Did you know that pickled chillies can be used just like fresh chillies? If a recipe calls for a chilli pepper and you can’t get hold of a locally-grown fresh chilli, you can always use pickled chillies. The heat of the chillies is reduced slightly through the pickling process so you may need to use a little more than you would a fresh pod but the flavour really comes out. We normally see pickled chillies on top of pizza, nachos, or the mild pickled Turkish chillies on our kebabs. Yum!!! I absolutely love them. If you’re a chilli head like me you’ll sit down with a jar of pickled chillies and some cream crackers and you won’t stop until the jar is empty.
From a practical perspective, pickling chillies is a good idea. Here in the UK, we grow our chillies when the days get longer…in the summertime. Chilli plants struggle to flourish in the low light levels of an English winter. So the goal is to grow enough chillies for the whole year and preserve them for those months when you can’t get the real thing locally. And those of you who are growing chillies will know that these plants don’t always follow a pattern of providing a steady supply of chillies…sometimes they all come ready to pick at the same time. When this happens it’s good to have a plan for preserving your harvest and pickling is an easy and delicious way of doing this.
Also, from the perspective of a healthy plant…it’s good to get the chillies off the plant so the plant can divert its energy to flowering again and producing more chillies.
We pickled our first chillies in late summer 2004 following a bumper harvest of Jalapenos. Since then, pickled chillies have sold out as quickly as we can make them.
Last week we made the first few batches of the 2010 season. We pickled Jalapeno, Serenade, Fresno, some ripe Pimento di Padron chillies, and also some mixed chillies. These are available in our shop or mail order and I’ll try and get them on the website as soon as possible.
If you’re growing your own chillies then maybe you’d like to pickle your own. It’s an easy recipe.
- Sterilize the jars. This is as easy as putting them through the dish washer but we also heat the jars in the oven to 80C before filling them with chillies.
- Wash the chillies. Decide whether you want them pickled whole or sliced. If sliced then remove the stems and either slice by hand or use a food processor. If you want your chillies pickled whole then leave the stems on and use a sharp clean knife to pierce each chilli once or twice. This will help the vinegar to do its pickling work quicker.
- Pack the chillies into your jars. Fill the jars with as many chillies as you can but leaving a quarter inch gap at the top of the jar.
- Pour in the vinegar right to the top of the chillies. Use whatever vinegar you like…you can get Sarsens Pickling vinegar from the supermarket or just use malt vinegar. The vinegar MUST be minimum 5% acidity. This will be written somewhere on the jar.
- Sterilize your lids. We always use brand new lids but it depends on the jars you’re using. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. We usually boil some water, pour it in a bowl, and submerge the lids for a minute or so before we put them on the jars.
- Put the lids on your jars.
- Process all of your sealed jars in a ‘boiling water bath’ for 20 minutes. This is the most important step. Because the chillies are fresh (not cooked) we need to kill any possible bacteria that may have found its way into the jar. This is done very easily. Get a big pan on the stove with boiling water. Submerge your sealed jars of pickled chillies in the boiling water for 20 minutes. This raises the temperature of the jar to a point that no nasty bugs will survive. It is a critical safety precaution.
- Remove the jars from the boiling water bath and allow to stand and cool. You’ll notice as they cool the jars will form a vacuum seal on the lids pulling them downwards.
Always wear clean rubber or plastic gloves when handling chillies. Another area where you should be cautious is handling jars. Obviously, be very careful of breakages. Not only can you possibly cut yourself but you don’t want to spoil your precious crop with broken glass. Also, use appropriate precautions when handling hot jars either when you are moving them in and out of the oven for sterilization or when adding or removing them from the boiling water bath. I use some tongs that grip the lid and allow me to avoid touching the hot water or jar.
You can tweak the flavours of your pickled chillies by adding various spices and/or seasoning to the vinegar. Even some of the simplest seasonings can invoke changes in flavour and aroma. Try experimenting. What have you got going in your herb garden?
Try smothering a baked potato with melted cheese and pickled chillies. One thing is sure; pickled chillies definately bring a warming glow to a cold, dark winters day. Enjoy!