It is, perhaps, appropriate that one of my favorite pickles is jardiniere.
The word is French, the feminine form of gardener, which gave me a chuckle. In English, one of the uses of the word is for a container or receptacle that holds plants. The other definition is for a mix of vegetables; in this case, it is a mix of pickled vegetables.
Some of you may know it as giardiniera, the Italian version, which is very similar but includes oil in the pickling brine. In fact, when I looked online for possible recipes, I could find only the kind that had oil, either olive or canola.
I didn’t want that because just vinegar is my favorite one, which I often purchase in the supermarket.
I realized I hadn’t hauled out a favorite cookbook, “The Joy of Pickling” by Linda Ziedrich, yet this year. It is a newer addition to the shelf, only purchased a few years ago. But it has some terrific pickle recipes, everything from walnuts to shrimp to purslane.
It also has a giardiniera recipe that I made a couple of years ago. It was good, but I wanted to skip the olive oil. Needless to say, I was pleased to see the jardiniere recipe.
What follows is my version of the recipe. And that is what is so great about this recipe: You can use what you have in the garden or from the market. The flavor will change depending on your mix of vegetables, the herbs you add and so on. But that is what makes it a great pickle. You may find that you prefer a certain mix and only ever make it that way.
Or you may be like me and have a little of this and a little of that, none of which you want to go to waste.
That is what makes this such a great pickle.
About 1 pound of pickling cucumbers
12 stalks of celery
5 medium carrots
3 cups pearl onions
4 cups of yellow summer squash
6 banana peppers
5 cayenne peppers
10 whole red Sweet Pickle peppers
10 large garlic cloves
10 sprigs each of thyme and oregano
5 sprigs of tarragon
1 tablespoon black peppercorns, divided
5 1/2 cups white vinegar
4 cups water
2 tablespoons pickling salt
Prepping the jars and vegetables
Wash and sterilize five quart jars. Set aside. (If you prefer pint jars, then prepare 10. And split the herbs and spices in half for each pint, since this recipe is based on a quart-jar size.)
After doing each of the following vegetables, set them aside separately. The vegetables will be mixed prior to putting in jars.
Peel the pearl onions and wash. Wash the cayenne and Sweet Pickle peppers, trimming the stems. Wash the banana peppers and trim off the stem end, carefully removing the seeds; slice into 1/4-inch-wide rings.
Wash the celery and chop into 1-inch chunks. Wash the squash and chop into chunks, slices, halves or spears. Wash the cucumbers well and trim off the ends before slicing into 1/4- to 1/3-inch chunks. Wash the carrots (peel if you must or scrub with a vegetable brush) and trim ends; slice into 1/4- to 1/3-inch chunks.
Peel the garlic cloves and wash. Wash the herb sprigs and shake the water off.
Into the bottom of each quart jar, drop two garlic cloves and 1/2 teaspoon of peppercorns.
Into a 4-cup measuring cup, place some of the onions, carrots, squash, celery, banana peppers and cucumbers until it measures nearly 4 cups. Pour the 4 cups into a colander or larger bowl and toss to mix the vegetables.
Carefully start filling a quart jar (I use a funnel for ease in filling), pausing about 1/3 of the way (shake the jar to help settle the vegetables) to place one of the Sweet Pickle peppers and a single cayenne pepper. Continue to fill jar another third of the way (shake jar gently again) before placing the second Sweet Pickle pepper. Fill jar to neck and then add a sprig of tarragon, two sprigs of oregano and two sprigs of thyme on top of the vegetables. Cover the top of the herbs with remaining vegetables until vegetables are about 1/4 inch from rim.
(You may have too many vegetables to fit into the quart jar. That’s OK. Just use them in the next jar.)
Repeat this process until all of the jars are filled. You may not use all the vegetables or you may run slightly short on the last jar. If you have any extra vegetables, chop up enough to fill the last quart.
Making the brine
In a large, nonreactive pot, combine the vinegar, water and salt. Stir until the salt dissolves and bring mixture to a boil.
Fill each quart jar to within 1/4 inch of rim with the hot liquid. Wipe each rim with a damp cloth and then cover the jars with hot, two-piece caps (lids and rings). Process them in a boiling-water bath for 20 minutes.
The jars should be kept in a cool, dry, dark room or cupboard for three weeks before using. Or store for up to a year before using.
Variations on a theme
Other vegetables could include cauliflower, green beans and zucchini. I especially love pickled cauliflower but had none on hand for this batch. You could substitute chunks of sweet red pepper for the Sweet Pickle pepper or chunked onion for the pearl onions (which are time-consuming to prepare). You could omit the cayenne peppers. You might not have tarragon, thyme or oregano sprigs; you could use a pinch of dried herbs as a substitute.
The original recipe called for allspice berries, the equivalent of eight per quart jar. I omitted them because I don’t like the allspice flavor in these pickles.
I also added an extra clove of garlic to each jar because I had it. And about five more peppercorns to the top of each jar before I added the brine. I like a spicier, bolder pickle, hence the additions.
I have two preferred ways of eating these pickles: ice cold straight from the jar or atop a bed of lettuce and tomato for an instant salad.
And that herb-infused vinegar makes a perfect salad dressing, with or without oil.
– Janine Pineo