This post was updated in October, 2015:
When I planted peppers this spring, I had definite ideas for what I wanted in the garden this summer, pepper-wise. (My husband tells me that I have very definite ideas for what I want in most areas of life, but this post is not about that.)
First of all, I wanted lots of big beautiful bell peppers–preferably in several colors–so I could add them to salsa, salads, stir-frys, and of course make pepper steak whenever I wanted to. Also I needed several plants’ worth of jalapenos, because they are very important to my salsa, and chili, and I dreamed of making up a big batch of jalapeno poppers for the freezer, like my sister-in-law Paula has done. I admire her very much for that. The time or two that I went over to her house to watch a football game and she pulled them out of the oven–ooh, baby. They are just perfect: hot, crunchy, cheesy and spicy!
And then I planted a few habanero plants, simply because my son Timothy is a freak for anything super-hot, and I thought it might be fun to make habanero salsa. I made some a couple of weeks ago, and Timothy said it was some of the best-tasting salsa I’d made so far. I didn’t expect that. I expected him to taste it and then open his mouth and breathe out a plume of fire. I was actually looking forward to that, but no. I suspect he was just being kind because I had complained that my hands burned the entire day long after handling those habanero peppers.
And yes, I know I should have been wearing gloves.
Also I planted several “Nu Mex Big Jim” chili peppers because I had several leftover envelopes of them from last summer. Plus, my dad’s name is Jim. That makes sense, does it not?
Did I mention that last year, my pepper patch totally failed, and I had nothing but a few pathetic stunted bells to show for all my efforts? So maybe I went a little overboard this year. Maybe. But maybe not. I just found out that my little granddaughter Anya loves sweet peppers, so I’ve got one more excuse to stop by and see her.
My longsuffering daughter-in-law Sonia: “Look, Anya–Amma’s back–again–she brought you a pretty red pepper!”
My Mom gave me a spray of pretty little red peppers last year, saying that her friend had given them to her, and that they were just delicious pickled. So I planted a few of those seeds, too, just for fun. I love to make pickles.
And–wouldn’t you know it–my pepper plants are over-achievers in my garden this year! I have armloads of bells, buckets of jalapenos, and bushels of Nu Mex Big Jims. We’ve been eating our fill of peppers all summer long, and sharing with friends and family. And the plants just keep producing! I must have done something right this year. If I can ever figure out what it was, I’ll share it with you. But those little cherry peppers . . . they are so pretty and so winsome and so plentiful . . they seem too little, though, to chop up for a salad, and too big to toss into a stir-fry. But they do seem perfect for pickling.
Have I ever mentioned how much I love to make pickled things? I just adore it. I love the entire process, and I love lining up the pickled products on the countertop afterwards for three days and admiring them, and I love to haul out a jar or two when we have company. Pickled okra, mustard pickles, little bitty dill pickles, pickled watermelon rind, pickled green beans–all of these are in my pantry right now. Am I not a wealthy woman?
I picked a peck of peppers to pickle (you knew I’d get around to saying that eventually, right?) and I found a recipe for pickled peppers, and I got to work. Lucky for me, Amalia wasn’t too busy with other things to help. The recipe suggests waiting six weeks before opening them. If they are as delicious as I’m suspecting they are, I’ll give some away for Christmas gifts. But mostly I’ll pull them out when we have company. I’m sure they’ll be impressive on a crudite platter, or alongside a green salad.
Here’s my recipe:
- 5 pounds cherry peppers
- 1 clove garlic per jar
- 6 cups vinegar
- 2 cups water
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pickling salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar, if desired
- Yield: makes 7 or 8 pints
- Wash peppers. You can leave small peppers whole, making two small slits in each pepper. Core and cut larger peppers into strips. Pack one clove of garlic and a variety of peppers tightly into clean, hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Combine vinegar, water, salt and sugar. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer. Pour hot pickling solution over peppers, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe jar rims, add sterilized lids and process in boiling water bath. Store jars 6 weeks before opening.
- Recommended process time for pints: 10 minutes, 15 minutes above 6,000 feet. Quarts: 15 minutes or 20 minutes above 6,000 feet.
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