Hey look! It’s a post that has nothing to do with pork! Incredible, I know.
For those of you who are not aware of what giardiniera is, it is a Chicago staple! Its a condiment that is used on anything from sausages, hot dogs, beef sandwiches, or any type of sandwich really. They are pickled peppers that can range from mild to mind blowing hot. A few years ago I started to make my own from scratch. I’m not quite sure why I started doing it considering I do not like spicy food, I will just go with I wanted to impress my brother who is a giardiniera freak. All the websites had very different methods/recipes for how to make it. Since I do not particularly like giardiniera myself I sort of ventured off and got creative. I thought to myself, If I liked giardiniera, how would I want it made?
I have changed my recipe for giardiniera nearly every time I make it. This is usually due to whatever product happens to be available to me but my method is always the same, hence the title. There really isn’t a right or wrong way to make these pickled peppers. Check out your produce section of your grocery store. I use an ethnic produce store for making this because it tends to have a larger variety of peppers, and at better prices. This time around I used:
- Banana Peppers
- Red Pepper
I usually try to pick a uniform cut for each item, not a uniform cut for every single one. I really like the rustic look of each one having their own shape. I know i’m neurotic, but it really looks pretty! Maybe this is why I just received the OCD Chef Cutting Board from one of my friends? Anyhoo – After cutting all my veg I toss them all in a large pot and just coat with water and add a very generous amount of pickling salt. Any salt would do really, they just happened to have Morton Pickling Salt when I was grocery shopping. Do not skimp by any means on the salt! I will explain further later on. Next, I let all the peppers come upto a gentle boil and only let that go on for about 10 ten minutes. Now, I don’t have any rhyme or reason as to why I do this, aside from the fact it just seems to work. Everyone who has tried my giardiniera says its the best, so I must be doing something right? After it is at a gentle simmer for 10 minutes I shut it off and just let it cool down on the stove before putting it in the fridge for 24 hours. Letting it sit for at least 24 hours in the salty liquid is vital. There has to be a good amount of time to let it sit and bread down and get soft.
After it has sat in the fridge for 24 hours, dump it out into a large strainer. This is why its okay to go crazy with the salt, at this point you can either just put it back into the pot after straining, or rinse the peppers off to your desired saltiness. But for the period its sitting in the fridge, that salt is needed! Its science..of sorts..I promise. I tend to only rinse half of my peppers and then mix them all back together. I don’t like to season it at all with salt so I choose to keep the saltiness from its liquid. I also tend to reserve a cup or two of the liquid for the jarring stage. Once you have rinsed off the peppers to how you like it it’s time to season it up. I prefer to season them up with Italian spices such as basil and oregano. If you want it hotter add some red pepper flakes. I do not recommend using any fine spices such as garlic powder, onion power, white pepper etc.
Once your peppers are seasoned up to your liking, its time for jarring! You could easily just store it in some tuperware if it’s just meant for yourself and not to be given away. I don’t like giardiniera, so all of mine gets given away! Load up the peppers and pack them pretty generously. Add a vinegar of your choice – I use red wine, most sites suggest white or cider. My philosophy is if I don’t like the flavor or something standing alone, then I don’t want it mixed in with my food. I also mix some of my liquid that it sat in overnight with my vinegar. I only load the jar about a third of the way with my vinegar liquid mixture. The rest of the way I load up with olive oil or vegetable oil, whichever is on hand. Now, the important thing to know about the oil is you need to pick a winterized oil if you plan on putting this in the fridge. By winterized, I mean oil that will not harden up when left in the cold. You can either buy winterized oil for a ridiculous price, or my suggestion is buy an oil and freeze or refrigerate it and when the waxes firm up, remove them with a spoon or strain it out, sort of like making clarified butter. I also do not recommend using the highest quality of oils out there, it is going to be completely covered up by the flavor of your peppers and your expensive oil will mean nothing. You can get a good one, just don’t get a great one!
After topping off your peppers with vinegar and oil you can either seal your jars by boiling or pressure cooking them, or if you plan on eating them in the next 2-3 weeks then you can easily skip this step. Since I am giving mine away I did seal mine off. I am not by any means pro at doing this, so I will skip the steps on how I did it, cause who the heck knows if I did it right! Luckily the jars I bought did have great directions on how to do it, hopefully I don’t kill anyone with pepper botulism. Fingers crossed.