Pickling Vegetables – Giardiniera Recipe
By now, everyone has heard that gut bacteria play a major role in our overall health. Intestinal bacteria play a major role in the body’s immunity by digesting pathogens themselves or stimulating the body’s immune response. Specific gut microbes have been associated with obesity, and the entire microbiome has been shown to change its profile in response to weight loss in obese individuals. Numerous studies have also pointed to a link between the intestinal bacteria profile and mental health.
So, how do we get more of these beneficial bacteria into our digestive tracts?
We could take probiotic capsules, but it’s much easier to remember your probiotics if they’re in the form of something delicious.
I’ve talked about making yogurt before, which is fun and so, so yummy. The thing is, I cut out dairy for a number of reasons, so I’m missing out on even the friendly lactobacillus that loves to hang out in fermented milk projects.
I’ve heard you can ferment coconut milk, and it’s on my list to try one day. Until then, I’ll stick with what I know, and I know you can ferment veggies. And I know the result is delicious and crave-able and phenomenal.
Giardinera is hands-down my favorite method of pickling vegetables. It’s a late-summer pickle, representing the last of the harvest in a crunchy confetti.
Here’s how to do it.
First, bring a big pot of water to a boil. Turn it off, and dunk everything that will be touching the vegetables into the hot water bath for 10 minutes. Include any mason jars, lids (except plastic), tongs, spoons, etc. you may be using. Allow everything to dry on a towel and cool.
Next comes the veggie prep. Some people like large pieces, but I like to dice everything about the same size. The key to this recipe is color. The prettier, the better, in my opinion.
Is your chopping arm ready?
- 1 head of cauliflower (stems, too!)
- 1 green bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed
- 1 red bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed
- 1 sweet or spicy yellow pepper, seeds and ribs removed
- 1-3 jalapenos, seeds and ribs removed
- 3-4 carrots, peeled
- 1 medium onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 5-10 peppercorns
- pickling or canning salt – 1tbsp per lb of vegetables
Chop all of your veggies to about the same size and add to a large mixing bowl. Toss them around until well-mixed, adding salt a little at a time. You’ll notice almost immediately that the salt begins to draw the water out of the vegetables.
Drop a few peppercorns into each jar. Scoop the salted vegetable mixture into the jars, including any liquid at the bottom of the bowl. You’ll want the jars to be as full as possible. Using your hand or a wooden spoon, smash the vegetables down, and repeat in a second jar. After 15 minutes or so, you’ll be able to smash the vegetables down even further, enabling you to fit more vegetables into the jar. Keep filling, distributing and smashing down until the jars are filled relatively evenly, packed full, and have about an inch of headroom at the top.
By now, a brine will be filling up the airspace from the vegetable liquid and salt. In a little while, vegetables should be completely submerged (a few floaters is okay). The tricky part is getting the vegetables to stay under the brine. People have used ceramic pie weights, a food-grade bag filled with saltwater, a smaller mason jar, or a layer of olive oil to keep the vegetables down. Air should be able to escape to release pressure from fermentation gas release, but air should not flow in. Use a paper towel or coffee filter and a rubber band to cover the jars.
I have Kraut Kaps, which are lids fitted with an air lock that allows air out but not in. They fit on top of wide-mouth mason jars.
These are nice but not at all necessary. I like them because I tend to obsessively check for floating veggies and mess with the weight. With these, I don’t worry about it so I don’t fiddle with the jars as much.
Depending on the temperature of your fermenting place, these should be ready in 3-5 days. You’ll know because they’ll take on a sauerkraut or pickle smell. If you taste too early, they’ll taste like raw veggies in saltwater.
Check for molds, browning, pink splotches, or off-putting smells before tasting. If you’re not sure, grab a grandma who grew up fermenting from the garden. She’ll be able to tell. There’s always a risk of contamination in home-fermented foods, so use caution! I use my eyes and nose as a guide, but your best bet is to find someone experienced to help you along until you get the hang of it.