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Pick a peck of pickled peppers

September 22, 2011

Or perhaps just three half-pints.  A peck’s a bit much, particularly of jalapeños, at least for me!  I like spicy food, but not too spicy.

Home preserved pickled jalapenos; three pint jars

While I searched valiantly through my favored Complete Book of Home Preserving by Ball (the canning jar), I couldn’t find any recipes strictly for pickled jalapeños or any other hot pepper.  I might try the jalapeño pepper jelly some other time, though.  Instead, I checked out The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving by Ellie Topp from the library.  That book has both a recipe strictly for pickled jalapeños and a jalapeño variation under pickled ginger.

The small-batch approach of this book initially appealed to me, but, alas, the instructions and recipes are lacking in precision.  Since I’ve canned before, and with the comprehensive Ball instructions, I was fine.  Beginners, though, would do well to steer clear of Topp’s cloudy directions and ingredients.  The recipes each refer you to the specific instruction page and tell you how long to boil them; each chapter has its own set of instructions at the beginning of the chapter that tells you how to hot water bath that particular preserve.  Simple, yes?  Nope.  Her full directions on preparing jars and hot water bathing are actually in a different section.  As in, directions for hot water bath canning are incomplete unless you flip to the introduction and read through all of that.  If you just follow the instructions on page 133 as the recipe I used instructed me, I would have been sorely lacking major portions of process.  Who doesn’t read the whole book?  Well, I’m guessing a lot of people wouldn’t.  I just flipped open to the recipe I wanted and read through a few times.  If I hadn’t canned before and didn’t know I needed a rack a the bottom of my canner, I could easily have put glass jars directly on the bottom of the pot and wound up with shattered glass because she only covers canning racks in the introduction.  The pickle canning instructions also didn’t cover letting the finished jars sit in the hot water bath once the heat is off even though she mentions it in the introduction.  Sloppy.  Either use complete instructions in each section or tell your reader that they should review full instructions on the early pages before proceeding with the directions on the later pages.

Then there’s the ingredients list.  She mentioned pickling spice without noting her recipe for it is on page 136 and fails to illuminate whether one weighs the peppers before or after you’ve seeded them.  The way it’s written, you’d think she meant post-seeded, which is how I proceeded.  Except I ended up with enough chopped jalapeños for thee half-pint jars instead of the two half-pints her recipe claims to make.  I had to make a double batch of her brine to fill my jars properly.  Finally, though she notes that salting vegetables before you pickle them will help draw out moisture and produce a more perfect pickle, she fails to include this as an actual step in her recipes.  It is only mentioned in the beginning of the chapter on pickles and condiments.

Overall?  The book is not joining the elite cooking shelf of my bookcase and I will likely not use it again.  The Ball book is better set up to simply flip to one recipe and cook that one through; tips, hints and reminders are included on the same page and there is no unnecessary flipping back to the introduction or chapter heading to make sure you’ve remembered to salt your vegetables or wipe your rims or rest your jars for five minutes for taking them out.

The pickled peppers, though?  Lovely to look at!  I’ll be sure to report on the taste when I crack a jar open.

detail of pickled jalapenos

I adjusted the spices (I didn’t want to make a full pickling spice mix when I only needed a tiny bit of it and I’ve got pickling spice favorites) and swapped out white sugar for honey and made twice as much, but here’s my version of Ellie Topp’s Pickled Jalapeños:

  • 2 Cups apple cider vinegar
  • ½ Cup water
  • 6 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • ½ teaspoon dill seed
  • 1 bay leaf, torn into small pieces
  • ¼ teaspoon whole peppercorn
  • 1 teaspoon pickling salt
  • 3 cloves garlic, halved
  • ½ lb jalapeño peppers seeded and thinly sliced*
I’m not including full canning instructions here; if you’ve never canned, consult the Ball book!  Be sure to follow all instructions.  Or, if you must, use Tapp’s book, but read all of the introduction, the beginning of the pickling chapter and the recipe.  I’m just including basics below for those who know what they’re doing.
Bring vinegar, water, sugar, spices and salt to a boil in a small saucepan over high heat.  Turn off heat and let stand.  Fill preheated jars with peppers, placing 2 garlic halves in each.  Return pickling liquid to a boil; fill jars with brine, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace.  Place lid.  Finger-tighten bands over the lids.  Place in canner (on rack!) and return to a boil.  Once you’ve got your roiling boil, start timing–10 minutes for half-pint jars (as pictured) if you live from sea level to 1,000 feet.  Once you’ve hit time, turn off the heat and let the jars sit for 5 minutes before removing them to a wooden cutting board or counter covered with dish towels.  Let cool, listening for satisfying, tell-tale pings of the jars sealing themselves.  When cool, remove the screw top lids, label, and store in a cool, dark cabinet.
Most canned pickles taste best when allowed to age for a few weeks (at least) before opening.
* the easiest way (I’ve found) to seed hot peppers is to roll the whole pepper firmly under your palm several times.  This loosens the seeds from the wall of the pepper.  Then cut off the top of the pepper and use a paring knife to cut the membrane still attached away from the wall.  You may need to encourage the membrane and seeds a little at this point, but the majority should come out together.  Turn the pepper upside down and knock the sides or tap it against your cutting board to remove remaining seeds.

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