Preserving Some of Winter’s Vegetables in a Jar

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Giardiniera, (JAR – din – ERA), is the classic Italian mixed pickled vegetable condiment or salad. The preparation has been around for many years and has as many interpretations as there were the nonnas who initially made it, or today’s chefs and adventurous home cooks who have reinterpreted it.

As far as I can recall, neither of my grandmothers made giardiniera but there was always some brined or pickled vegetable included as part of an antipasto, whether it was olives, peppers, or eggplant. Perhaps that is when I came to appreciate pickled vegetables, or was it those great sour pickles I enjoyed as a kid when my father and uncle took us to Katz’s Delicatessan in New York City back in the day?

Over the years I have brined or pickled many vegetables, from a corn relish in the late summertime, to whole garlic cloves or baby okra used as a barbeque topping. Recently I charred shishito peppers in a hot pan and once cooled, pickled those as accompaniment to grilled pork or poultry. The idea of making a batch of giardiniera intrigued me though, because I could now have loads of pickled vegetables of vibrant color and texture all assembled in one jar that I could go to from time to time throughout the spring and summer.

The literal translation of giardiniera is “from the garden,” which aptly describes this tangy and colorful mix of vegetables, all gathered from the garden. The basic recipe generally includes sweet bell pepper, hot pepper, celery, cauliflower, olives, and carrots, although many other vegetables can be added depending on what is available at the market or farm stand.

Traditionally, giardiniera was packaged in olive oil, but today it is more common to bottle it in a vinegar-based brine, in which some olive oil can also be included. Initially, traditional canning methods were used to preserve homemade giardiniera recipes which, when stored properly on a pantry shelf, lasted for up to a year. Having limited experience with canning as a method of preserving foods, I simply store homemade giardiniera in individual jars in the refrigerator topped with olive oil where they will last almost indefinitely.

There are two main parts to preparing a quantity of giardiniera—the vegetable prep, and the cooking of the brine. Once that is complete it is a matter of combining both to cure for a minimum of a week before apportioning the mix into smaller jars, topping with some good olive oil, and storing in the refrigerator for future use.

Just a few other giardineria observations:

  • The tartness of the brine can be mellowed by changing the ratio of vinegar to water. I often use white wine instead of water, which adds another layer of flavor to a brine. White vermouth could be used in place of the white wine.
  • Cider, white vinegar, or white wine vinegar is preferable to red wine vinegar because the red wine vinegar makes the brine too dark and can stain some of the lighter colored vegetables.
  • Vinegar will also bleach out some of the natural pigments in the darker vegetables that will also darken the brine. If, for example, beets are included in the vegetable mix, red beets should be excluded since the vinegar will cause them to “bleed,” making the brine dark and murky looking.
  • The use of olive oil provides two benefits to the finished giardiniera: it adds to the overall flavor when, at room temperature, it is dispersed within the brine before serving, and when a jar is refrigerated, the oil rises to the top and congeals, forming a natural barrier that prevents air from getting in and limiting the overall bottle shelf-life.
  • The level of heat or spiciness can be controlled by the type and amount of hot or sweet peppers that are included in the vegetable mix. There are many options and is simply a matter of personal taste.
  • There are many ways to use the condiment; just to note a few: included as accompaniment to an antipasto spread of cured meats and sharp cheeses, or perhaps my favorite, a finely minced cup or two of the giardiniera folded into a yolk mixture which is spooned back into the hard-cooked whites of deviled eggs, or use that mince to top a crostini.


The following recipe is my interpretation of this classic Italian dish. I chose an extended list of vegetables simply because I like the mix of colors and textures, and wanted these predominant winter roots around to enjoy from time to time during the warmer months when other seasonal vegetables take over. If you are inclined not to have such an extensive mix of vegetables, the core group of vegetables would suffice, as there is a great deal of flexibility of ingredients in a dish like this.

There is also flexibility with the assembly of the brine ingredients and the overall flavoring: which vinegar, water or wine, more salt, less sugar, green peppercorns or black, the use of dried chili peppers, the choice of fresh herbs. In this recipe I chose to tie two herb bundles in the outer green of a large leek. My herb bundle included celery leaf, fennel fronds, parsley stems, mint sprigs, and oregano sprigs.

So let’s get started!




