This year was a difficult one for peppers. Of course that is all my fault. Normally this year would have been perfect for all my peppers. I did have a phenomenal jalapeno crop. I had enough success with the late cayenne plants to dry a few peppers, but I did not have enough to freeze for the winter. Normally, I freeze enough to last well into the next pepper season. Therefore I decided to pickle a large amount of jalapenos to supplement the cayenne. Since I planned to use them for cooking the recipe is very simple. Below I will also talk about the other two ways to preserve hot peppers as well.
Most of the time folks like to add different flavors and spices to any type of pickled vegetable to create a tasty snack. This recipe is far simpler due to the fact I wanted to be able to cook with the finished product. That does not mean they don’t make excellent snacks or cocktail garnishes as well. To pack these I used my basic canning method and then steamed the jars in boiling water for 10 minutes to finish the pickles. I did not bother adding pickle crisp because these were for the pantry, but if they are to be eaten primarily as a snack I would suggest adding one teaspoon per jar to keep them from getting soggy. Or follow my canning method exactly and skip the steam bath after. Remember that the fresher the pepper the better the pickle.
- 2 lbs jalapenos (about 20-25 medium sized)
- 4 cups white vinegar
- 4 cups water
- 4 tbsp kosher sea salt or pickling salt
Wash and dry peppers. Discard any that are bad or bruised. Cut 4 to 6 long slits lengthwise in each. This will keep the peppers from exploding once the hot brine is added. Combine brine ingredients and bring to a boil. Meanwhile sterilize 4-5 12-ounce canning jars. Pack jalapenos into jars leaving at least 1/4″ space at top. Fill with hot brine and seal. Steam in boiling water for 10 minutes then set out to cool. Any jars that do not seal, place in the refrigerator to use first. Wait at least two weeks before eating any.
Drying is the best way to preserve the most amount of heat in a pepper, but it can be tricky. When it comes to drying cayenne peppers I have great success just placing them on a rack in a dry spot out of direct sunlight and waiting about a month. Other larger peppers require time in an oven or dehydrator to keep them from molding. I have yet to dry a jalapeno out successfully but have had success with pablanos in an oven on really low heat (140 degrees) with the door slightly ajar for quite a few hours. After the peppers dry I then grind some into powder while leaving others whole to reconstitute in water when cooking.
This is the best way to quickly preserve hot peppers for cooking. They will be too mushy to use in pico or chopped up fresh but alas we cannot all live in California where vegetables grow fresh all year round. The trick to freezing peppers is to boil them for about 1 minute then allow them to cool before freezing. The quick boil causes the pepper to collapse and freeze faster and actually locks in more of the spice. When you are ready to cook just pull a few out of the freezer ( I store them in a one-gallon ziplock bag which holds around 60-80) and chop them up. The freezing process does lose some heat so you may need to double the amount of peppers used in any given recipe.