves, bay leaf.
Season, taste and adjust seasoning.
Heat all of your mixture till hot but not boiling.
I use a large metal bowl that I can heat it all up in before adding the vegetables and everything else.

Steam your individual variety of vegetables till they have softened .
Toss them all into the agrodolce mix, mixing to coat everything.
Hot pack into sterilized pint jars.
Use new canning lids and screw tight before immersing them in the hot water for twenty minutes. Consult a book on preserving if you are unfamiliar with the process.
Important to let this mixture set for 2-3 days before using for the best flavor.
Serve with some tuna mixed in and you have a hearty lunch of substantial antipasti.

Don't forget there is a great opportunity to create an original Organic Italian soup recipe for autumn weather and win prizes in the form of subscriptions to " la Cucina Italiana" cookery magazine, US version.Details over at "Alex" at "Blog from Italy" .
Submissions will be taken from the 12 September until midnight 19th September.

Put the soup kettle on and start cooking up a winning recipe.


Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Looks wonderful, Bella. This is one pickle the Italians do like! As a Brit, I find American cup measures very confusing but a friend over there sent me a set of American measuring spoons and I'm not so bad now!

Anonymous said...

I am Italian. I live in Cape Town, South Africa and I miss Italy every second of every day and I often feel as if I will choke to death.

Thanks for giving me air.
You are a talented writer and I believe a talented cook.

Bella Baita Marla said...

I know what you mean about being confused. This type of recipe lends itself well to just using a glass and your regular table spoon and having at it. Weights make so much more sense especially for larger amounts, but I'm so use to table and teaspoons that I often measure those in the palm of my hand with consistent results.

Bella Baita Marla said...

Hello just food now. Your comment came through as I was writing the previous comment. Thank you for your very kind comments.Blush!
I can imagine how you must miss the whole experience of Italy, the food, the seasons, sharing with friends and family. I know my husband would feel the same as you do if we lived away from Italy. Come back often and keep breathing deep.

Proud Italian Cook said...

Marla, You must have read my mind! A couple of friends of mine and myself, were just talking about making homemade giardinera. Giardinera is readily available here in Chicagoland, but they never put enough cauliflower, olives, celery or carrots in it. Theres nothing like homemade! Yours looks and sounds wonderful! I'll keep it for a reference. Do you put hot peppers in yours? I love the heat!

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

I used to do a lot of canning in my day. I used to make a picalilli which is the British version of this I suppose with a mustard base:D

Bella Baita Marla said...

PIC, No I haven't put the peppers in as the purists in my family aren't so wild about the heat, but that sounds like I just might have to make a jar or two for me with the kick!
Belli Valli..I always have wondered how you eat picallili, on it's own or with meats as a side dish? My grandma made some and just served it as a side dish.

joe@italyville.com said...

It's that time of year Marla... I love it! I just posted on some mushroom giardiniera... something about jars and jarring that makes me smile. Hope you're well. joe

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