Friday, July 18, 2014

"Pickled Vegetables" or "Italian Giardiniera" For National Pickle Month

Do you love pickles? Well if you do then this blog post is for you! July happens to be “National Pickle Month.” The pickle is one of America’s favorite “side”condiments. Pickles are used for snacking, serving with a hamburger, a sandwich, and making a tangy relish. A pickle is simply a cucumber that has been pickled in a brine vinegar and left to ferment for a period of time. Cucumbers were first pickled about 4,400 years ago in Mesopotamia. The pickling process was also known to the Ancient Greeks; Aristotle was to have praised pickled cucumbers for there healing effects. Today, tangy pickle juice is used by many professional athletes to fight off muscle cramps. The benefits of this juice replaces essential electrolytes that are lost due to physical activity, especially on hot and humid days. So instead of drinking sports drinks that contain sugar and other additives, choose to drink some pickle juice. Who knew?

Pickled cucumbers became popular in the United States due to the influence of the cuisine of European immigrants. Soured cucumbers are most commonly used in an assortment of dishes for example; pickled-stuffed meatloaf, potato salad, chicken salad, or egg salad. They can also be deep fried. There are many varieties of the pickle. They can be sour, dill, or sweet, and take on many shapes such as large, midget, gherkins, spears, sliced round, (chips) and deli slices.

Some Pickle Fun Facts:
The pickle was brought to the New World by Christopher Columbus. George Washington, John Adams, and Dolly Madison liked pickles. Cleopatra claimed pickles contributed to her beauty, and dill pickles are the most popular.

The “Christmas Pickle” is an Old World German tradition related to the Christmas tree. In this tradition, a family decorates its Christmas tree with ornaments including one pickle. On Christmas morning, the first child to find the pickle hidden in its boughs would get a special gift and would supposedly have a year of good fortune. This tradition is commonly believed by Americans to come from Germany, but this is probably fictional. In fact, the tradition is widely unknown in Germany. These pickle ornaments sometimes are made of glass, and comes with the tradition on a tag along with it. I crocheted Christmas Pickles many years ago and gave them to my nieces and nephews for stocking stuffers. Now it has become a tradition to see who can find the pickle first.

We are pickle lovers in my family, especially my dad. Every time we go to a restaurant he always asks for extra pickles. His preference is the kosher dill ones. I prefer the sweet gherkins. No matter what shape or flavor I can say we definitely are a pickle family. Italian Giardiniera is a mix of pickled vegetables that are in vinegar and are typically eaten as an antipasto or with salads. In Italian it is also called “sotto aceti”, which means “under vinegar.” This mix of flavorful spicy vegetables are very common in many Italian kitchens. It is truly a favorite in my family.

My recipe this week is one that I love to make. It is not hard, just takes patience, and it is adapted from one of my favorite cooks, Mary Ann Esposito, “Ciao Italia.” I hope that you try these pungent pickled vegetables. Once made you can keep it refrigerated up to a month. If it lasts that long.  "Tutti Mangiano."

"Pickled Vegetables" or "Italian Giardiniera"
(Giardiniera means: Garden of Vegetables)

2 1/2 cups cut up vegetables, such as:
Sweet green, yellow, or red bell peppers
Pearl or Cipollini onions


Pickling Mix:
3 cups distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon salt or (pickling salt)
1 1/4 cups of water
3/4 cup of sugar
1/4 tsp each whole mustard seed, celery seed, a few cloves, fennel seed, allspice, peppercorns, and garlic cloves.

Several new canning jars with lids, either 8 or 10 oz or quart size. Have a pan of ice water ready for “shocking” vegetables. Be sure all veggies are free of blemish, washed, and cut into uniform size, about 1-inch pieces.

Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and cook the vegetables for about 2 minutes (each group separately). With a slotted spoon, transfer the vegetables to the pan of ice water. Allow the vegetables to cool for a minute and then drain them in a colander and set aside. Combine the vinegar, salt, water, and sugar in a stainless steel saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil. Turn off the heat.

Mix the dry spices together in a small bowl and divide them among the jars. Fill the jars with the vegetables, leaving about 1/4-inch space at the top. Pour the vinegar mixture over the vegetables to cover them. Cap and allow the jars to cool before storing in the refrigerator. Use after two days or keep refrigerated for up to a month, if there is any left! 

