Even if you are a Chicago native, you may not realize that Chicago has its own version of Giardiniera. The traditional style of Giardiniera is full of cauliflower and sweet peppers meant to be served as an antipasto, which is delicious, but not like the fiery Chicago-style Giardiniera.
Chicago-style Giardiniera is used as a condiment and is so ingrained in the culture you will find it everywhere, such as Potbelly's Sandwich Shop, Vienna Beef, and the famous Portillo's. Most of the Chicago population doesn't think twice about loading their Italian Beef, their beloved Chicago dog, or the celebrated Maxwell Street Polish with one of the spiciest concoctions you will ever taste!
Chicago Giardiniera is mostly serrano peppers and should be the main ingredient. The flavor, however, is not just hot peppers. It is rich with oil and olives, a slight hint of sweetness from the red bell peppers and carrots, some brightness from the vinegar, and a touch of garlic and oregano. It is so much more than just spicy!
This is a large recipe and can easily be cut in half. You can make this any time of the year, as all the ingredients are available at the grocery store.
- 2 pounds serrano peppers, rinsed, then sliced in about quarter-inch thick circles. (WARNING: Wear gloves!)
- 1 pound red bell peppers, seeded and diced small
- 1/2 pound white onion, peeled and diced small
- 3/4 pound carrots, peeled and diced small
- 1/2 pound celery, diced small
- 1 cup of salt (do not skimp on the salt the first time you make this recipe.)
Put all of the above ingredients in a stainless steel or glass bowl, toss with salt, cover and let sit overnight in the refrigerator. This salting removes some of the liquid from the vegetables, intensifying the flavors and tempers them.
- Wash 10 - pint canning jars and lids. You can use smaller jars if you prefer. Place the jars on a sheet pan lined with a dishtowel and into a 200° F. oven until you are ready for them.
- Fill your stockpot or canning pot 3/4 of the way up with water and heat the water over high heat.
- Take the pepper mixture from the refrigerator, drain well and discard the excess liquid.
- Prepare the next round of ingredients:
- 12 ounces pimento-stuffed green olives, sliced 1/4" thick. Reserve the olive liquid.
- 1 cup olive liquid from the jarred olives
- 2 tablespoons garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons fresh cracked black pepper
- 3 Tablespoons dried oregano
- 5 cups white wine vinegar
- 3 1/2 cups grapeseed oil
- Combine all of these ingredients with the pepper mixture from the day before.
When the water is boiling, remove the jars from the oven and fill the jars to just below the threads for the lid. Run a knife around the inside of the jar a couple of times to remove any air bubbles. Do this gently to avoid creating more air bubbles! Put the lid on the jars and place them in the boiling water for 20 minutes.
Remove the jars from the boiling water, place them onto the dishtowel-lined sheet pan, and set them aside to cool. You should hear popping after some time; that is the sound of the jars sealing. After all the jars are thoroughly cooled, check to ensure they are all sealed. You will know they are sealed when you push down on the lid, and it doesn't bounce back. If some jars don't seal, just put them in the fridge and use them first. They are okay to use after letting the jars sit for one week, but three weeks will give you exactly the taste you're looking for.
The rest can go on the shelf for up to a year. Label the jared date.
Giardiniera is excellent on any sandwich but especially on rich sandwiches like tuna or egg salad and grilled cheese especially loves the spice and tang of Giardiniera. It is perfect on pasta salads, smoked or grilled meats or sausages, and incredible on eggs or in an omelet.
Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.