I’ve often been crazy lucky to get bags and bags of fruit like plums and apricots from friends backyard trees for jam making. With all that jam filling up the cupboards, my stash of pickles is getting low. At the market right now, it’s nice to see peppers of all kinds.
I don’t know about you, but I usually think of peppers as something that gets sautéed — either in a stir fry or put into a frittata. But with the abundance of peppers, I decided to do some canning reminiscent of my husband Jonathan’s Texas roots. It didn’t take too much thinking to plan two awesome uses for the abundance of peppers: 1. Pickled jalapeños and 2. Red pepper jelly.
This was such an obvious choice. A good number of Tex-Mex restaurants (check out this great conversation with Tex-Mex expert Robb Walsh at point 22:24) serve pickled jalapeños with their chips and salsa. They are pretty ubiquitous and put on top of nachos and into quesadillas. They add an intense spice and sourness to what are heavy and cheesy dishes.
Some carrots and other vegetables can be used as well (more commonly called jalapeños en escabeche).
The great thing about this and any other pickling recipe is how easy it is to make. Simply make the brine and pour it over the chopped jalapeños in a jar. I find pickles that are made strictly with vinegar to be overwhelmingly sour, so I decided to use this recipe, which mixes it up a bit. For complexity, I also added a few garlic cloves to each jar and a sprinkling of pickling spices (a mix of peppercorns, bay leaves and cumin seeds).
One important tip: when cutting any kind of hot pepper, use plastic surgical gloves. This is a must.
10 -12 fresh jalapeño peppers
3/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon pickling salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
Sterilize jars by boiling them for ten minutes in a hot water bath. Put in a 250-degree oven to keep sterile.
Cut jalapeños into rings about ½ inch thick. I used the cutting to also remove some seeds and membranes from the peppers to reduce the heat.
Bring remaining ingredients to a boil in a small saucepan, then pour in the chilis and simmer for 5 minutes. Fill the jars with the jalapenos and then pour the pickling liquid on top, leaving a 1/2-inch headspace. Wipe rims, put on lids and rings, and process ten minutes in a boiling water bath.
One bonus of this recipe is that the vinegar solution is very spicy. I like to use it as a substitute for hot pepper sauce.
Red Pepper Jelly
This is another Texas classic. Red pepper jelly is a perfect combination of sweet and sour that is akin to that syrupy Thai sweet chili sauce that accompanies wontons. The ultimate southern combination is a block of cream cheese slathered with red pepper jelly to be spread on top of a Triscuit.
While the recipe calls for cherry bomb or Fresno peppers, you can substitute any other hot pepper. I used a bag of assorted hot peppers from the farmers’ market, not really knowing what kind they were. You could use habañeros or scotch bonnets.
The key is to assiduously take the seeds and membranes out. You can a tiny amount of the seeds if you want the jelly spicy, but really that stuff is incendiary. I modified this recipe for the jelly.
5 hot bomb peppers or Fresno chiles, stemmed and chopped with seeds removed
2 large red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and chopped
3 cups sugar
2 cups apple cider vinegar
Half a 9-ounce packet powdered pectin, such as Sure Gel
Place the peppers in a food processor and process until completely broken down. Transfer to a cheesecloth or clean towel and squeeze tightly to remove any excess liquid.
Add the sugar, vinegar and peppers to a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a rolling boil, 4 to 6 minutes. Whisk in the pectin and watch the mixture carefully, stirring occasionally, to prevent from boiling over. Use the plate test to make sure that the jelly has thickened.
Pour the mixture into six 1/2-pint properly sterilized jars (see above). Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes to sterilize and seal. Jars should then be inverted to prevent the peppers from settling at the bottom. Cool completely before storing in the refrigerator. The jelly will continue to thicken as it cools.