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Giardiniera

I love vinegar.

I love the tang and the bite that it brings. It can cut through otherwise heavy flavors, and provide a light, crisp and fresh element to a dish. It's no wonder that vinegar-based coleslaw is popular atop BBQ. I also love all things pickled.

I've been taking stock of some of the foods we eat most often at home - especially sauces, condiments and spreads - and determining which are worth making vs buying. I love being able to control the amount of sugar, salt and fats are added to my food. And often, making it yourself is worth it. But sometimes, not so much.

For instance, I found a recipe one time for enchiladas that included a homemade tomatillo sauce. I felt good knowing that I was making it all from scratch - whole ingredients, fresh veggies, no added junk. But when it came time to enjoying the dinner, I found that the sauce wasn't amazing. And it was costly - both time and money. From now on, I'll just look for a high-quality jarred version and call it a day. But I had to go through that experience once to know whether it was worth it.

I have heard that homemade pickles are not only super easy, but super delicious. Canning fell out of fashion for a number of years, but it is definitely back. I mentioned to my husband that I wanted to try making pickles, and he mused that I was really embracing being a Midwesterner. Well, when in Rome...

Coincidentally, about the time I was thinking about making pickles, I got an email from Tasting Table with a giardiniera recipe. What's better than pickling cucumbers? Pickling LOTS of veggies, and adding some heat! I've also discovered that giardiniera is a big deal in Chicago. Pairs well with Italian beef, hot dogs, and your favorite Potbelly's sandwich. So I'm totally on trend with this!

As a dietitian who appreciates high-quality research, I'm not usually one to reference Wikipedia. However, if you want to dig a little more into the ins and outs of giardiniera, the Wikipedia page is actually a nice short read that I found helpful.

The whole process was quite simple, and the results were delicious. So far, we have enjoyed it on top of salad greens alongside a quiche. I'm already thinking of how to transform this basic recipe into many different versions. They probably wouldn't all be considered giardiniera, but would all be delicious. I'm thinking just peppers and onions for sandwiches. Incorporating spicier peppers for more heat. You get the idea.

Here's how it went down. Basically, you start by bringing a mixture of vinegar, sugar and salt to a boil.

[Sidenote: I recommend ventilating your living space during this process. We definitely had an overpowering vinegar smell lingering in our noses for the evening of this adventure. A few open windows or fans would be very helpful!]

Add some hot peppers to the boiling pot, and cook until the color dulls - about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, and let the vinegar cool to room temperature. The recipe calls for Serrano peppers, but I had a bunch of jalapenos on hand. They worked, but I would like to experiment with more heat next time!

Meanwhile, chop up your veggies. I used cauliflower, carrots, celery, red bell pepper, yellow onions and garlic. Everything was sliced nice and thin. Again, depending on your intended usage, you may want to swap out certain veggies, or cut them differently.

Once the vinegar is cool, chop the peppers and add to the veggie mix. I added mustard seeds, oregano, and a little bit of olive oil. Portioned it out into mason jars, and poured the vinegar over the mixture.

In true Katie fashion, I chopped up more veggies than the recipe actually called for, so I was a little short on the boiled vinegar mixture. I remedied that by adding enough plain vinegar to fully cover the vegetables. Not sure if this impacted anything, but I liked my results, so I'm not too stressed about it.

I let the jars marinate in the fridge for 2 days before opening. The recipe says it should stay good in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. No way will it last that long in our house! For an extended shelf life, you can always try the boiling water method. In my life, I'd rather make it more often and skip that step. You might find you'd rather make up many batches at one time to have on hand, so that step would be worth it to you. Should be delicious either way!

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