Giardiniera is the classic Italian mix of assorted, pickled vegetables, preserved either in vinegar or in extra virgin olive oil. It is traditionally made in late spring and summer, when lots of good vegetables are at their best and abundant- giardiniera being a clever way of preserving the bounty from the vegetable patch (orto, in Italian). It is generally used as an antipasto, to accompany salumi (charcuterie) but it also goes well with lesso (mixed boiled meat) and it can be used in panini (sandwiches).
This one here is slightly different though: it is a mix of summer vegetables cooked in a thick, unctuous, sour-sweet tomato sauce, flavoured with bay leaves and cloves – a sort of Italian chutney, beautiful to look at and to eat.In some versions, tuna preserved in olive oil is added at the very end: I tried also that and it is equally glorious, especially on toasted bread.
This giardiniera comes from Piemonte and was given to me by a friend who was rather strict in her instructions: ” …e mi raccomando:…le verdure…croccanti!”, meaning “Be careful: the vegetables… MUST stay crunchy”. So now you know.
I tend to make small, manageable batches of this giardiniera rossa (“red” giardiniera, from the tomato sauce being used): I have kept this lovely antipasto for up to two weeks in the fridge. If you want to store it for longer use, I would recommend to double my quantities and to preserve it in jars following safe and reliable sources, like America Test Kitchen or River cottage.
Giardiniera rossa piemontese/Sour-sweet vegetable chutney from Piemonte
3x 400 g whole plum tomato cans
120 g unrefined caster sugar
120 ml extra virgin olive oil
1.5 tsp salt
60 ml wine vinegar, nothing fancy, either red or white
2 bay leaves
10 cloves, ground
200 g each of green beans (stringed, if necessary), carrots, celery (stringed, if necessary): all these must be cut up into small pieces.
1 red and 1 orange or yellow pepper, diced small .
200 g small pickling onions, peeled (or small shallots, peeled and cut into half).
First of all you have to make the tomato sauce. I use the pressure cooker because I think it makes for a fuller, deeper sauce, but you can go the traditional way, of course. It is a simple affair: place the tomatoes, the sugar, the oil, the vinegar, the salt, the cloves and the bay leaves in the pot, give it a good stir, lock and bring to high pressure. Cook for 30 minutes and then allow the pressure to drop naturally. Reduce the sauce for five minutes. If using a normal pot, cook the sauce, partially covered until is thick and deeply flavored, for over and hour.
To the boiling sauce, add:
the green beans, the carrots, the celery and cook for 7 minutes
the peppers and cook for 5 minutes
the onions and cook for 5 minutes
Stir frequently because it catches. In the end the chutney must be rather thick: reduce on high heat if the sauce still has a watery aspect; it is important though that the vegetables are not overcooked.They must stay crisp. Pour into the sterilized jar, cover and cool. Keep in the fridge.The giardiniera is ready to be tasted as soon as it is cooled down, but it improves with age.