Prized Pickled Peppers

Editor’s Note- this was originally written in the Fall of 2012. As it only lived on our Facebook page, and I’ve just finished canning my first batch of 2013 (the first snap lid of the year just ‘snapped!’) this seemed like a good time to move it to our more permanent website.

All Jalapenos in here, but different stages of ripeness looks the prettiest.
All jalapenos in here, but different stages of ripeness looks the prettiest.

Nachos, pizza, sandwiches, eggs, burgers, chocolate cake, everything tastes better with Pickled Jalapenos on it (ok, maybe not cake). Once upon a time, back when I had more cents than sense, I used to fuel my Jalapeno obsession with the store bought version. I plodded along blissfully unaware of the home-crafted alternative. We’ve grown our own Jalapenos for years, but always to be consumed fresh during the summer with a handful being accidentally dried after being pushed to the back of the shelf behind the spice rack.

That is, until the Never Ending Fall of 2011 followed by the Winter of 2011/12 That Never Came. With this late warm weather came an abundance of fresh Jalapenos from our garden, far more than we had any chance of eating fresh without causing severe gastrointestinal distress.

By this point I had been living in the country long enough to know that people do in fact pickle things at home, yet I had never been brave enough or motivated enough to try it myself. With the goal of preserving our bounty for the coming year, I entered the brave new world of home pickling.

Never again will I settle for that store bought stuff. With peppers straight from our garden into the canner, it’s like fresh hotness happened in a jar.

Disaster struck in late July of this year when we were down to our last jar and I was refusing to debase myself by purchasing store-bought. I spent the next few weeks carefully rationing our pepper allotment and out in the garden giving words of encouragement to our pepper plants to hurry along this year’s crop. So far it’s been a good one.

Choppity chop. You can pickle them whole, but I like 'em sliced
Choppity chop. You can pickle them whole, but I like ’em sliced

The recipe we use is pretty basic:

  • ~3 to 3.5lbs of Jalapeno peppers, sliced, seeds included.
  • Brine: 4 cups vinegar and 4 cups water, heated (not boiling).
  • 1 tsp pickling salt per pint jar.

This will fill 7 pint jars. Pack with peppers, add warm brine to jars (leave 1/2″ headspace), remove air bubbles with gentle tapping and/or butter knife, add salt to each jar, apply snap lids and rings as per usual instructions, process in canner for 10 minutes. For the next week, enjoy looking at them but don’t open! They don’t hit their full pickled stride until at least a week after being confined to the jar. So be patient, even if last year’s supply ran out and you’re hankering for some heat.

If you opt to pickle them whole, you need to slice each one to allow the brine inside. This isn’t limited to Jalapenos, any peppers will do. Some recipes have garlic, or mustard seed, or other spices. Those are fine, but Jalapenos come preseasoned in my eyes (or on my tongue?).

Which brings me to the valuable tip of the day: wear gloves when handling hot peppers. You just cannot wipe the hotness off and you will touch your eye in the next day and you will feel it. Seriously, wear gloves. Or goggles for the next week. Your choice.

5 batches so far this year - I'm worried we don't have enough
5 batches so far this year – I’m worried we don’t have enough

As I type this, the last lid of todays batch just popped down with that pleasing “snap” that only snap lids can perpetrate. It’s satisfying to know that our hotness needs for the next year are (probably) taken care of, though I’m still hoping the weather stays warm enough for another crop from our garden. You can never have too many pickled peppers, but you can have too few.


Editors Footnote- The good news is we had enough to get us through the year. The bad news is we’ve managed to hook a few friends and family on the scrumptious virtues of pickled hotness and need an even larger stock to get us through the next 12 months!