>> Friday, June 29, 2012
When my girls were little, one of our favorite treats was Sammie's Hot Dog stand in Grayslake, a far north suburb of Chicago. This casual little place used to be a summer food stand for the lake resort crowd but grew into a year-round place that also served thousands at the County Fair. Their hot dogs were the authentic Chicago-style kind, but I liked their savory Italian Beef sandwiches even better. Plenty of au jus, and a side of pickled giardiniera (some people spell this jardiniera) that was big enough to last me for a couple more meals after the sandwich was long gone.I especially liked to sprinkle giardiniera on my macaroni and cheese.
Since then I've branched out to taste many other Italian beef places. Chicago is full of them. Al's Beef on West Taylor Street was named Chicago's #1, but I must have gone there on an off-day after classes at UIC, because I wasn't impressed at all. I'm going to have to give them a second chance.
The Portillos sandwich chain has never disappointed me. I used to work near enough to one that my coworkers and I would sometimes go out to lunch there, and I'd inevitably come back to work with some splashes on my clothes. The chain has the added attraction of watching the fastest sandwich-makers in the world build your food as you move along the cafeteria line.
Carm's Beef and Italian Ice is another winner in the same area of Little Italy - this one is on Polk Street. They use Turano's soft rolls, the spiced beef is sliced just right, and they dip the sandwich into gravy for the perfect amount of time. Mr. Beef on Orleans is a favorite with celebrities and also gets a lot of reviews, rightfully so. The link to their site takes you to a wealth of sandwich information and a place to order their beef if you're far from home and jonesing for a sandwich.
It's hard to choose between big strips of sweet sauteed peppers and giardiniera on these sandwiches, but I'm sticking with the hot pickled veggies for this post. Around here, one of the most famous brands of giardiniera is Scala's, originally made by South Side immigrants of the Scala family. It's pretty easy to find in grocery stores.
My version of this is based off a Chicago Tribune article and the delicious version from the blog The Paupered Chef. I don't know if Italians make and eat this mixture in Italy; I didn't see any while I was traveling there, but we didn't go farther south than Rome. In any case, Joe and I like this condiment on eggs, bread, sandwiches, or with anything else we're craving a hot/sour tang.
Ingredients7 jalapenos, thinly sliced (for hot giardiniera, use serranos)
1 red bell pepper, diced
3 celery ribs, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 cups cauliflower, chopped
1/2 cup salt
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 tsp fresh oregano, chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
1/2 tsp celery seeds
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
1 cup Canola oil
DirectionsPlace vegetables into a bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Cover the vegetables with water and allow to sit for 4 hours or overnight. Drain the vegetables.
Set the oil aside. Whisk together the rest of the ingredients. Pack veggies tightly into pint jars. Pour 1/4 cup of oil into each jar. Ladle the vinegar/seasoning mixture into the jars until full, tapping to release air bubbles. Allow 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe the edges of the jars and seal them hand-tight.
Process the jars in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes. Remove and allow to cool. Check seals and tighten lids, if necessary, before storing. Allow the jars to marinate for a few days before using.
Makes approximately 4 pints.
Note: if you choose not to process these jars in a canner, they will last for several weeks in the refrigerator.
You can find other canning and preserving recipes in my book, The Complete Guide to Food Preservation: Step-by-step Instructions on How to Freeze, Dry, Can, and Preserve Food