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birthday weekend

Recipe: hot giardiniera pickled peppers

Over the past several years, if I’m not out shooting the fall colors on my birthday, I’m out on recon for the fall colors on my birthday. Sometimes my birthday coincides with the first day of autumn and I’ve always loved that. I couldn’t wait for the heat to GO AWAY in southern Virginia. Luckily, I have more pleasant associations with it now: fall colors, cooler weather, sometimes a freak early snow storm (yes please!). But I’m almost always working through my birthday and this year was no exception. Jeremy decided to drive 5.5 hours to Crested Butte this weekend to nominally celebrate my birthday, see the fall colors with me, and get a little mountain biking in. It was a lovely weekend and a most happy birthday.

birthday morning near red mountain pass (iphone)

working on building a respectable layer of dirt on the car (iphone)

Dinner is always a moving target and dictated by the whims of the weather. It just so happened that sunset was a bust on my birthday, releasing me a little earlier than usual. My thoughts turned to what was good to eat in town. In Crested Butte, there is a lot that is good, but my favorite restaurant is The Lobar for sushi. So we went there to celebrate with a low key, but fabulous dinner.

hamachi sashimi

dragon scales (spicy tuna wrapped in shiso leaves and tempura fried)

seared scallop slices with lime, cilantro, sriracha

With Jeremy’s return home on Monday, I’m pretty much back to my quick, affordable, and convenient meals of cold salads, sandwiches, and fruit. I come prepared with a cooler, nalgene bottles (for ice and water – especially when the motel rooms don’t have refrigerators), dishes and utensils for one, sponge and dishsoap, dishtowels… What I failed to bring was a jar of my pickled hot peppers, the stuff that makes sandwiches magically delicious.

celery, carrots, red bell peppers, jalapenos, serranos, olives, cauliflower

you’ll also need: white vinegar, pickling spices, sugar, and pickling salt

My obsession with pickled hot peppers has been in the making all my life, but the peppers that really pushed me over the edge were the hot giardiniera from Snarf’s. Snarf’s is my favorite sandwich shop in Boulder (they have several stores in the Denver metro area) and it’s in no small part due to those tantalizing peppers. I have been researching different recipes for the past couple of years, but didn’t start making them until this summer… because I learned how to can.

chop, chop, chop

spicy chop chop chop

The first recipe I tried was one that had the intention of imitating the Snarf’s hot giardiniera (I don’t know about you, but giardiniera always makes me think of the word giardia, which is unfortunate). I doubled the recipe in crazy anticipation of pickled hot pepper love. Step-wise it is easy. Most of what is involved is chopping the vegetables and brining them. And when you brine the vegetables, you essentially do nothing for 12-18 hours – right on!

make the brining liquid (salt and water)

add the vegetables to the brine

What I realized only after the vegetables had come out of their brine, was that there was a lot of sugar in this recipe and the Snarf’s hot giardiniera isn’t all that sweet. Also, there was no oil in this recipe and there is definitely oil in the Snarf’s peppers as evidenced from my dozen or so oil-stained t-shirts. That gave me pause for a second and then I shrugged. I’m never one to turn down a good pickled pepper.

drained and rinsed

now place the brined vegetables in the hot pickling vinegar

The giardiniera I made consisted of half jalapeño peppers and half serrano peppers because my friends told me that jalapeño peppers are not very hot anymore. They were right. After all of the processing, the jalapeños were more or less like bell peppers (to me – I like spicy food) and the serranos had just enough heat to keep it interesting. Oh, but aside from the peppers there is a lot to hold my interest! I love the cauliflower, the carrots, and especially the celery (who’d have thought?). Even though this is a sweet, non-oily version of the Snarf’s hot giardiniera, I really like it.

ladle into jars if you plan to can some

sealed for winter

I canned most of the pickles for myself, but did a few gift jars for friends who might want to try some. They are very pretty and easy to can (easier than say, the tomatoes). I’m still on my quest to replicate the Snarf’s hot giardiniera, but I’ve found another recipe I love in the meantime. Of course, the ultimate test was how well they fared in a sandwich. They were excellent! I have to say, I did not miss the oil at all, although next time I’m using all serrano peppers. Life is too short to skimp on the spicy.

for friends

great on a sandwich (and in mah belleh)

