In Friday’s garden update, I showed you our serrano pepper plants. We planted two of them three months ago, and for at least six weeks, the plants showed positively no sign of growing. We even contemplated pulling them out to put in more lettuce, but luckily we didn’t (both because weeks later we were drowning in lettuce and because the peppers finally grew!) What seemed like overnight, the plants grew a foot and started flowering. When the first flower gave birth to a tiny serrano pepper, we were proud pepper parents. Frankly, I wasn’t sure that it got hot enough in our perpetually 68 degree slice of heaven for us to successfully grow hot peppers. Also, I wasn’t sure that if we succeeded in growing serranos that they’d even have spice to them since Berkeley isn’t exactly the scorching southwest.
foolishly bravely tested our first serrano pepper by taking a hefty bite of it seconds after pulling it off the plant. Judging by the way his eyes popped out, I was able to safely deduce that Berkeley soil could grow some spice. A few weeks later we were in possession of dozens of serrano peppers, far more than I could put to use even by making gallons of salsa. Since J puts pickled jalapenos on his food the way other people use salt, I thought pickling some of our serranos was definitely the way to go.
Google led me to a number of different recipes and formulas for pickling, but I ultimately went with Michael Symon’s and Michael Ruhlman’s recipe for pickled jalapenos as described by David Lebovitz. When I’m looking for recipes, I always look for recipes from bloggers I follow first. When I was searching for a recipe for Tiramisu Cupcakes, I instantly felt more confident when I came across a recipe by Jenna who writes the blog Eat, Live, Run. I’ve read and enjoyed a number of Michael Ruhlman’s books and articles, and David Lebovitz taught me how to make ice cream without an ice cream maker. So a recipe for pickled peppers that was cosigned by both of these guys gave me more confidence than any random article that Google turned up for me.
So I picked my peppers, all the while making Peter Piper jokes to myself.
And I assembled all the ingredients. That’s water, vinegar, salt, sugar, bay leaves, coriander seeds, garlic, and red pepper flakes. The recipe calls for black peppercorns, but I only had red pepper flakes, so I subbed in 3 tablespoons of red pepper flakes, figuring that for J, there was no such thing as too spicy.
You heat all the ingredients in a large pot for about 5 minutes. Be careful about leaning over the pot because all that vinegar will make your eyes water. Not that I did that or anything; I’m just guessing.
In the meantime, pierce each pepper through at least three times, or cut them into slices and put them into sterilized jars. (You can sterilize the jars either by plunging them into boiling water, or just running them through the dishwasher). Piercing or slicing the peppers is important to make sure the brining liquid fully penetrates each pepper. Carefully ladle the brining liquid into each jar of peppers and seal the jars. Once the jars are cool, refrigerate them.
The recipe recommends refrigerating the peppers for at least a week before trying them, so at the moment I can’t comment on how they taste. If you’re going to store these peppers for an extended period of time you would want to properly can and process the jars. However, we gave one jar to our neighbors, and I’d imagine that once I allow J to open the jars of serranos, they won’t last very long at all.
Mostly I was completely amazed at how easy it was to pickle the peppers. This is my second foray into canning/preserving/pickling in the kitchen thanks to our garden. My neighbor and I have also made several batches of plum jam thanks to some very fruitful plum trees in our backyard. I’d always had the impression that canning/preserving/pickling was particularly complicated or messy or time-consuming, but these two kitchen adventures have proven me very definitively wrong. There’s something absurdly satisfying about canning your own jam or pickling your own peppers.
If you happen to find yourself in possession of a lot of produce that would benefit from preserving or pickling, I recommend that you screw up whatever kitchen bravery you have and make some jam or pickle some peppers. I know Courtney recently wrote a post with a recipe for Strawberry Balsamic Jam that looked amazing. We’ve both found these kitchen endeavors to be entirely worth the effort.
Have you ever made jam or pickles or done some other kind of kitchen preserving?