In the last post, I talked some about pickling in general. Now I’m finally getting around to what I had intended to write about then: putting up a jar of pickled green Thai bird peppers off our heavily producing plant, with a batch of hot sauce in mind.
What you need:
I already mixed up the brine there, using about 2 tablespoons/30 mL of coarse sea salt per US pint/little under 500 mL of water. If you’re using finer salt, you may want to use 1.5 tablespoons for that amount of water, as suggested here. You can use any salt that’s not iodized (things will keep fine with iodized, but it may taste odd), but I like to use sea salt now, for the extra flavor. The brine concentration isn’t that critical, as long as it tastes saltier than something you would want to drink–even if you like salty flavors as much as I do. ;)
Since I’ve been making small batches of pickles, I have just been mixing up the brine in a Pyrex measuring cup, either by microwaving it until it boils or by topping it up from the electric kettle, then stirring to make sure the salt is dissolved. You can heat it in a pan on the stove, if you want to. I’ve also been using filtered water, though ours doesn’t smell or taste strongly of chlorine. (Unlike back home, where the stuff coming out of the spigot smells and tastes like swimming pool water most of the summer, when it’s dry and the rivers are down.) Still, better safe than sorry, to avoid maybe killing off the bacteria we want. Boiling should also help drive off some of the chlorine, though you’d want to let it boil at least 5 minutes.
I haven’t been sterilizing the jars in a pot of water, but just running them through the dishwasher. You can also add some bleach to the load if you like, but the detergent we’ve been using already has plenty of oxidizers in there, judging from the bleachy smell when the machine empties.
While the brine was cooling to lukewarm at hottest, I got the peppers ready. Since it was a nice day, I took them outside to sit on the patio and get a little evening sun.
These small peppers are very fiddly to work with, but it’s worth it. Larger ones should be less trouble to deal with. This variety is so hot and thin-walled that, besides cutting the stem end off, I also cored most of the seeds and membrane out with the paring knife. For something like jalapeños, this isn’t really necessary. You will be very, very sorry later if you don’t wear gloves for this!
Don’t worry if you split some of them down the side with the knife, especially since these are going to get blended up for sauce anyway.
I just put them into the colander I was planning to rinse them off in. Better to do that after the prep (at least if they don’t have pesticides), rather than try to handle a bunch of slippery wet tiny peppers!
The photo of the finished jar seems to have disappeared, but here it is days later, with a cut up yellow sweet pepper added. (The colors should blend well when it’s whizzed into sauce, and that should have a mellower flavor to help balance out the slightly bitter greenness.)
It wasn’t on the drip tray right then, but you will want to use some kind of container under it to catch the brine that bubbles out over the top. (Note the wet paper towel underneath…)
If you have another jar of something pickly going, you can use a spoonful of that brine as a starter. This jar definitely got going faster than I was expecting. Here’s the jar of dilly cucumbers I used for a starter with this (there shouldn’t be enough spice/herb flavor in a spoonful to make any difference), on the same day I put the chiles up:
BTW, that was one thing I wouldn’t have thought of before reading Sandor Katz’s Wild Fermentation: it works perfectly fine to incrementally add things to the jar, just as long as you stay clean about handling it and don’t go poking dirty fingers down in the brine, or something. (Ewww…)
We only have three cucumber plants going, and they’re just really starting to produce over the last couple of weeks. It’s been working fine to add cucumbers as they get big enough, periodically topping up some fresh brine if necessary and pouring some out of the baggies to make up for the rising level in the jar. Just as long as they stay covered in brine, it’s cool. You don’t need to fill the whole jar at once, just wait a little longer for the newer additions to pickle.
Another thing I put together, which I hope to post about soon: some green beans and carrots. But, you can use this basic technique, plus whatever seasonings you like, for pretty much any vegetable or combo of vegetables.