My vegetable mix was as follows:
1 each red and yellow bell pepper, stem, ribs, and seeds removed, cut into thin stripes

Bell pepper

2 large celery ribs, cut on the bias


1 cup Castelvetrano olives, because they happened to be in my refrig soaking in a little red wine

Castelvetrano olives

2 medium carrots, cut on the bias


1 large fennel bulb, cut into eights through the root end


1 small head cauliflower, separated into florets, with larger florets either halved or quartered


1 small head romanesco, separated into florets, with larger florets either halved or quartered


A small bunch of uniform-size red radishes, cut into “coins” through the stem end

Red radish coins

1 large watermelon radish, cut into thick batons

Watermelon radish batons

1 small bunch of yellow beets, trimmed and cut through the stem end

Yellow beets

1 elephant garlic bulb, halved or quartered after blanching, germ removed

Elephant garlic

1 bunch cipollini onions, blanched and peeled

Cipollini onions

1 small container of white cultivated button mushrooms, cleaned, halved, or quartered depending upon size

Button mushrooms

½ of a large cucumber, cut on the bias


1 small jar tomolives. (Not an olive but a specialty tomato grown to be pickled and floated in a martini. I had a bottle in my pantry and added them simply because I thought it would be interesting!)


Prepare all the vegetables as described and illustrated in the photos. Set a large pot of lightly salted water over high heat to boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer. Working with one vegetable at a time, except the olives, cucumber, and tomolives, poach each until just fork tender as you want some crunch; the pouching times will vary. Using a strainer, remove to their bowls and set aside. Add water as necessary and return to the simmer before poaching the next vegetable. Once the vegetables are complete and assembled, strain the water and reserve or freeze to be used later as a vegetable base stock for some other dish.

In a large glass jar(s) or container with a lid, arrange the poached vegetables, varying the mix as you go so that there is an even distribution of the vegetables throughout. Set aside.

Layered in jar


6 cups vinegar, (cider, white vinegar, or white wine vinegar)
6 cups water, white wine, or white vermouth (in this recipe I used a Riesling from NY State)
Generous ¼ cup salt, kosher or sea salt
6 generous tablespoons sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons whole peppercorns, black or green
2 to 3 whole dried hot chili peppers, or to taste (small Calabrian chilis were used)
6 bay leaves
1 to 2 outer greens from a large leek, washed
Several sprigs each, (celery leaf, fennel frond, parsley, mint, oregano, tied together in the leek green)


Add all the ingredients to a large stockpot and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow the brine to steep for another 10 minutes or so until it cools down some. Pour the liquid, either strained or not, over the jarred vegetable and allow to cool to room temperature.

Curing in brine

Once cooled, top with olive oil, cover, and refrigerate for a least a week before serving.

Bottled and topped with olive oil

When ready to serve, allow the jar to warm to room temperature, turning it over a few times to distribute the olive oil throughout and serve.

Although to some of you this may seem like a lot of work, the dish actually assembles quickly and you wouldn’t have to do it again until this time next year, giving you ample opportunity to enjoy these colorful and tangy vegetables all spring and summer.

I don’t see any reason why you wouldn’t give it a try. Let me know what your vegetable mix turns out to be.

Be well. Eat well.


Proceed as the way opens. “Yes, of course you could do this at home, and you should!” A/W



















Cinghiale in Dolce Forte—A Wild Boar Stew

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The recipe shared here should be of interest to those who enjoy the sport of hunting as well as those who appreciate, from time to time, eating dishes featuring game.

This dish is another example of hearty, cold weather fare, as well as a look back upon an old-world style of cooking. Strong spicing, robust red wine, and a bit of chocolate build the layers of flavor that enrich this complex braised dish.

Cinghiale (ching-GAYH-lay) Dolce Forte loosely translates as wild boar sweet strong, essentially a braised wild boar stew in a sweet and sour sauce. The traditional recipe can be traced back to early sixteenth-century Tuscany, where hunting and dishes featuring the catch were popular, and still are to this day. I became aware of the dish from a post I came across on Twitter. Because I enjoy foods that emphasize the interplay of sweet and sour, or spicy and sweet flavors complementing one another in each bite, I was eager to explore the dish further and prepare a version at home.

In researching recipes to plan my interpretation of the dish, two points piqued my interest: the use of chocolate and that no tomato was used. It seemed that the chocolate was used to enrich the sauce, and add just a hint of sweetness, not unlike a mole in Mexican cuisine, just lighter. I’m guessing that we have Columbus to thank for that ingredient. It was noted that, before Columbus arrived in the “New World,” bringing back chocolate and other ingredients not yet integrated into old-world cuisine, honey was most likely used in this stew.

However, from my perspective, in a complex stew like this, I thought tomato would play some role in the layering of the flavors, since they made their way into old-world cooking around the same time that chocolate did. Tomato was not called for in any recipe I read so I left it out in an effort to stay with the traditional ingredient mix.

