January Giardiniera

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Do you remember when summer was in full bloom and it was difficult to believe that grey winter months would eventually and inevitably arrive?  Here we are in the post-holiday winter and I have been smugly cracking open preserves right and left, in an effort to breathe a little summer color and flavor into our January doldrums.  This is the time that I feel I should take some good notes about what we are enjoying and using up, so that when canning season arrives again, I will know what the favorites of 2012 were.  So far my list includes raspberry freezer jam and fig preserves (of course).  Also, after a busy December of gifting and parties, I see that my pickle  supply is totally gone!

Giardiniera is the official name for a mix of spicy pickled vegetables with Italian roots.  This is a recipe I have been wanting to try for awhile now.  I have purchased mixed vegetable pickle products from the grocery store before and not been terribly inspired, but the idea of making my own intrigues me.  The vegetables typically included are carrots, celery, bell peppers and cauliflower, making it a perfect mid-winter project – just the thing to tide my canning interests over until warmer weather arrives!

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Most of the work on this recipe is done at the front-end, simply chopping all the vegetables.  Giardiniera is a wonderful project to try with friends, as the work can be divided at the beginning and then the spoils can be shared as well.  Once made, these vegetables are delicious on an antipasto platter or right out of the jar.  (I doubt ours will even make it to a platter before they are eaten up!)  I invited a few friends over to try the America’s Test Kitchen D.I.Y. Cookbook version of Giardiniera.  We split up the vegetables so that we were all responsible for chopping one or two types prior to meeting up.  Then, once together, the pickling was a very straight forward process.  We quadrupled the above recipe which worked out well, allowing us each to take home four plus pint jars.

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GIARDINIERA

1/2 head of califlower (1 pound), cored and cut into 1/2-inch florets

3 carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick on bias

3 celery ribs, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces

1 red bell pepper, stemmed and seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch wide strips

2 serrano chiles, stemmed and sliced thin

4 garlic cloves, sliced thin

1 cup fresh dill

2 3/4 cups white wine vinegar

2 1/4 cups water

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup Diamond Crystal kosher salt

Toss cauliflower, carrots, celery, bell pepper, serranos, and garlic together in large bowl until combined.  Transfer vegetables to jars with tight-fitting lids.

Bundle dill in cheesecloth and tie with kitchen twine to secure.  Combine dill sachet, vinegar, water, sugar, and salt in large saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Cover, removed from heat, and let steep for 10 minutes.  Discard dill sachet.  Return brine to boil.

Pour brine evenly over vegetables.  Let cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for 7 days before eating.  Pickles can be refrigerated for up to 1 month.

To Process for Long-Term Storage:  In step 1, don’t pack jars with vegetables.  Prepare brine as directed in step 2, then transfer vegetables to hot, sterilized 1-pint jars.  Pour brine, while still hot, evenly over vegetables, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace at top.  Process in water canning bath for 10 minutes.

Makes four 1-pint jars

Make today, enjoy in 1 week

Note: I decided to split our project into two batches to test some variations.  In one batch we omitted the serrano chiles in case our spice-sensitive kids might want to give these veggies a try.  Another variation we tried was white wine vinegar in one batch and white balsamic vinegar in the other, just for fun.  Crazy times around here!  In both, I split the amount of wine vinegar with distilled white vinegar, since I had lots of distilled white vinegar on hand and not as much white wine.  It worked fine.  I was so curious, I couldn’t even wait a week before breaking into these.  One of my jars did not seal, so I just opened it right up.  I tried the spicy white wine vinegar version and they are fantastic.  We will definitely be making these again!

Enjoy!

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