Saturday, 13 September 2014

The Best of A Greedy Piglet: Giardinera - the Very Best Pickles!

It is that time of year again, and I need to make more pickles for the autumn and maybe for Christmas... although these are so good that I will make a lot more than last year. 

One thing I did find last year was that for two of us the 1 litre Kilner jars I used were too big, and the pickles got soft in the fridge before they were eaten up.  This year I will be making in much smaller jars. I still haven't found any commercially made pickles here in the UK as good as these. If you give them a go, do please let me know. I love feedback on my favourite recipes.


I have a husband who is half Italian, and whenever we went to Italy, we would always pick up jars of pickled vegetables, slightly sweet, in an oily vinegar. He loves them, but similar types bought over here have always been too sharp and vinegary for his taste. For years I have promised to try making them, and never got around to it.. but this year, for Christmas I made some. Oh they are good!

I used a mix of vegetables that included cauliflower, turnip, celery, red and yellow peppers, courgette and carrot. Here they are cut up nicely in their little bowls waiting to go in order into their vinegar bath:

I find it easier to keep them all separate so that I can add them to the vinegar bath in the right order - the carrot, turnip and celery first, cook for a couple of minutes, then the cauliflower, one minute more and lastly, I added the red and yellow peppers and the courgettes off the heat. I like the vegetables rather on the crunchy side, if you prefer them a little softer then cook a little longer. The vinegar bath should be kept on a simmer rather than a full rolling boil as you don't want to reduce it too much.

Importantly, don't cool the vegetables in the hot vinegar, as they will continue to cook. Take them out with a slotted spoon and fill into sterilised Kilner jars, adding a bay leaf and a sprig of rosemary to each jar. When the vinegar is cooled right down to no more than lukewarm, then give it a stir and fill the jars covering the vegetables completely then seal. If you don't have enough seasoned vinegar, top up each jar with plain wine or spirit vinegar. I keep them just on the shelf until they are opened, when I prefer to keep the jar in the fridge.

To fill 3 medium Kilner jars

250g each of carrots, turnips, red/yellow peppers, courgettes, celery, cauliflower cut into bite sized slices/pieces
500 ml white wine or cider vinegar
500 ml spirit vinegar (white or distilled vinegar in the US I believe)
100 ml olive oil
80g sugar
40g salt (I just use the cheapest salt as it is dissolved, try for one with no additives)
One bay leaf and one sprig of rosemary per jar
Three medium or four smaller Kilner jars, sterilised.
  • Combine the vinegars, oil, salt and sugar in a large saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer.
  • Add the vegetables starting with the carrots, celery and turnips. Cook 2 minutes. Add cauliflower and cook one minute more.
  • Remove from heat and add peppers and courgettes off the heat. Allow to sit off the heat for two minutes. Remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon and fill into kilner jars, making sure there is a good mix of different vegetables in each jar.
  • Allow the vinegar to cool to room temperature and then fill into the jars, completely covering the vegetables (if there is not quite enough vinegar to cover top up with more plain vinegar, either wine or spirit, whichever is to hand). Seal and keep for up to three months. Keep in the fridge once opened.
Eat with cold meats and cheese... or just nick bits straight out of the jar!


  1. Bookmarking, as these look lovely. Agree on difficulty of too large jars when it comes to eating!

    1. thanks Kavey, they keep for a few months at room temperature, I have one opened in the fridge that has been there for about 2 weeks and is still good, but it does need eating up quickly now. The cauliflower is the least happy when exposed to the air, so I made sure to eat that first out of the jar.