I flipped through my mental recipe catalogue trying to recall dishes for which I call on jalapenos. The obvious contenders came to mind - guacamole, salsas, tacos, eggs, marinades, fish, a simmering pot of black beans. All good ideas, but I knew there wasn't a snowball's chance in hell (thank you, Sunday night's episode of Mad Men, for poising that phrase front and center in my brain) that I was going to inundate our meals with jalapenos for the next two weeks. After years of eating my food, Damien's palate has moved from spice-intolerant to spice-appreciative, but I fear that two weeks of jalapenos would set us back.
And so, wanting to preserve them, I decided to go where I have never gone before and in the great tradition of Peter Piper, I pickled my peppers.
Since the days of yore, the process of pickling has been employed for moments exactly like this one - when the fruits of the harvest were plentiful, but everyone knew that there was just no shot at using up 20 pounds of cucumbers before they went bad. So, in order to take full advantage of fresh veggies at their peak, without losing them to spoilage, folks would preserve them by pickling.
Pickling, aka brining or corning, is not exclusive to vegetables - most anything can be pickled - including meat. In fact, I corned my own beef for St. Patrick's day - yes, that's right, corned beef is pickling too. I've even seen pickled eggs on bar counters in Ireland and England. Pickled nuts too.
I decided to do a refrigerator pickle, which basically means that my goal is only to store them for a few weeks in the fridge. I didn't sterilize my jars or get serious about checking Ph levels, which are important steps when trying to make shelf-stable food that lasts months. For all you need to know about the science and guidelines behind home canning, you might check the National Center for Home Food Preservation. Although, that website, while extensive, is also rather mind-numbing - so, I recommend you also check out Tart and Sweet, written by one of my favorite and local Brooklyn experts on canning, Kelly Geary of Sweet Deliverance NYC.
The whole process took about 15 minutes. I continue to gaze at my pickled peppers in the fridge, checking in on them as if they might escape. Each time I look at them, they have a different destiny. Most are still fated to add zip to food, but some are definitely bound for a cocktail glass. My recent cocktail inspiration is due to this spicy Margarita over at my neighbor, Lillie's, and the tart and spicy Jalapeno Margarita I recently had the pleasure of imbibing at Van Horn Sandwich Shop on Court St.
Since it takes some time for the pickling juices to really infuse into the peppers, I have yet to sample the finished product. However, I can tell you that based on the pickled pepper aromas that filled my apartment, I have extremely high and spicy expectations.
Jalapeno peppers, about 12-14 peppers
Water, 1 1/2 cups
Cider vinegar, 1 1/2 cups
Garlic cloves, 3
Black peppercorns, 1 Tbsp.
Coriander seeds, 1 Tbsp.
Yellow mustard seeds, 1 tsp.
Bay leaves, 2
Kosher salt, 1 1/2 Tbsp.
Sugar, 1 1/2 Tbsp.
Thoroughly wash the jalapeno peppers.
In a non-reactive pot, add all of the other ingredients. Bring up to a simmer and allow to cook for 5 minutes - making sure all of the salt and sugar dissolve fully.
Using the tip of a pairing knife, pierce each pepper 3 or 4 times.
Tightly pack the peppers into a 1 liter jar.
Pour the heated pickling juice over the peppers and tightly seal the jar.
Allow the jar to cool.
Once it has cooled significantly, place the jar in the fridge. Although they are perfectly alright to eat immediately, part of the whole point of pickling is to infuse the peppers with the flavors of the spices. So, allow them to sit and do their thing for at least 2 or 3 days before cracking them open - although waiting 1 week would be ideal.
The pickled peppers should keep in the fridge for 3-4 weeks.