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Pickled Wenk’s Yellow hot (left), pickled pepperoncini (right)

As anyone who has read this blog for any length of time knows, this is a household that loves all things peppers. From growing our own paprika and cayenne to roasting green chilies for use all winter, to making our own hot sauce, to freezing chopped ripe bell peppers that we use all year, we can’t get enough of these wonderful members of the nightshade family.

This year I doubled down on the number of peppers I was growing, and tried out a bunch of new varieties, including a couple of Peruvian Aji, two kinds of Cascabels, A Caribe from southern Chihuahua Mexico, a Cubanelle pepper from Cuba (I have ONE plant – so am waiting patiently for the fruit), a beautiful variegated one called FISH, San Felipe from the San Felipe pueblo in New Mexico, a Zapotec Jalapeno, and both traditional Pepperoncini and one called Wenk’s Yellow Hot specifically for pickling.

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Wenk’s Yellow Hots. Gorgeous on this blue cutting board!

The Wenk’s originates in Albuquerque New Mexico’s South Valley, where they are often used for pickling. It has been inducted onto the Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste. The fruit starts out yellow, then moves to orange, and eventually to red. Evidently, unlike most peppers, it gets LESS hot as it matures. I can’t find information on whether you should wait until they are fully ripe and red to pickle, but the plants have been so prolific that I decided not to wait that long.

My husband doesn’t like pickled cucumbers (that’s an understatement) but he LOVES pickled peppers, and I put up many half pints of pickled jalapenos every year. When I started canning these, I referred to my “bible”, the Ball Blue Book (ironically, no longer blue). It had two recipes for pickled peppers. One called “Hot Peppers” and one called “Pickled Peppers”. The pickled pepper recipe included garlic, horseradish and sugar, as well as salt. And a 5:1 ratio of vinegar and water. The hot pepper recipe was more simple. A 3:1 ratio of vinegar and water and some garlic. No salt, no sugar…no anything else. Both called for a 10 minute processing time and a cold pack on the peppers (putting uncooked peppers in the jars, and then pouring hot brine over them).

Because I’ve come to realize that as long as you have a 1:1 ratio of vinegar and water, the pickling recipe is basically safe, and that the salt and sugar in these recipes wasn’t there for safety reasons but strictly for flavor, I adapted and combined the two recipes. I stuck to the 3:1 ratio of vinegar to water, wanting a more acidic punch, and then simply added 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp of sugar to each pint jar. Sometimes I add a little garlic. Depends on my mood and the pepper.

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Fresh from the garden, rinsed and ready to pickle.

In order to make these peppers shelf stable, but also retain some of their crispness, which is often lost during the heat of boiling water canning, I use a touch of Ball’s  “Pickle Crisp“, which is calcium chloride. This ingredient is often found in commercial shelf stable pickles. I’ve never seen it available locally, but you can easily find it on Amazon. It’s a common food additive used in everything from cheese making to tofu to sports drinks. It falls into the Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) category by the FDA.

If you JUST want a quick jar of pickled peppers, you don’t have to boiling water can these pickles. Just stuff some rinsed peppers into a clean jar, pour boiling brine over them, cap and stash in the fridge. They will last for months.

Basic Pickled Peppers

  • Servings: Variable. For this recipe, about 5 pints
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Fast pickled peppers for your fridge or pantry.

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs peppers – your choice of variety, hot or sweet. Thick walled peppers have a better finished texture.
  • 6 cups white vinegar
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed flat with the side of a knife (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp salt per pint jar (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp sugar per pint jar (optional)
  • rounded 1/8 tsp Pickle Crisp per pint (optional – note, adds additional salty flavor)

Directions

If you want your peppers to be shelf stable, prepare your water bath canner. (Note: New to canning? I’m not going to give a lot of details about how to prepare your jars, secure the lids, and boiling water bath canning in general. But it IS important, and you DO need to know it. Please check out this site before you start.) Otherwise, have your clean pint or half pint canning jars ready.

Rinse peppers well.

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As packed into the jars as I can get them

If you want pepper rings, remove top and slice peppers into rings. (Wear gloves if your peppers are hot or, in a singsong voice, you’ll be sorry). You can use a paring knife to remove the seeds/core if you like. I just leave the seeds and slice using the largest slicer on my food processor. Peppers can also be pickled whole, as long as they are short enough to be covered by the brine in the jars. If pickling whole, I like to make a slit down the side of the pepper to ensure that the brine can reach the inside. When pickling whole, I leave the stem end intact.

In a large saucepan, bring vinegar/water mixture to a boil. If using garlic, smash cloves with the flat side of a knife and add to brine, removing them before pouring brine over pickles (because of the density of garlic cloves and the short cooking time, experts sometimes frown on adding cloves directly to your jars – though you see it all the time in dill pickle recipes – so go figure).

Pack jars with peppers. Really wedge them in there as tight as you can get them. A flat sided popsicle stick or a chopstick can help squish them to the side so you can fit more in. Peppers tend to float in the brine as they soften during cooking, even when packed tight. The more you can get in there, the better.

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Salted and ready for brine.

Add 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp sugar and 1/8 tsp Pickle Crisp to each pint jar (optional – but I think the salt, in particular, is a must). Note that Pickle Crisp, if using, will also make your product taste salty. So don’t go overboard on the salt if you are using the calcium chloride. Leave it out altogether if you are just making fridge pickles as it isn’t necessary.

Pour hot brine over peppers, filling jars to 1/4 inch head space.

Note that because you KNOW the ratio of vinegar to water in this recipe (6 cups vinegar to 2 cups water = 3:1), if you run out of brine, its easy enough to whip up more quickly (DO always bring it to a boil). Just need a little? 3/4 cup vinegar to 1/4 cup water. Need a lot more? 3 cups vinegar to 1 cup water. See how that works? I HATE it when you run out of brine, and its hard to judge how much you need, because it depends on the size of the peppers, and how tightly you are able to pack them into jars. I generally assume I need at least 1 cup per pint jar. Make extra and just toss if you don’t need it. White vinegar is CHEAP.

Only have one pound of peppers? Make less brine and do a small batch!

Wipe rims, add lids and rings. If you are just making refrigerator pickles, stash your jars in your refrigerator and you’re done. Let stand in the fridge for about a week before eating, just so the brine has a chance to fully penetrate the peppers. Note that fridge pickles tend to remain crisp without the added Pickle Crisp, because they aren’t really cooked.

If boiling water canning, process jars 10 minutes, JUST long enough to sterilize the jars/lids for long term storage. Cool jars, remove rings and for store (you DO do that, right?!) and you’re done.

Note that there IS an additional option for canning pickles that is supposed to help keep them more firm. It’s more commonly used with pickling cucumbers. It’s called low-temperature pasteurization. With

August is my month for “stuffing food into jars”. I listened to a farming podcast the other day, and they said “Angry August” and I laughed out loud. August is THE most stressful month for farmers, as you scramble to harvest almost everything you’ve worked all year to produce before it gets too ripe or the birds help themselves. For me, this also means stocking our own pantry for the winter. Its the one month where I basically say no to all other requests. But the tomatoes are GLORIOUS!

© 2019 Miles Away Farm, where we’re miles away from getting it all done, but we’re working as fast as we can, while taking breaks for bacon lettuce and tomato sandwiches, tomato/cucumber salads, and everything slathered in Romesco sauce.