Hot Giardiniera Pickled Peppers
[print recipe]
from The Kitchenette

1/2 lb. carrots, peeled and sliced to 1/8-inch thickness
1/2 lb. celery, sliced into 1/4-inch thickness
2 red bell peppers, medium dice
1/2 lb. cauliflower florets, about 3/4-inch in size
1/2 lb. green olives, pitted and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 lb. hot peppers of your choice (I did half jalapeño and half serrano)
1 cup pickling salt
4 quarts water
2 cups white vinegar
2 tbsps pickling spice (purchase or easily make your own)
1 1/2 cup sugar

In a large bowl or stock pot, stir the pickling salt into 4 quarts of cold water until the salt is dissolved. Place all of the diced/chopped vegetables into the brine and cover. Refrigerate for 12 to 18 hours. Drain the vegetables in a colander and rinse them in cold water, draining them again. Set aside. Place the vinegar, pickling spices, and sugar in a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to ensure the sugar dissolves. Add the vegetables to the hot vinegar mixture and let boil for 10 minutes or until the vegetables soften a bit. If you want to can the pickled vegetables, follow the steps outlined here, but leave 1/2-inch headspace and process the pickles for 5 minutes at full boil in a water bath canner, then another 5 minutes remaining in the canner with the heat off. At 8500 feet, I process for 25 minutes and a 5 minute sauna sit. Double check your seals after 24 hours. Makes 6 pints.

35 nibbles at “birthday weekend”

  1. WanG says:

    your blog always make me feel hungry..keep on posting delicious post ya ;-)

    happy b’day n may u have a great one!

  2. thisoldbroad says:

    There’s a place in heaven for someone with the patience & skill to finely chop so many things. I bow to your knife skills & patience.

  3. Kristin says:

    You are not the only one who pauses due to the giardia. But luckily I move easily beyond that to deciding it’s time for a muffaletta. Happy belated birthday!

  4. מתכונים says:

    WOW, looks amazing :) Love your blog

  5. Margie says:

    pretty, pretty vegetable confetti. I love this stuff, have all my life. Your recipe has me re-thinking those glory days of canning. I may simply have to revert to ‘old’ times for the sake of my sanity. No food tastes better than that prepared at home, none…nada.

  6. Margie says:

    Gurl…I dun forgpt what it was I wanted to say. Here goes:

    Happy Be-lated Birthday, Chicklett!

  7. megan says:

    happy belated birthday! that’s really nice of your husband to drive so long to see you :)
    i just made a batch of refrigerator pickles (very low pickling spice :*( ) and the crunchy sourness made me so happy.

    i just got some free glass jars (freecycle ftw!) because I want to try to pickle more veggies before squash starts dominating everything…!

    could you tell me what spices are in your pickling spice? i’m wondering if I already have some/most of the ingredients..? THANKS for your great recipes, as always!!!

  8. jenyu says:

    megan – thanks for the question, I totally forgot to add the link in the recipe. You can now click over to the recipe I used for the pickling spices.

  9. Eileen says:

    Happy birthday! I keep meaning to make some giardiniera before it’s too late for good peppers–must get on that! :)

  10. Kimberly says:

    I am from the Chicago area where giardiniera is consumed as a side dish as well as on sandwiches. Delicious!

  11. Irene from Rollinsville says:

    Happy birthday! these pickles look great.

  12. zingara says:

    giardiniera comes from the italian word, giardino…which means garden. my mother, from italy, used to make giardiniera every summer but as i recall, the chunks were larger & yes, she did use olive oil in it. the pickled vegetables were refreshing, tasty & versatile. we had them w/ roasted meats, hamburgers, italian sausage, salami sandwiches, & on & on & on…..happy birthday year, my dear…keep up your good work. i marvel at your energy…

  13. Jill says:

    Yummy in the tummy!!!! We love giardiniera…and I frequently buy the Snarf’s bottles! It “goes” with just about everything!
    Glad you had a wonderful birthday and that Jeremy was able to join you. xo,

  14. April was in CT now CA says:

    Happy, happy (late-ish) birthday!

  15. megan says:

    yes! thank you!

  16. Sil says:

    Feliz cumpleaños Jen!! All the best for you!

    This recipe sounds great and I’m definitelly try to make it. One question though, you used pickling salt. Is there any difference with regular salt?

    A big hug from Buenos Aires!

  17. Rocky Mountain Woman says:

    How cute you guys are!

