Raiding the larder of ideas.

What one family eats, plans to eat, dreams of eating. Plus, other food and kitchen-related stuff from the home of steak-and-potatoes, pie and fresh green beans from the garden.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Klippy's Pappy Picked a Peck of Pickling Peppers: a learning process (no recipe)

Pop has a modest garden in the back yard, in which, this year, he planted about ten pepper plants, most of which turned out to be hotter varieties. And, as is often the case, he wasn't sure what to do with the bumper crop. Now, you might not think that, by the picture above, we had jalapeƱos, since most people think of the hot little green things, but Pop likes to wait until things are VERY ripe before he picks them, and I don't get in his way. 

When these little peppers turned red, they did the same thing sweet peppers do when they go from green to red: they sweetened up. The interesting thing, though, was that they lost precisely none of their heat. The "green-ness" of the flavor was abated, but the crisp, fresh heat was present, as ever, and the extra sugar in the fruit elevated and helped retain the heat on tongue (and cheek, and eyes, and wherever else one is affected by hot peppers).

Because they were so pretty, I couldn't see fit to dehydrating them, and since they were still sweet, my choice for the first batch of jalapeƱos was to amplify the sugar still more by putting them into a nice sweet pickle batch, so that people might use them on sammiches ;) or in spreads, or for just showing off how tough their tongues and intestines might be. 

And, since this was an experimental batch, I cheated a little: I used a seasoning mix, following its instructions with slight variation. I added some lime juice and cilantro – both fresh – to the peppers as I chopped them, used rice vinegar instead of either regular or cider vinegar in the brine, and maltitol for sweetening, all so I could use these for myself as well as for gifts. If you use artificial sweeteners, though, you will need to "bump up" the amount of vinegar you use, because you will have less bulk for your brine, and it will have a shorter shelf life, as non-sugar sweeteners usually are not stable and may begin to turn bitter within about 6-10 months.  

From a peck – literally – of peppers, I managed to get 6 pints and 7 half-pints of pickled peppers. 

The question Pop asked me about them was one I've heard from others, as well (actually, sort of a complaint): why is there always so much liquid at the bottom of the jar when you finish? It's not like that in the pickles you buy from the store, after all. So I looked things up, and – surprise, surprise! – the factory doesn't always pickle in the jars. The process is started in vats, and the liquid is drained as the pickles are finally put into jars. When we, at home, pickle, we need the extra brine to "top off" the contents, making sure the veggies are totally covered before we put them into the hot bath, so that every last bit of food gets the flavor of the brine, and so there is less likelihood of bacterial growth in the jar.   

One can do with a little less brine, if one is pressure canning, but this having extra liquid is still the simplest, safest pickling process. I'm sticking with it. If it's good enough for government work, it's probably not going to explode in our cupboards. And, besides, it worked last year on the pickled green beans.

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