Perhaps you’ve seen it served on a Chicago dog, or maybe you get the option to top your Italian beef sandwich with it. Either way, it tastes great and you’re curious about its origin. It is Giardiniera: chopped and pickled vegetables that instantly remind you of Italian-American restaurants.
Also known as ‘Chicago’s Condiment’ in many circumstances, Giardiniera has two different styles. Italian style is the kind that’s pickled in vinegar. Chicago-style is the same combination of vegetables, but after it is pickled in vinegar, it is marinated in olive oil.
When consumed in Chicago, Giardiniera is considered a condiment. However, the Italian-style iteration of this medley of pickled vegetables is often served as a side to many meals. So, how exactly did Giardiniera originate, and more interestingly, why has it become so popular?
The Origin of Giardiniera
As evidenced in the name and its proper pronunciation (“jar-dih-nair-ah”), this delectable main course or side dish comes from Italy. When Giardiniera first emerged in the culinary world, the pickling of these vegetables was actually a method of preserving them after a huge harvest.
The combination of vegetables in the original Italian Giardiniera was not necessarily the exact combination you toss on your sub sandwich or potentially even pizza. Generally, it was just whatever bounty of extra garden vegetables that needed preserving and then served later as a side dish or a meal.
While it is now a staple in Chicago, it migrated from Italy to Chicago with Italian immigrants during the mid-19th century. In doing so, Giardiniera has now become the oil-based topping that Chicago natives and visitors know and love.
How Has Giardiniera Evolved?
Giardiniera largely remained the same when it arrived in Chicago, as Italian immigrants brought their authentic culture and heritage to America. But over the decades that followed, Giardiniera soon assimilated to Western culture, and Westerners love toppings.
The vegetables have become more specific, including cauliflower, carrots, bell peppers, celery, and varying chile peppers. Additionally, a change in spice became commonplace, as there are many opportunities to have Giardiniera that uses fiery white peppers in the mix.
Today, you can find Giardiniera served as a condiment on a multitude of different Chicago-style meals. Of course, foodies find putting Giardiniera on their Italian beef sandwiches most appealing. But also consider having it on hot dogs, sub sandwiches, pizza, burgers, and even tacos! Nevertheless, many individuals prepare it the ‘classic way’ and serve it up as part of an antipasto platter!
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