I am a total sucker for the discount bin at the grocery store. Today I scored a cauliflower and a bag of five yellow sweet peppers for $3. How can you pass that up? Since I already had carrots, more peppers, and garlic at home, I decided to try a new ferment- Italian pickled vegetables, also known as giardiniera. I read a recipe for a winter salad based on muffaletta (which is one of my favorite foods) that included giardiniera and I need to add more fermented goodness to my diet. So of course I started by reading a couple dozen recipes on the internet and found that most giardiniera recipes aren’t lacto-fermented at all- they’re briefly soaked in brine to draw out moisture and then either marinated in olive oil or pickled with a vinegar brine. Now I have no idea if giardiniera was “traditionally” lacto-fermented or not (vinegar pickles have a very long history, too) but I’m going to try it.
Garlicky Lacto-Fermented Giardiniera
I will admit to playing it fast & loose with pickling brines. I don’t measure carefully but the goal is a 2% solution of salt to water. I live in Florida where there’s plenty of warmth and bacteria, so ferments live most of their lives in the fridge. If you don’t plan on refrigerating yours, measure carefully.
1 head of cauliflower
5 yellow sweet peppers
1 red Italian pepper
1 stalk of celery
10 fat cloves of garlic (no really! Ten!)
1 tbl whole coriander seeds
1 heaping tbl dried oregano
3 quarts filtered or boiled tap water, warm
3+ tbl sea salt
First wash the vegetables carefully with warm water and rinse well. The break the cauliflower into small florets and cut everything else as small as you want it. I left my pieces on the large size. Slice the garlic cloves. Then take a gallon jar with lid and wash it thoroughly in the hottest water you can. Then pack the vegetables into the jar (you can put them in pretty layers if you want) with some of the spices and sliced garlic between each layer. Then pour three tablespoons of salt over the top. Pour in warm water until the water completely covers the vegetables. If you added more than two quarts, add about a teaspoon of salt for each cup of water over two quarts. Add your jar weight if you use one (I use a plastic lid weighed down with a small bowl) to keep the vegetables submerged. Put the cap on loosely and put it somewhere you can keep an eye on it. Check it every day for a week to make sure the vegetables are still submerged. The brine will get cloudy and then clear up slightly, and start smelling like pickles. After a week, take a pair of clean tongs and fish out a piece. If it’s sour enough for you, put it in the fridge for another week, then eat. If you like it more sour, leave it on the counter and taste every couple of days.