You don’t need to be a chemist to make your own pickled vegetables. This marinated mix (based on Italian giardiniera) is about as tough to put together a salad. And they will stay crisp through your whole trip. The only slightly cheffy thing about this recipe is smashing garlic, which is a handy way to flavor liquid without adding a lot of tiny bits. If you’ve never done it, here’s how: After peeling, put your knife over one clove so that the flat side of the blade is parallel to the cutting board. Hold the handle firmly in one hand and, with a closed fist, strike the blade firmly but carefully so it smashes the garlic almost flat. (It’s okay if it breaks up a little; that happens to chefs, too.)
Makes about 2 quarts
1 cup olive oil 6 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp black peppercorns
6 bay leaves
6 sprigs thyme 1 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 pound cauliflower, trimmed and broken into florets
1/2 pound broccoli, trimmed and broken into florets
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced into thick coins
2 bell peppers, any color, cored and sliced
- Put the oil and garlic in a large pot over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently and adjusting the heat to avoid burning, until the cloves puff and turn golden a bit, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add the vinegar, salt, pepper, bay leaves, thyme, and 2 cups water. Raise the heat so the mixture boils and add the cauliflower. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture returns to a boil, then add the carrots, broccoli, and peppers. Cover, remove from heat, and let sit until cool enough to handle, about 20 minutes.
- Transfer the vegetables and seasonings to quart jars, sealable bags, or another airtight container and add enough brine to keep everything submerged. Refrigerated, the pickles will keep for a week.
Open the jar or container and eat. Put leftovers back in the cooler and eat more later.
There are a few different ways to eat leftovers: Roughly chopped, they instantly become relish—perfect for impromptu sandwiches (a New Orleans-style Muffaletta with deli meats and giardiniera-olive relish on a soft roll is awesome on a hike). They’re also delicious stirred into a pot of beans or tossed with a can of tuna or sardines to spread on crackers. And you can even use the brine as salad dressing.
Experiment with other vinegars—white balsamic, sherry, and rice are nice—and seasonings—rosemary, saffron, or star anise can be fun. And this recipe works with just about any vegetable, even hearty greens like collards, chard, or cabbage. For a spicier version, throw in some sliced jalapeños. If you want a deeper flavor (and some excellent martini garnishes) add a handful or two of your favorite olives.