By Patrizia Cucca
Even though it is still summer and I am focused on spending as much of my free time outdoors, I find myself preparing for my favorite month of the year. September, it isn’t only on the horizon, it is the horizon. As a kid September brought with it the excitement and buzz of back to school clothes shopping, school supply shopping, the excitement of entering a new grade and seeing friends. In elementary school I fondly remember recess time: monkey bars, basketball hoops, tetherball, black tops, and playing jacks on the school floors. The endless activities go on. September, back to school and fall also bring vivid memories of mom canning and jarring of all the summertime harvest, tomatoes, vegetables, peaches and pears. I would like to participate in some very old food traditions and in a few weeks I am going to try my hand at canning and in feeling this powerful connection to my past. I think mostly because I want to feel like a Domestic Goddess. You see, I knew my mom has always been the best. She is the goddess I can only aspire to be. Coming home from school in the wintertime, settling in front of the television to watch our daily after school shows and snacking on mom’s peaches out of a ginormous mug before dinner is only one of the comforting memories I have. I also have fond memories of helping mom in preparing the vegetables for this old-school Italian recipe which has now become most popular with the hipster pickling craze. Giardiniera (pronounced, “jar-din-air-ah”) means “from the garden” in Italian. While growing up giardiniera was a constant presence and would typically be on the table with a loaf of bread and a hunk of cheese. This tasty salad was composed of mixed picked vegetables and mom enriched hers with tuna, it is truly the perfect antipasto any time of the year, and a great way to enjoy vegetables all year round. This oil drenched medley of celery, cauliflower, carrots, olives and peppers is very low in calories and so hard to avoid. The origins of giardiniera are quite ancient and humble. This recipe comes from the poor peasant cuisine, and it was used to conserve summer vegetables for a long time even during winter months. Under my mom’s watchful eye I will now try to make my own giardeniera in hopes of reviving this old and yet so trendy recipe.
Cups distilled or white vinegar, 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon kosher salt, 1 tablespoon black peppercorns, 3 bay leaves, Extra virgin olive oil, Coarse salt, 3 kg ripe tomatoes, 1 onion, 500 g celery, 500 g carrots cut into coins, 500 g green beans, 500 g cauliflower broken into small florets, 500 g peppers seeded and cut into strip, 500 g baby onions, 8 cloves garlic skins removed, Tuna (optional).
Place tomatoes in boiling water for 30-60 seconds, remove and immediately put the tomatoes in an ice-water-filled sink or bowl. As they chill, you will see the skins start to pull away. Chop the tomatoes once they have been peeled and are cooled and set aside. Chop the onion and put in a hot pan with some oil. After browning for few minutes, add the bay leaves and the chopped tomatoes and let them cook for 30 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and pass the tomatoes through a vegetable mill and place back on the heat. When the tomato puree starts boiling, add the mixed vegetables and the sugar. Add the vegetables in the following order, one kind to be added 10 minutes after the other: celery, carrots, baby onions, green beans, cauliflower, and peppers. After the peppers have been added, cook for 10 more minutes. Then add your oil, the vinegar and a handful of coarse salt. Stir. If desired, add your tuna. Ladle mix into hot jars and add two cloves of garlic per jar, leaving a ¼ inch headspace at the top of the jar, and add lids and bands to the jars. Screw ‘em on tightly!
Process the jars for 10 minutes (boiled in a hot water bath) in a covered canner. Turn off heat, remove lid, and let jars rest for 5 minutes. Remove the jars from canner and set aside for 24 hours, checking to ensure a safe seal. You can smile every time you hear the comforting “pop” of the lids as they cool. That usually means you have made something safe and delicious!