Till Next Time……

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  1. Oh la giardiniera! It brings up so many memories! I grew up with it. It was always on the table especially in the summer. It goes well in cold rice dishes too.
    My mum used to make a broth with beef and then we would have the brodo with tortellini and eat the beef with the giardiniera. Such a classic Italian way to have it!
    Lovely post Dottie and I have learned many things I did not know about the giardiniera.
    It is hot here and I bet where you are it is hot too. Enjoy summer :-)

    1. Dear Alida, Thanks for stopping by...I agree, many memories eating this "garden of veggies." Sounds like we were brought up with the same mom. My mom would also make a dish she would call potted beef. We also had the beef soup first, with soup pasta and then the beef with the Giardiniera on the side. The only difference is that she would also serve chunks of cheese with Italian bread. You said it Alida, a total classic way to eat these tasty veggies! So happy that you enjoyed this post and it brought back memories for you. Yes, it is hot here as well! But because I live on Long Island it always gets more humid and that is what I hate! Keep cool, and have a fun summer with your family! :) Dottie

  2. Good morning Dottie ,
    Love your post , very detail as usual . Now for the good part , we love pickles any way you fix them , like your dad my favorite is the kosher dill , but in my pantry you will find them all . I grow cucumbers some time I get enough to pickles ... we like them in salads .
    Now I will be making the giardiniera , going to the market to buy corrots and pearl onions , everything else , I will use fresh from the garden .
    Thanks so very much for sharing this delicious recipe and have a wonderful and blessed weekend ;- D ~~Nee~~

    1. Good afternoon Nee, Great to see you and thanks for your lovely comment! I have never met anyone that didn't like pickles of any sort. How wonderful that you grow cucumbers and pickle them. I thought that you would like to make them, this recipe is very easy, it is just time consuming to get all the veggies cut up the same size. I am so thrilled that you enjoyed this post and recipe....Well, I'm getting hungry, time for lunch and I think I will have some Giardiniera on the side. Have fun making this yummy recipe and have a blessed weekend dear friend! Dottie :)

  3. Hi Dottie, I love pickles. Besides being healthy, it's extremely appetizing when being served as condiments or even as snacking... Your mixed pickled looks so beautiful and irresistible! Thanks for sharing and have a nice day. Cheers :)

    1. Dear Ivy, Thank you for your visit and comment...I agree with you, I could just eat a pickle out of the jar without even a sandwich. It must be the crunch and the vinegar that sends me out of this world...I hope that you had a great weekend and blessings on a great new week! Cheers! :)

  4. Happy Pickle Month, Dottie!!!

    I'm almost afriad to say this but, I am not a fan of pickles or anything pickled except for maybe Sauerbraten which is of course cooked. When I was a child though, I didn't have a choice. My father made Giardiniera at Summer's end for as long as I can remember. I never liked it but, you know how that goes:) I must admit, yours does look lovely and refreshing though. I suppose Marion would probably dive right in. She is a huge fan of pickles. When I tell you we probably have three different kinds in the fridge and double that in the pantry, well, you get my drift, lol...

    Thank you so much for sharing, Dottie. You know, when I moved to PA I thought I was beating the humid weather of Long Island. Not the case. It's just as humid except, there is no ocean!!!

    1. Good evening Louise...
      I understand totally.. We all can't love everything..I always loved pickles, but I also never ate Giardiniera when I was a kid. I didn't like the veggies with the vinegar flavor. But as I got older, I couldn't believe how good it was and I fell in love with the dish. Funny how we grow up and our tastes changes. Well, Marion does love pickles, with all those jars around.
      I wouldn't think it would be that humid where you are, but I guess I was wrong. Yes, it is very humid here and by Wednesday it is going to be brutal here. Being in the middle of the Island, we don't get the ocean breeze. Also, I am right next to Lake Ronkonkoma, I think it makes it worse. Anyway, thank God for the A/C.
      Well, hope it won't be too bad for you...thanks for stopping over and your comment..Looking forward to your next post...Blessing on a good week...
      Dottie :) PS say hello to Marion for me!