Brine pickled green chiles

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:

Peppers, a clean jar, a knife, something to put the discarded stem ends and seeds in, some salt, a measuring cup for making the brine, and last but not least: rubber gloves for handling the peppers! I forgot to put the garlic out for this photo, and the cherry tomatoes were just sitting there. :) Salsa making will probably come later, though.

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.

The first one.

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.

A handful down, most of the tray to go!

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!

Finally done, and ready to go into the jar after a good rinse.

A few small cloves of garlic in the bottom of the jar, for extra flavor. This is a good way to use up those teensy little ones at the middle of the bulb.
This is just a saved mayonnaise jar. It doesn’t really matter what kind of jar you use for this, as long as it’s clean and has a lid.

Peppers packed into the jar. It’s a little big, but this was the smallest one I had ready.

Brine poured in, with some reserved to double-bag and put in the top to hold the peppers under the brine, and keep air from getting to the top of it. (Mold prevention, in other words.) Make sure the brine is lukewarm at most before you pour it in.

Double-bagging the extra brine in sandwich-sized zipper bags, for extra leak protection. You’ll want to squeeze most of the air out of them. I ended up having to make a little more brine, but that is no problem if you use the same proportions and let it cool down before pouring it in.

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.)

You’ll notice that the brine has gone cloudy, and the peppers are taking on a pickled (or cooked) color. Sediment and cloudiness are what you’re looking for, there’s nothing wrong. :) It will also get a little fizzy, from the lactofermentation.
Please ignore the counter clutter, BTW; that’s what I’ve been trying to do.

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:

This is in a plastic takeaway container, and you can see a little better how the brine bag approach should work. Also the color difference between what I just added there, and the ones that have been pickling for a little while. As you can tell from the reddish brine color, maybe I went a little overboard with the little dried peppers. ;) (I have since fished some of them out.)

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…)

The one I added to the jar that day, actually. The blossom end hung up on the trellis, so it grew curved. My hand looks very, very purple there in contrast to all the green.

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.

That jar was actually finished today. (I added one more I spotted on the vine after taking this photo.) I wedged in the last couple of cucumbers so they were well below the top of the brine, fished out any floating spices with a spoon to make sure that wouldn’t mold, wiped the brine off the jar threads with a paper towel, and put the lid on it loosely. I’ll probably let it continue to work for a week or so–still in the drip tray–before tightening down the lid and putting it in the fridge. Then comes the fun of trying to pull out the older ones first, from the bottom of the jar. ;)

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.

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One response to “Brine pickled green chiles

  1. Pingback: Making green hot sauce | The Gluten-Free Southern Cook

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