I grew up with Giardiniera. Of course, as a wee Chicagoan, I just called it “hot pepper oil,” and I tried to spoon out only the oil, avoiding the vegetables. This was about heat for me. I was a pint-size pepperphile.
But then I grew up. I came to love the subtle flavors of the vegetables. Unfortunately, as I moved all over the country, I had a heck of a time finding it, and having my parents ship glass jars of peppers in oil was just too scary, so I went without for a long time. In a way, this made it more special, something to look forward to whenever I visited.
Then again, that’s dumb. I love this stuff, and I should be able to eat it whenever I damn well please. And as it turns out, it’s soooooo easy to make.
Mix together equal fistfuls of:
- hot peppers, serrano or really anything else—totally depends on how into heat you are—thinly sliced
- celery, chopped
- cauliflower, broken into tiny florets or chopped if still bigger than the rest of your bits
- carrots (I don’t know why the waffle matchsticks are so important but they are. I bought ridgey-cut carrot chips, then chopped those up.)
- bright, tiny pickles: gherkins or cornichons or whatever tiny pickle you can find, sliced
Soak this for 12-18 hours in brine (¼ cup kosher salt in 4 cups water), then drain for a half hour or so. It doesn’t have to be dry, but you do want to give it a chance to properly drain. You’ll notice the vegetables have softened a bit.
Pour the vegetables into a big ol’ jar, or a couple of smaller jars, and add a tablespoon or two of vinegar (again, to taste), then cover with equal parts canola and olive oil. I like to add a little dried oregano, but that’s it. Some people add celery salt and other spices, but I’m really looking for a very simple, pure flavor.
Because this is not properly canned (which I will try before peppers start getting sad and expensive), you should keep it in the refrigerator. Even the next day, the peppers will have mingled with the oil and the rest of the vegetables, and it’ll only get stronger. It’s fantastic on everything from sausages to hash browns. Do try to keep the oil level above the vegetable level, as the vegetables have a better shot of staying fresh if they’re not exposed to air. From what I’ve read, you should use this within a week or so, but I really lean toward the “or so.” Maybe not a month—and don’t eat if if it starts smelling weird—but a couple of weeks should be no problem.
Annnnd tomorrow, check this stuff out on homemade seitan-based Italian “beef” sandwiches.