Living in Costa Rica, one of the things I get a craving for is Chicago-style Italian Beef sandwiches – slow-cooked in herbs and spices, sliced razor-thin, served up on Italian bread dipped in the au jus drippings from the pan and topped with a hot giardiniera for just the right amount of zing!
Most versions of giardiniera in Chicago are spicy hot, generally made with serrano peppers, and the ingredients are cut smaller than versions you’ll find in Italy and other areas of the USA. It’s meant to be a condiment. And while it’s practically essential to top your Italian Beef sandwich with it (unless you prefer sweet peppers), it also goes great with pizza, hot dogs and Italian sausage!
Marconi brand giardiniera is a version you can buy at most supermarkets in the greater-Chicago area, and that’s the one I based my recipe on. I read the label online to get my list of ingredients, tossed in my knowledge of canning and came up with this recipe. Now, I can’t get serrano peppers in my neck of the woods here in Costa Rica, so I used jalapeno peppers and added a half-dozen Thai chili peppers to make up for the heat.
This recipe will make 6 pints (plus 1/2 pint extra), so adjust it as needed.
Chicago-style Hot Giardiniera
- The First Day
- 2 pounds serrano peppers (or jalapeno peppers, to which you should also add 8 thai chili peppers)
- 1 red bell pepper diced to ¼ inch
- 3 cups ¼" diced white onion
- 3 cups ¼" diced carrots
- 2 cups ¼" diced celery
- 2 cups ¼" diced cauliflower
- ½ cup table salt
- The Second Day
- 12 ounce jar Pimento-stuffed green olives
- 3 large garlic cloves minced
- 4 tsp dried oregano
- 3 tsp cracked black pepper
- 5 cups white vinegar
- 3½ cups extra virgin olive oil
- The First Day
- Wearing rubber or latex gloves, slice the serrano peppers into about 1/8" slices.
- Dice small (about 1/4") the bell pepper, onion, carrots, celery and cauliflower.
- Toss all the ingredients into a glass or stainless steel bowl, mix in the salt thoroughly, and set it in the refrigerator overnight.
- The Second Day
- In a large pot (big enough to hold 7 pint-size canning jars in an upright position), bring to boil enough water to cover the jars with about an inch of water. More water is fine, but not less. Keep in mind that when you add the jars to the water, the water level will rise.
- Wash 6 pint-size glass canning jars and their lids. Place them in a clean sink or other container with very hot water.
- Drain The First Day mixture in a strainer to discard the excess liquid the salt drew out.
- Drain the liquid from the olives into the veggie mixture. Slice the olives to about ⅛ inch and add them and the remainder of the ingredients to the veggies. Stir to mix everything well.
- Now, remove the jars from the hot water and quickly fill them with the veggie mixture to within about 1/2 inch of the rim. The goal is to keep the jars as hot as possible so you're not placing cool jars into the boiling water. You can even place each jar back into the hot water after you fill it, just make sure the water level doesn't rise over the rims of the jars. Remember to stir the mixture before filling each jar so the ratio of oil-vinegar to veggies stays consistent for each jar.
- Wipe the rims of the jars, screw on the lids and place them in the boiling water for 20-25 minutes.
- Turn the heat off the water, carefully remove the jars from the boiling water and place them on a towel.
- After a short time, you'll begin to hear the jars make a popping sound – this indicates the jar is now sealed. Once they are all cooled down, press down on the center of each lid to see if all the jars are sealed. If you press down and feel some give and it pops back up, it's not sealed. Don't sweat this – just keep it in the refrigerator. The jars that sealed will last up to a year on the pantry shelf.
- Let the flavors meld and develop for a good three weeks before opening the jars and using the giardiniera.