Eat the landscape: Pickled Peppers

Hot peppers are the perfect small bushes for hot, sunny areas where other plants may not survive. Habaneros are especially cute in the fall because they have orange fruit for your traditional fall color. It can be in short supply here, flaming sumac aside. It is reported that you can eat the fruits of the flaming sumac, but I haven’t tried them yet.

Wait for me to try the flaming sumac fruits, and see if I live to tell the tale before you go do it. If I have posted an unfamiliar native plant in my recipes, I assure you I have eaten it repeatedly with no ill effect. Then I give it to my son to eat and see what happens. He’s my first-born, and thus, the experimental child.

how-to-pickle-peppers
A colorful mix of peppers and onion on the left and pickled habaneros hiding on the right.

For this giardiniera recipe, I used the puny green bell peppers I managed to grow this year, jalapeños that turned red on the bush, and store-bought onions. The smaller jar contains pickled habaneros.

An Austin restaurant, Azul Tequila, serves a red onion-habanero pickle with their carnitas de puerco dish. I love it, and it is easy to make.  You don’t have to process that pickle dish to use it. YES, EASY PICKLE. You can make this “quick pickle” by soaking the onions and peppers in vinegar for a few hours before serving.

For canning purposes, you’ll have a few more steps. After years of pickling, I have come up with a flavor profile I prefer, but I am not going to throw that at you. My one piece of advice for flavoring is to mix water, vinegar, sugar, and salt in a proportion you find tasty. Then pick your choice of herbs/spices. If you don’t like vinegar, you must use another type of acid to lower the Ph. People have actually gotten botulism from home-canned goods.

Then again, some people are gross and leave the Thanksgiving turkey out all night on the table and make soup of it in the morning after the cats gnawed on it. (True story from a friend whose in-laws do not follow proper hand washing technique…and more! My friend did not eat the soup.)

Please, please boil the jars for at least ten minutes. But not the lid with the wax ring. You boil that, you weaken the seal when you put it on your finished product. Anyone who tells you otherwise is working with out-of-date information. Hot, soapy water will clean them sufficiently. No bumpy/jagged edges for the glass, either.

  1. A 3:1 vinegar (does not really matter which kind) to water ratio. Or more vinegar if you like it.
  2. Salt to taste. We aren’t fermenting, so it’s not that important. Only Kosher salt!
  3. Sugar to taste–or none. I like to take the edge off the vinegar with it.
  4. Spices/herbs like mustard seed, peppercorns, or dill. It’s really up to you and the herbs and spices you prefer.
  5. Tightly pack your veggies, and pour the hot brine on them. Leave a bit of space (1/4 inch or so) between the filling and rim. Wipe rim dry with a dampened towel.
  6. Put the lid and band on, and boil for at least 10 minutes. Take out, let cool before storing.

I’ve never had the seal not “pop” shut. But if a jar doesn’t pop shut after a couple of hours, do not store the jar. Process with a new lid.

I have overfilled jars before, which I notice when I put the lid on, try to close the jar, and hot brine overflows. WHOOPS.  Just dump some of the brine out, wipe the rim and lid, and close it again.

 

Today in the Garden (Eggplant. Eew.)

Our first edible from the new vegetable garden: Japanese eggplant. I lurve veggies, with the exception of eggplant. So pardon my lack of enthusiasm. I got the Japanese variety because they are smaller and less offensively ‘spongie-wungie.’ Just the thought of eggplant marinara makes me scrunch my face up in anticipation of a leathery, purple-peeled, sloppy, floppy sponge.

I was first turned on to the variety when I purchased a book on Japanese pickling methods (tsukemono). The hubster adores eggplant, so I had to try to find a dish we could both enjoy. Many of the pickling methods hinge on removing water from the vegetable, thus changing the texture to something I might be more inclined to put in my maw.

Most of the pickle recipes can be made in under 6 hours, rather than the weeks required by most other methods. Some are even faster than that! *how exciting*

Of course, they do have the longer-commitment pickling with vinegar, salt, sake lees, or rice bran. There are also recipes for pickling with wine, soy sauce, or malted rice. I’d go into the culinary history and cultural exchanges resulting in the recipes, but you’d likely be bored by that. ‘Tis the stuffs of a PhD thesis.

Recipe for pickled Japanese eggplant, courtesy of Tsukemono: Japanese Pickling Recipes by Ikuko Hisamatsu. The pickling time is a mere 30 minutes.

MARIANATED EGGPLANTS (Nasu Age-bitashi)

8 Japanese eggplants
1 bell pepper
1 medium tomato (optional)
2 tiny onions
1 clove garlic

Pickling medium: 3/4 tsp salt, 2 Tbsp rice vinegar, 6 Tbsp vegetable oil

Slice the eggplants into quarters and flash fry them in vegetable oil. Add to the pickling medium. Briefly fry the bell peppers, drain, and add to the medium. Add the remaining veggies (sliced), toss, and let cure for 30 minutes.

Purple blooms of the eggplant: