Mick Telkamp

Mick Telkamp

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Pickling is a summer-long joy at my house. This time of year, though, I start to feel the push to get as many of the crops canned before it’s too late. A friend of mine just dropped off an impressive bounty of cayenne peppers, very likely the last of the year. And they aren’t going to keep. The drive to make sure every bit of the harvest gets used or preserved has kicked into high gear. Especially with seven or eight quarts of garden fresh peppers at their peak suddenly in my lap.

Peppers are amenable to all sorts of preservation. They freeze well. They dry well. But my favorite method for preserving peppers is by water bath canning them in a pickling brine.

I feel compelled to disclose here that I love all things pickled. So far this season, the pantry has been stocked with pickled cucumbers, squash, beets, carrots and (my favorite) green beans. Most of which are eaten straight from the jar. Often standing in the kitchen. So I have a pro-pickling bias. But when it comes to peppers, there is good reason.

Pickled peppers are nearly as versatile as garden fresh. As a heat or flavor booster in dishes both hot and cold, the tangy bite of pickled peppers is just the thing you didn’t realize you needed. Soups, stews, salads and sandwiches all welcome that little something extra. I love ‘em on hot dogs. Here in the South, the brine itself is often used in cooking or as a condiment at the table.

This pickling recipe works best with peppers that carry some heat. When pickling sweet or mild peppers, a sweeter brine bias may be preferred.

Pickled Peppers

8 cups hot peppers (cayenne, jalapeno, habanero, etc.)
6 cups white vinegar
2 cups water
4 tablespoons kosher salt
3 tablespoons celery seed
3 tablespoons mustard seed
3 tablespoons black peppercorns

Wash peppers thoroughly and snap off the stems. Peppers may be left whole or chopped.

Pack peppers into sterilized pint jars and set aside.

Combine vinegar, water, salt, celery salt, mustard seed and peppercorns in a large saucepan and bring to a boil.

Pour boiling brine over peppers in the pint jars, leaving ¼” of head space at the top.

Seal jars with lids and bands and process in a water bath of boiling water for 10 minutes.

Store at least one week before using. Store up to one year.

You may find it momentarily disappointing to discover the vibrant color of your peppers pales significantly after processing. This is a result of a chemical reaction to the vinegar and, not for nothing, pouring boiling water on them. Once I tasted them, I got over it quickly. But if that drab olive green isn’t doing it for you, mix a variety of colors of peppers into your jars, including red, orange or yellow. Red peppers tend to hold their color a little better.

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