Since all of the necessary ingredients were already in my larder, including two small boneless wild boar roasts in my freezer, I was eager to give this recipe a test drive. If you are unable to source the boar meat, venison shoulder or leg meat is a fine substitute, and failing that, pork shoulder would work just as well.

This is a complex dish, made up of many ingredients and initially 24 to 48 hours of marinating. But once all the ingredients are organized properly, the dish assembles quickly and the trusty old Dutch oven does all the work for you. Upon completion you are rewarded with rich and impressive flavors since the assertive spice mix mellows as the dish braises while the other ingredients form a harmonious layering of flavors.

Just a few other ingredient thoughts:

  • Some recipes called for candied fruits, such as citron or orange rind, I chose not to use those and substituted fresh orange instead.
  • Some recipes indicated the use of prunes; I chose instead to substitute dried figs, which added an understated note of sweetness.
  • Some recipes suggested using prosciutto, which I often have on hand in the form of out-takes or end cuts, for use in sautés or braised dishes like this. If prosciutto ends are not available, then pancetta is a good substitute.
  • The traditional dish is served over polenta. I chose a polenta di riso instead of the yellow corn polenta, although rice, noodles, or even mashed potatoes would work equally well.


Cinghiale in Dolce Forte—A Wild Boar Stew


Ingredients (serves 4)
2 cups red wine (Chianti, Barolo, Cabernet, or Zinfandel are all good examples)
½ cup red wine vinegar
1 generous tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 each: medium onion, medium carrot, large celery stalk, coarsely chopped
1 large sprig fresh thyme
2 to 3 bay leaves
2 teaspoons each, ground allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg


2½ to 3 pounds wild boar meat cut into 2-inch pieces. Roasts cut from the leg were used in this dish, although shoulder meat would work just as well.

4 oz prosciutto or pancetta, cut into ¼-inch cubes

1 large onion finely chopped

2 to 3 garlic cloves, 1 medium carrot, 1 large celery stalk, ½ fennel bulb, cut into smaller pieces and finely minced in a food processor

1 to 2 bay leaves

1 scant tablespoon brown sugar

2 end cuts from an orange or 4 large wide strips of zest

½ cup dried figs cut in half or in thirds if large

2 generous tablespoons raisins

2 generous tablespoons pine nuts, lightly toasted in a dry sauté pan

4 tablespoons bittersweet chocolate chips

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Fresh minced parsley for garnish


Place the cut meat in a large work bowl, mix with the marinade ingredients, cover and place in the refrigerator for 24 but no more than 48 hours.

Remove the cut meat from the marinade to a separate bowl and allow to drain. Discard the vegetables used in the marinade, and using a fine strainer, extract as much of the marinade liquid as possible, pushing with the back of a spoon or a ladle, discarding any remaining solids. Set the marinade liquid aside to be later used in the braise.

Drain any residual marinade from the meat and use paper towels to dry all the cut pieces before browning.

In a Dutch oven over medium-high temperature, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil until it begins to sizzle but not smoke. Start the sauté with the prosciutto or pancetta until it begins to brown. Add the minced onion to the pan, stirring around with a wooden spoon to loosen any brown bits that have accumulated on the bottom of the pan and mix into the onions. Season with salt and pepper.

Prosciutto sauté

Once the onions begin to soften and take on a little color, add the other finely minced vegetables, mixing into the sauté.

Minced vegetables

When the vegetable sauté mix starts to soften and again take on some color, raise the temperature slightly and add the meat to brown. Continue to stir and thoroughly incorporate the meat with the vegetables allowing the meat to begin to brown.

Once the meat has lightly browned add the strained marinade liquid, sprinkle the brown sugar around, add the bay leaves and orange. Season again with salt and pepper, lower the heat to a gentle simmer, and cover the Dutch oven.

Sauté with meat

After one hour of cooking add the raisins, pine nuts, and chocolate, gently stirring to allow the chocolate to melt and incorporate into the sauce. Cover and simmer one additional hour.

At the end of the second hour, check the tenderness of the meat and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Serve as initially suggested, sprinkled with minced parsley on top.


We enjoyed our stew served atop buttery polenta di riso, accompanied by oven roasted Radicchio Rosso di Treviso, and a bottle of Barolo.


So the next time you are out hunting for wild boar in your neighborhood, or perhaps the local butcher, keep this recipe in mind—you will not be disappointed.

I haven’t given up on the inclusion of some chopped plum tomatoes and will try that to sauce pasta using the leftover wild boar stew.

Be well. Eat well.


If you want to invent the future, you can’t be afraid of reinterpreting the past … There are no new classic recipes … the one you prepare is the right one, and it will always be delicious!