This classic relish will become your go-to for a boost of flavor.

By Stacey Ballis
March 05, 2020
Credit: Scott M.

When it comes to condiments, Chicago is a town with some serious opinions. Nine is the age limit for allowing ketchup on a hot dog, once you hit double digits you are expected to get on board with mustard only. Italian beef can come with either sweet or hot peppers or both, and those in-the-know ask for their sandwiches dipped, submerged completely in the au jus instead of just having some spooned over the top. And there is no more traditional or classic topper for any Chicago dish than giardiniera.

Giardiniera is a slightly pickled condiment that comes in both mild and hot versions, and Chicagoans put it on everything from subs to pizza without batting an eye. There is sweetness from bell peppers and carrot, savory notes from onions and herbs, earthiness from cauliflower and celery, acidity from the vinegar, and then the oil smooths everything out. Spicy versions usually include both fresh hot peppers and dried pepper flakes, mild versions will eliminate one or both. There are pops of saltiness from green olives, and the veggies are a little bit crisp without being too crunchy.

Chicago love to use celery seed as a secret weapon spice. Just look at our insistence on celery salt as a necessary hot dog garnish! Here, it brings an unforgettable musky back note that grounds the condiment in a very important way.

There are college kids who have survived for weeks on a combination of cooked white rice mixed with canned tuna and giardiniera, and professional chefs who have celebrated it in fine-dining restaurants. It is a perfect unifier of people from all walks of life who know what is delicious.

Giardiniera can easily be purchased in the pickle/relish section of your grocery store, but it's also incredibly easy to make yourself. When whipping up a DIY version, you can mix and match the vegetables and herbs to meet your preferences for taste and heat.

To make giardiniera, simply combine the bell peppers, carrots, celery, and cauliflower with a hefty dose of salt and water to soak overnight. After the veggies are drained, you'll combine them in a jar with the garlic and herbs before the olive oil and vinegar are drizzled in. Then all you've got to do is wait a few days, and you'll soon be enjoying this layered condiment.

Now that you have a jar of giardiniera, are you not sure how to use it all up? This versatile condiment can be eaten in a variety of ways. Use it to add zip to cheese boards, sprinkle over grain bowls and salads, put it on top of sandwiches or hot dogs, and even mix it into pasta salads. The possibilities are endless with giardiniera!

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