Vegetables in Vinegar  

Giardiniera – Sutt’acitu


Giardiniera is made of pickled vegetables. The pickling makes it possible to preserve vegetables when they are in season and abundant and conserve them for some other time. It is a somewhat complicated process because it requires the preparation of the pickling liquid and then the cooking of all vegetables in separate boiling water, which when cooked, must be transferred into a large bowl of ice and water to stop the cooking and only then, after draining and patting dry, can the two separate parts be combined.   

The pickling liquid, made with a vinegar mixture, has to be well acidulated in order to preserve the vegetables. Because it tastes very vinegary, the giardiniera was never one of my preferred side dishes.  

When I was cooking in our Focacceria, a Sicilian eating house, we made the giardiniera in the traditional way; it was colorful and showy and we used it as a garnish to decorate most dishes. I noticed that most of the time, people would not eat the giardiniera and to my despair, I knew that most of our customers disliked the strong vinegary taste. 




In one of my trips to Sicily, as a guest for lunch in a farmhouse, it was served i sutt’acitu, pickled vegetables, among a variety of cheeses, salami, salads, herrings, etc. The pickled vegetables looked like the ones I was making back home except for an abundance of green and black olives and the degree of sourness; it was much less acidic and very agreeable. I asked a lot of questions and received a few hints on how to make it, and when I returned to the States, I came up with this version of giardiniera. It is very easy to prepare and very pleasing to your palate.  







The Pickling Liquid    


·        12 cups water 

·        4 cups distilled white vinegar   

·        Tablespoon of salt   

·        Bay leaves   


The Vegetables 


·        1 cauliflower (over 2 lb), head separated into bite-sized florets and washed   

·        Celery ribs, washed well and cut into 1-inch pieces   

·        1 red bell pepper, sliced into ½-inch pieces   

·        1 yellow bell pepper, sliced into ½-inch pieces   

·        5 carrots, peeled and cut into ¼-inch slices to make 3 cups   

·        8 oz pearl onions peeled (or use an 8 oz jar of large cocktail onions)   

·       1 box frozen artichokes heart, defrosted and cut in half or into quarters   


You can add any other vegetable, like mushrooms, eggplants, etc.   


Also secure and prepare   


·        4 oz jar of Tuscan sweet peperoncini, drained of their brine (imported from Italy)   

·        8 oz Sicilian style green olives in brine, pitted   

·        12 oz oil cured black olives, pitted   


The Condiment 


·        1½ cup canola oil   

·        1 cup extra virgin olive oil   

·        ½ cup distilled white vinegar   

·        A few pinches of hot red pepper flakes   

·        4 bay leaves   

·        Taste for salt and add if needed   


Equipment Needed   


·        1 stainless steel 6- or 8-quart sauce pot   

·        Stainless steel 3-quart saucepan   

·        Slotted spoon   

·        1 large bowl   

·        Glass or plastic containers to storage the marinated vegetables   






In the 8 quart pot, mix all ingredients for the pickling liquid. Transfer 2 cups of it to the small saucepan and bring to a boil. 

In a large bowl, combine the condiments except for the bay leaves, which you will add last.                    



Add cauliflower florets to the boiling liquid in the large pot, bring to a boil and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, until al dente. 

When cauliflower is done, use a slatted spoon to transfer cooked vegetables to a big bowl. 


In the same water, cook the celery for 6 minutes, and in the same manner, cook artichokes for 1 minute. 

If you add other vegetables, cook for 3 to 6 minutes, until al dente. Use your judgment and taste the vegetables to make sure they are properly cooked.  

Cook fresh pearl onions for 4 minutes. You can substitute pearl onions for small red onions cut into quarters and cooked for 4 minutes. Boil onions last. 

Bring the small saucepan to a boil, add carrots and cook for 6 minutes. If using tiny baby carrots, reduce time to 3 minutes. 


In the small pot add the yellow pepper and follow with red pepper, cooking each for 4 minutes. 

When you have all the cooked vegetables in the bowl, mix in a jar of peperoncini and the olives.


Taste for salt, and if you like a more pungent giardiniera, add some more vinegar. 

Mix in bay leaves last and make sure the vegetables are submerged, adding some of the pickling liquid if necessary. Store in a plastic or glass containers. Serve as antipasto or a side dish. It will keep refrigerated for about a month.