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Is vegetable variety the key to this spicy condiment? We tested seven products to find out.
Top PicksSee Everything We Tested
What You Need To Know
In Italy, giardiniera refers to pickled vegetables that are typically eaten as an antipasto. But here in the United States, it’s most recognized as a combination of pickled cauliflower, carrots, celery, and sweet and hot peppers that is served alongside sandwiches or other lunch fare.
On a trip to Chicago to research recipes, we were impressed by that city’s devotion to this spicy condiment. We tracked down three regional Chicago brands of jarred giardiniera and tasted them against five national brands. While tasters were impressed by the “spicy complexity” and “pleasant bitterness” of one of Chicago’s brands, we wanted a larger variety of vegetables (the Chicago giardinieras are mostly peppers). Our favorite was praised for its “sharp, vinegary tang” and variety of vegetables in the pickle.
Everything We Tested
Tasters enjoyed the crunchy mix of vegetables that stood up to its “sharp, vinegary tang.” Although this giardiniera had mellow heat compared to some of its other competitors, it still had enough to leave tasters reaching for water.
If it weren’t for this giardiniera’s strong vinegar pucker, the amount of heat would be intolerable. But, when combined, the flavors balance each other perfectly.
Recommended with reservations
Although this giardiniera had a good crunch, and balanced level of heat, tasters felt the overall flavor was one-dimensional. Other tasters picked up green olive flavors that didn’t seem to fit in the flavor profile.
This giardiniera had all the right components; flavor, heat, and crunch, but it missed the mark with an overwhelming saltiness that tasters couldn’t get past.
Tasters enjoyed the creeping level of heat, but thought the texture of the vegetables could have been improved upon.
Tasters disliked the abundance of cauliflower in this giardiniera, and felt the flavors were too bland and mild.
Tasters thought this giardiniera was the saltiest of the bunch. And without any vinegar or heat to combat the salt, it scored the lowest.
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