    I’m going to try the recipe…

  18. Nicole @ The Girl Who Ate Boston says:

    Ever since tasting vinegar peppers last year, I’ve been looking for recipes to use peppers in creative ways. I’ll definitely be trying this one. Your photos make my mouth water!

  19. Nan says:

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY JEN! May you have many more… all punctuated with hot and spicy, salty and sweet!

  20. angelitacarmelita says:

    Happy Belated Birthday Jen! As a southern girl, living in VA (NOVA though), I can tell you that the weather over the past week has been glorious! the leaves are changing here and it’s perfect hiking weather. I on the other hand love the heat and don’t mind the icky-sticky days here either, but speaking of heat, I can’t wait to try out this giardiniera!

  21. laning says:

    Happy Belated Birthday Jen.. you cant get too many birthday wishes right? Many many happy returns!!

  22. Kiersten Falls says:

    My daughter was always asking when her birthday party would be months before it was time. I would tell her to not worry about it until the tree put on their “party clothes”. She has a last October birthday so now she gets excited when she see the brilliant oranges and reds on the trees. She knows it is getting close to “party time”!

  23. Allison Day says:

    So I’ve had your site open to this post in my browser for days, and I keep coming back to look at that tempura-fried spicy tuna in shiso leaves. I really think I’m going to have to try to replicate that for Sushi Day, because it looks delicious! P.S. I know I already said it on FB, but happy belated birthday once again! ^_^

  24. jenyu says:

    WanG – awww, thanks!

    thisoldbroad – ha ha!! :)

    Kristin – :) thanks!

    מתכונים – thank you.

    Margie – canning is coming back, don’t you think? :)

    Eileen – thanks!

    Kimberly – oh yum, that makes me feel even better about it.

    Irene – thank you :)

    zingara – thank you xo

    Jill – it really does, doesn’t it? xoxo

    April – awww, thanks for the bday love!

    Sil – thank you! So yes, pickling salt is supposed to be different from regular salt. I believe it doesn’t contain iodine and that it is finer than regular salt for quick dissolving into the water.

    Rocky Mountain Woman – :)

    Nicole – yay! I hope you like the recipe.

    Nan – thank you!

    angelitacarmelita – glad to hear it’s cooling off out there.

    laning – awww, I really appreciate that! Thanks! xo

    Kiersten – so cute. Fall birthdays really are the best, in my opinion :)

    Allison – I am totally going to make it too. Let me know when your post goes live! Mmmmm! And thanks, sweetie. Love you!

  25. Melissa says:

    This looks sooo good!! If I wanted to make this but skip the canning at end, would I have to change anything in the recipe? About how long would they keep refrigerated? Although they probably wouldn’t last long enough for that to matter! ;) love your website and gorgeous photos!

  26. jenyu says:

    Melissa – I don’t think so. You are probably fine to just refrigerate it (I don’t know how long it will last, but at least 2 weeks). I hope you like it!

  27. David says:

    I love snarfs pepper mix!! have you figured out the right recipe to replicate it for canning? Another mix that is similar is potbelly’s mix, but I’m having a hard time finding anyone who says they have a comparable recipe.

  28. jenyu says:

    David – I haven’t tried making the snarf’s pepper mix yet, because I bought a jar ;)

  29. Abby says:

    Thanks for the recipe! It made 5 pints for me, and I just busted into my first jar. I think I would cut the sweet down if I made it again, but it’s yummy.

  30. Jen O'Reilly says:

    Is 2c of vinegar enough? It only covers about 1/8 of the vegetable mixture.

  31. jenyu says:

    Jen – it’s been a while, but I don’t recall having to increase the vinegar when I made this. I think the vegetables will give up a little of their brine during the cooking too, which should increase the liquid levels.

  32. Bre says:

    where do you get your jars from? Not the silver twist too hard, but the jars in the picture above??

  33. Bre says:

    Twist top ones* sorry for the typo! I was too busy drooling over this recipe ;)

  34. jenyu says:

    Bre – ah, I ordered them directly from Weck ( But now they seem to carry them in places like Crate and Barrel. They are my favorite jars :)

  35. Kelley says:

    I would up the vinegar to 2 1/2-3 cups. I had to add extra at the end or the veggies would not be covered. This was after cooking down the veggies and they did give a little of the brine but still didn’t cover them all.

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