The Difference Between Traditional Giardiniera And The American Variety

Giardiniera is known in the U.S. (primarily by Chicagoans) as the pickled, sometimes spicy, vegetables that top their famous beef sandwiches. But while Chicago may have made giardiniera famous here in America, its roots are not Midwestern. Bon Appétit reports that giardiniera's origins are in Italy, and preserving the topping was born of simple practicality. To make it, cauliflower, bell peppers, carrots, celery, green beans, and similar vegetables are mixed with spices and vinegar. Many kinds of assorted veggies can be pickled this way, and the mixture is useful for topping dishes all year round.

The tangy, crunchy goodness that results from opening a bottle is crave-able enough to be put on just about anything from frozen pizza to salads, and from your morning eggs, to eating it as an appetizer, according to Medium. But there are two distinct giardinieras, the original Italian version and what has come to be known as Chicago-style.

Born in Italy

Italian giardiniera was developed to preserve garden vegetables for the winter months, reports the Chicago Tribune. In Italy, the vegetables are cut much more roughly, not diced down small, and they are packed mostly in vinegar, though you'll find different practices from region to region. In Sicily, for example, olive oil is used more often than vinegar. The use of larger vegetables and vinegar means that Italy's version of giardiniera is more commonly seen as antipasti (or a standalone appetizer served on charcuterie trays) than as a condiment for other dishes. 

Chicago Style

In the 19th century, Italian immigrants came to the U.S. and brought giardiniera with them, according to Giadzy. The recipes began to adapt and change as more people used them, and Chicago-style giardiniera is different in some key ways. For starters, the vinegar is drained after about two weeks and replaced with oil, according to Kitchn. Some Chicagoans also seem to prefer the addition of hot peppers, and so you can have yours hot, medium or mild.The options are many, and the savory addition of giardiniera to your meal can be purchased in any grocery store, but you can also make it yourself. Whichever version you choose, this tangy condiment will punch up whatever savory meal you add it to!