Introduction: How to Pickle a Peck of Peppers (peperoncini)
Excellent for use in cooking, sandwiches, eggs, or as a garnish at a barbecue pickled peppers can't be beat. A typical jar at a grocery store will run you $2-$3 for a pint (sometimes a half-pint) but this entire recipe, if done when peppers are on sale, will let you do many quarts for around $10 plus the cost of jars.
Pickled peppers are delicious whether you pickle them in pints or quarts, even up to a peck. A peck is defined as 1/4 of a bushel, or 2 gallons, so a peck of pickled peppers is 8 quarts.
Please forgive the photos on this one. I was sick and decided that canning would be a good idea with a fever of 102F.
- Hot Peppers -
Peppercini's are traditionally made from yellow (banana) peppers and can be used with this recipe. I used anaheim peppers because they're 1) hotter and 2) usually cheaper. I actually bought these peppers at the dollar store for $8
Use straight white vinegar for best color. You can get it anywhere food or bulk goods are sold, so go for wherever is cheapest.
You can use whole cloves or minced, but the garlic shouldn't be left out.
Kosher salt makes for the best brine
If you don't have a water-bath canner (steam should work, I just don't use one) then make sure you have a pot deep enough so that the jars can be submerged by at least an inch under the water. Also you will need a rack (or handful of level jar lids) to keep the glass from coming in contact with the bottom of the pan.
Make sure you have jars that are specifically for canning, not just extra glass jars from used condiments. I recommend either Ball or Kerr. Rings should be free of corrosion and rust, and I always suggest using new lids.
Whether you use tongs, a sturdy mitt, or an actual jar lifter make sure that you have plenty of space between your fingertips and the boiling water
Seriously. We're doing peppers here, and even if you wear gloves (you should, but I didn't) you need a to stop acid burns all through this process. I recommend Bactine but any lidocaine spray should work. Milk won't be enough, and water will make things worse. Also if you have sensitive eyes you should wear safety goggles.
As a handy trick, holding a burnt matchstick between your teeth will help avoid stinging as the carbon (smoke) will absorb into your eyes faster than the acids from the peppers.
Step 1: Pepper Preparation
Buy these peppers on sale. You're going to be canning/processing/pickling these bad boys, so you don't need highest quality. Make sure they're free of bugs and have no soft spots, then buy a TON. I got about 10lbs and wound up with 9 quarts.
See the pictures below. Make sure you have a really sharp knife and insert it at an angle almost parallel to the side of the pepper. Make a quick cut around the top and pop out the stem/seeds. You'll want to wash the peppers later to remove more seeds, or leave them in for a kick-you-in-the esophagus mouth-melting pepper.
Step 2: Pepper Pre-Processing
I used about 4 quarts white vinegar and 2 quarts water with 1/2c kosher salt. Bring everything to a boil and then add the garlic. Simmer for about 15 minutes to let the garlic "infuse" into the brine.
While the brine is brining slice all your peppers into approximately 1/8" thickness. These will pack tightly, so don't worry if you break a few.
I decided to roast the garlic for extra flavor. Just cut the top off of a bulb and put it in the oven at 400F for about 15 minutes or until it turns brown. Mash it up and then stir it into the brine.
Step 3: Pepper Packing
Make sure your jars are sterilized before starting. If I plan ahead enough I can run the jars through the dishwasher and they come out squeaky clean and piping hot.
Pack as many peppers into each jar as you can, because it'll make your brine go further and save space on your pantry. I packed them in as hard as I could, and I was glad I did.
Once the peppers are packed, ladle brine over them using a careful hand or a funnel (I use a funnel) and put on the hot lids and tighten firmly.
Step 4: Pepper Processing and Perfection
Once the peppers are packed and brined make sure you remove all the air bubbles with a knife, chopstick, or other implement. You want to leave about 1/2" of headspace at the top to make sure the seal will form properly. Be very careful of the temperature of the jars, the water, and the counter. Process for 15 minutes and let cool in the canner before removing. Check after a couple of hours to make sure the seals are puckered. Allow to cool completely and store in your pantry for up to a year.
If you've been keeping count you'll see that I have 1 less jar now than when I started. I decided to process in 2 batches to save on weight and when it came time to do my second batch one of the jars cracked open as soon as it touched the water. In the future I'd put the jars in hot water in the sink during the 20 minutes of processing.
All in all though, at the end of the day I'm left with a peck of pickled peppers.