Pickling Habaneros…Wear Gloves
July 19, 2008
So I grow hot peppers. Lots of em'. My father in law told me about a dish he'd had that required pickled habaneros, and had gotten the recipe. I told him I'd do him a solid and pickle him some. He lives in Minnesota...not sure how the hot pepper growing goes up there. Pickling is super easy, so if you've never canned anything it's a good place to start. You need glass jars, mason type. Any kind that has a secure lid. For this project I used some recycled tomato sauce jars with the old labels removed. You'll need to sterilized your jars and lids. You can either do this in the dishwasher or boil them for 10 min. My dishwasher is my husband and that dishwasher is often broken so I boil my jars. You'll also need to boil some vinegar. I was filling two 20 oz. jars. I brought 32 oz. of vinegar to a boil. It took about 29 oz to fill the two 20 oz. jars after packed with peppers. So, you'll want to time it so your jars come out of the boiling water and your vinegar is boiling about the same time. You don't want your freshly sterilized jars to sit too long before you fill them. I used whole peppers instead of slicing them well, because a pile of habaneros, plus boiling vinegar makes for an potentially eye searing experience. So no chopping. Plus, they were so pretty whole I decided to use them that way.
You'll want to trim stems off completely and make sure to wash your peppers thoroughly. You'll notice my lovely bowl of peppers is flanked by a wine glass, as these activities are always best accompanied by libations...and broccoli seeds. Yes, it's time. I started broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts seeds today. I also planted black eyed peas and a second crop of potatoes, but I'll leave that for another post (I'm experimenting with some special potato containers, so I'll keep you posted.)
Notice my heavy duty rubber work gloves. It's a good idea to wear gloves when handling this many hot peppers Especially if you're going to be slicing them. The juices from the peppers will soak into your skin and it can be a less than pleasant experience. Also, when you're pickling, you're also dealing with boiling vinegar, which is an acid. If you've got hot pepper juice on your hands and then expose them to some vinegar, about an hour later you'll feel like you dipped your hands in a hot acid bath...and it can last a couple of days. How do I know this? Because I'm an idiot. I've done it before. It was one of the most painful and miserable experiences...don't be an idiot like me...wear some gloves!
So you've sterilized your jars and you've set them on a dishtowel on the counter, your peppers are washed and your vinegar is boiling. DO NOT take the lid off the vinegar and stick your face over it to see how it's boiling. You'll sear your eyeballs, and nostrils out..you'll regret it. Keep your face at a respectful distance. Pack your jars with the whole or sliced peppers, almost to the top of the jar leaving some space at the neck. Turn the heat off the vinegar. Using a ladle, and funnel if you have one, ladle the vinegar over the peppers until it covers all the fruit. You may need to press the top few peppers down into the vinegar (hence the handiness of gloves) and make sure they are completely covered. then screw the lid on securely. Let the jars cool for a while. Whala. You're done. Pickled peppers will keep for quite some time. They don't have to be refrigerated, but they will last longer that way.
Now, you're entire house will reek of vinegar, so I suggest you open a window during this process. Here in Texas this time of year it's about 100 degrees, so it does make it a toasty project, but if you don't ventilate, you might be sorry. Ok, even if you open a window your house is still going to reek. I don't mind it, my husband thinks it's the end of the world. I used apple cider vinegar because I thought it might create a more interesting flavor. Well, that and it happened to be the only kind of vinegar I had in the house. So there you go. It is a bit dark in color, so if you want to see the color on the peppers more clearly use a white vinegar, a rice vinegar or such. Lovely. Burn your mouth to a crisp lovely.