Pickled peppers

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Last week a friend swung by to pick me up for a moms’ night out and brought with her a bag of chile peppers – jalapeno and Serrano to be precise.  “Someone gave these to me, and I figured you could do something with them, right?” she offered, ominously.  I don’t eat anything spicier than mild Taco Bell sauce, but who am I to refuse free food, if that’s what you call this stuff.

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I wasn’t sure what to do with the hot peppers, but I knew a condiment was the way to go because it would allow my husband to add small amounts to the mild food I cook, adjusting his meal to his more tolerant palate.  Having recently made zucchini relish, green tomato chutney, piccalilli and chili sauce (a total misnomer, it’s not hot whatsoever), I liked the idea of a pickled condiment, but without all the chopping.

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I found a recipe online and adapted it to what I had in my pantry.  While I personally found the end result completely inedible due to the heat (see my notes on how the peppers taste at the bottom), the process was fun and the peppers themselves were really beautiful to photograph.  I won’t be making these again, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give them a shot.

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Recipe  (adapted from Michael Ruhlman’s)
Time: 10 minutes hands-on, 25 minutes total
Yield: 9c pickled peppers

Ingredients
9c chiles (I used jalapenos and Serranos)
3c white vinegar
3c water
4T sugar
4T salt
1 bay leaf
2T ground coriander
1t ground cumin
4 sprigs fresh oregano
3 garlic cloves
2T peppercorns (I used multi-colored)

Directions
1.  Rinse chiles leaving stems on and pack them into canning jars*.  (If you want to pickle some of them chopped, cut them up at this stage.  I did so for 1c.)

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2.  Heat remaining ingredients in a medium-sized saucepan.   Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to simmer for 5-10 minutes.

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3.  Remove the pickling liquid from the heat and allow it to cool for 15 minutes or so.

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4.  Pour the liquid over the peppers, filling the containers.  Cover, cool on the counter and then store in the fridge.

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5.  Enjoy whole straight from the jar or chop up and pour over tacos, etc…  You could also puree the peppers (minus the stems) and use as a marinade (or a weapon, just sayin’).

*A note on the containers
While you can store them in any glass jar, you must make them in tempered glass containers so the glass doesn’t shatter when you pour in the hot pickling liquid.  If you want to use something like a Pyrex mixing bowl and then transfer to used food jars, be my guest.  I especially like that technique when I’m planning to give away the contents and containers.  Unless I want them to look really fancy.  Then I buy special jars and attach custom labels with pretty ribbon.

jar with pretty label
Photo credit: Attune Foods

Yeah, right.  Like I have time for that.  Find a cute picture on Pinterest, maybe.  But actually do the project?  I don’t think so.

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A note on how they taste
I had no intention of tasting these bad boys.  I don’t like spicy food and I knew these peppers were very hot.  However, I didn’t feel right posting this without having tried the finished product so I decided to take one for the team.  I grabbed a green one, thinking the jalapenos would be slightly milder than the Serranos.  Gingerly, I bit the end off and began to chew.  Pretty good.  Still crunchy and fresh tasting, with the complexity the pickling process lends.  Nice, I did it!

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Then I got cocky and decided to go for another bite thinking it would be like the first.  Big mistake.  With the second bite I hit the seeds and boy did I pay for it.  My mouth exploded in fire and then the drooling began.  Hunched over the sink spitting I thought about my dedication to my readers.  There are reasons I normally refuse to cook anything I wouldn’t eat, and pain is perhaps the best.  I slugged down several swigs of milk and forced a hunk of two-day old baguette after it.  The burning has subsided now, but the memory lives on.

I have no idea to whom I can give these peppers, but my “gift” will definitely be accompanied by a stern warning and a firm no-return policy.

An (interesting) aside
Did you ever think about the various ways to spell chile?  As in: chile, chili, or chilli?  I looked it up while drafting this post and decided to go with “chile” after reading this description of the differences.

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