I am trying (unsuccessfully) to make peace with the end of summer. I know, I know. There are plenty of people (Man of the House, for instance) who love the fall and relish the new nip in the air.
I am not wired like that. I struggle with my resistance to the change, but glass-half-empty is in my DNA. When the light fades earlier and earlier every evening, I feel wistful. What to do? Get summer into jars.
Being an eleventh hour type, and being preoccupied these last few weeks by settling College Boy into his first apartment, I now have only a few precious weeks left to do that. Nevermind. There is still a lot to choose from. I have peaches, pears and plums ripening on the kitchen counter for jam later this week, and I have just finished another batch of pickled jalapenos. A batch would seem like a lifetime supply, but I know they will be gone in a month or so. But oh they are good while they last.
My first Thanksgiving at my soon-to-be in-laws opened my eyes to the necessity of having a jar of jalapenos around at all times if I really wanted to be part of the family. Sure, we had the turkey, the stuffing, the mashed potatoes, the pies, but perched right there on the table next to the cranberry sauce was a small dish of jalapenos. A revelation! I watched in awe as my mother-in-law daintily cut a tiny piece of the pepper on her plate and popped it in her mouth. “A little chaser, “ she said with a sheepish smile.
Who knew? I’m from New Jersey.
The do-it-yourself pickling project started a few years later, when we lived in the country and our local grocery store did not supply us with jalapenos. How crazy is that? I had to take matters into my own hands. After the first attempt proved successful, soon I was making enough to give as token Christmas presents to my many sisters-in-law. I even grew jalapenos in my garden. Wow, I was ambitious back then. Now I see piles of jalapenos at farmers’ markets; you can also buy them from just about any grocery store (where you can buy them in jars, too, but that’s beside the point.)
Just in case you think pickled jalapenos are all about the heat, think again. I am here to tell you there is much, much more. By the time you add herbs, carrots and onions to the mix you begin to understand the argument in favor of pickling them yourself. The bonus vegetables take on the heat of the peppers, and the peppers take on the flavors of the vegetables. The marriage is a happy one even if it doesn’t last.
Oh, and p.s, our own marriage worked out, maybe it has something to do with the pickles?
Makes 3 pints (recipe can be doubled)
I probably don’t have to tell you how to eat these, but I should mention that the pickle ‘juice’ is just the ticket for spicing up guacamole or sprinkling over the contents of a taco. Save it until every little drop is gone because you can add it to anything that could use a little puckery heat. (Corn chowder, for example, if you haven’t made it yet this summer.) Process them in a boiling water bath if you make lots and lots and want to give them away, or store them in the refrigerator for up to six months.
1 pound jalapeno peppers
2 sprigs fresh oregano, cut in 3-inch lengths
3 sprigs fresh thyme
3 bay leaves
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 white onion, halved lengthwise and thickly sliced
2 carrots, thickly sliced
6 whole garlic cloves, peeled
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 1/2 cups white vinegar
1/4 cup water
1. Cut a small cross in the tip of each pepper. Leave the stems intact.
2. Place 2 lengths of oregano, 1 sprig of thyme and 1 bay leaf in each of 3 pint jars.
3. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots and garlic. Cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes or until the onions wilt.
4. Add the jalapenos, salt, pepper, vinegar and water to the pot. Increase the heat to high and bring to a full boil. Adjust the heat to a simmer and cook for 3 minutes.
5. Set a colander over a bowl. Ladle the vegetables into the colander, and reserve the liquid that collects in the bowl.
6. Pack the peppers and vegetables into the jars. Ladle the hot brine over them, leaving a 1/4-inch head space. Gently slip a wooden skewer or chopstick between the peppers and the side of each jar to release air bubbles.
7. Seal the jars and store in the refrigerator for up to 6 months. Or, for room temperature storage of up to 1 year, process the jars while still hot in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
HOW TO PRESERVE IN A BOILING WATER BATH
(You will find a visual tutorial on water bath canning here.)
1. Fill a large, deep pot with enough water to cover the jars by 1 inch. Bring to a boil.
2. Inspect canning jars for cracks and discard defective ones. Thoroughly wash the jars in hot soapy water or run through the dishwasher.
3. Wash the lids and screw bands. Use only unused lids each time to ensure a good seal.
4. Fill jars to within 1/4 inch of the top (headspace) with hot pickles. Wipe the rim of the jar with a clean, wet paper towel before covering with the lid. Screw on the bands.
5. Set a rack or a thick folded dishtowel on the bottom of the pot of boiling water.
With a sturdy pair of tongs, place the jars in the pot.
6. Process the jars at a gentle boil for 10 minutes. If necessary, add more boiling water to cover the jars by 1 inch.
7. Remove the jars from the water with tongs and set on a dishtowel to cool.
8. After12 hours, check the jars to ensure that they are sealed. Press on the center of each lid; it should remain concave.
9. Label and date the jars by writing on the lids with permanent marker.
10. Remove the screw bands to prevent them from rusting and store the jars for up to 1 year in a cool, dark place.
Want more pepper recipes?
Potted peppers from
Pickled serranos from
Sweet Pickled Jalapenos from
Preserved Red Peppers from