I’m a sucker for the hot stuff. Serve it to me pickled and I’m likely to turn to mush.
There isn’t a lot of mystery to my pickled hot peppers. I don’t add garlic, mustard seed, dill, pepper or fancy stuff. Hot peppers (in the photos below, jalapenos), salt and water.
But there are a few tricks. Here’s a list:
- The brine I use is (approximately) 4.5% salt brine. That’s 3 tablespoons per 4 cups water (45 ml per liter). I make extra brine as my process intentionally spills some of the brine into the sink (explained below). Make enough bring to fill 60-85% of your final vessel (the more you practice my trick, the less you’ll need).
- Disolve the salt fully into the water – I do this by heating it and letting it cool before adding it to my peppers.
- I use a big, giant, wide-mouth mason jar. The almost 2-liter (half-gallon) version.
- The enemy of this process is air. You must weight the peppers under the surface of the water through the ferment. To do so I:
- Use large slices of chiles (they are halves – you could do whole but the pickling takes longer). Large pieces have a tougher time finding their way to the top of the brine.
- I pack my giant jar tight. Really tight. I leave barely enough room for a small half-cup jar to fit on the top (I start with not enough room and remove peppers as necessary).
- Fill the large jar with brine (in the sink). Gently shake it to remove air bubbles. Repeat until air is removed and brine is filled near the top of the neck.
- I ‘seatbelt‘ (this is my term for stopping all fruits and veg from floating while preserving) the top layer with a few ‘butterflied’ peppers (they are sliced on one side and flattened). This is an optional step.
- Replace lost brine.
- Place a clean and sterile half-cup small jar inside the bigger one. The small jar should be sticking out at this point.
- Fill the small jar with brine – overfill to ensure the big jar is topped up.
- Take a clean lid and ring, push down on the jar (you shouldn’t have to be Hercules here – I sometimes remove a few peppers if it’s too hard). Brine will spill in to the sink as the small jar displaces liquid from the large jar. The key is the small jar remaining ‘in the neck’ of the larger jar. Your large chiles won’t float up there and displaced water in the neck will ensure they are covered.
- This is it – for day 1. More instructions below.
Here’s my peppers before wiping the jar (you can see the salt water trickle on the outside) – there’s a small jar at the very top which is preventing these peppers from finding air:
You’re not done though. These babies need a sitter:
- Check your peppers every day. I do this in the sink in case of any spillage. This is very important.
- If foam or mould appears, remove with a clean spoon. Aged cheese was covered in mould before you got it too.
- After about 2 weeks (I judge my timing based on looking at them and comparing to other pickled peppers I’ve seen in the past), taste your peppers. When they taste just as you want them (often this is 2-3 weeks), place container in the fridge. This will slow down the fermentation process and your peppers will be pickled.
Yum yum in my tum tum.
July 1, 2014 (edit): When I first wrote this article, 3 years ago, I suggested boiling the brine after fermenting in order to extend the shelf-life of the product in the fridge (less living bacteria would slow the ferment even further than just the cold). I no longer do this as I’ve found that my hot peppers last months – or longer – without boiling and this increases the amount of probiotics in the brine (though you’d have to eat a LOT of hot peppers to benefit from the probiotics inside!)