Hot Stuff, Comin' Through: Pickled Jalapenos
Guilty confession: Despite my nearly fanatical devotion to all things DIY food, there are a handful of store-bought canned goods that I have a soft spot for. I still occasionally enjoy those bland, waxy black olives, for example. You know, the kind you used to stick on your fingers when you were a kid. (Or maybe you still do that. Don’t let me cramp your style.)
I also love pickled jalapenos. They're an absolute necessity for all things Mexican, most especially nachos, and I all too often find myself simply plucking them out of the jar and eating them right off the fork. I’m a glutton for punishment that way.
But, hey, when the peppers are popping, there’s no reason not to can a bunch of your own. It’s easy, they're tasty, and you can tinker a bit with the seasoning to suit your tastes. For example, a touch of honey or sugar helps temper the natural fire of the chiles’ capsaicin while allowing the natural sweetness of the pepper to shine through. Or, leave it out for the full-force burn. (Again, don’t let me cramp your style.)
Pro tip: Be sure to wear latex or plastic gloves while handling hot peppers. If you don’t, there is approximately 100-percent chance you will promptly touch your eyes (or other mucous membranes, ahem). Trust me, it’s not a pleasant experience.
Prepare the jars and lids. Wash all jars and lids thoroughly with soap and water and rinse well. Fill your canner with enough water to cover the jars by at least 1 inch and bring to a simmer. Using a pair of canning tongs, lower the jars in gently, tilting them to fill with the hot water. In a small saucepan, keep some water warm but not boiling; place the lids in the water. Have an additional kettle of water on to boil.
Prepare the brine. Add vinegar, water, salt and garlic, and peppercorns or honey (if using), to a medium saucepan and place over medium heat. Bring to a boil, and reduce heat to keep at a simmer.
Prepare the jalapenos. Wearing latex or plastic gloves, slice the jalapenos into 1/4-inch rings. Add the rings to the brine and bring back to the boil.
Fill and close the jars. Using canning tongs, remove the jars from the canner, carefully pouring the water back into the canner. Set next to the jalapeños in the saucepan. Turn the heat under the canner to high. Use a ladle to pour the jalapeños into the jars through a canning funnel, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace at the top. Run a clean chopstick around the inside of the jar to dislodge any trapped air. Wipe the rims of the jars with a damp paper towel. Place the lids on, and screw on the rings until just finger-tight.
Seal the jars. Using canning tongs, gently transfer the jars to the canner, taking care to keep them vertical. When all the jars are in the canner, there should be at least 1 inch of water covering them; if you need more, add water from the kettle until the jars are sufficiently covered. Bring the water to a full rolling boil, and process for five minutes.
Remove and cool. Using canning tongs, gently remove the jars from the canner and transfer them to a kitchen towel or cooling rack, again keeping them vertical. Do not set hot jars directly onto cool counter surfaces. Leave to cool, undisturbed, for at least 12 hours. If any of the jars do not seal when cool, reprocess using the method above, or refrigerate and use immediately.
Label and store. Add a label to the lid or side of your jar, noting the date it was canned. Remove the rings and store jars in a cool, dark place for up to one year. Refrigerate after opening.
Sean Timberlake is a professional writer, amateur foodie, avid traveler and all-around bon vivant. He is the founder of Punk Domestics, a content and community site for DIY food enthusiasts, and has penned the blog Hedonia since 2006. He lives in San Francisco with his husband, DPaul Brown, and their hyperactive terrier, Reese.