Monday, September 12, 2011

Jalapa Style Pickled Jalapenos

Its chile harvesting time again.  Those green Jalapenos are not going to stay fresh for more than a couple weeks.  You gotta take action now, preserve your crop for the winter months.  Why would you want to pickle your own Jalapenos?  Pickled Jalapenos are mass produced.  You can buy them anywhere, and they are cheap.  Well, you know, as with many other things, the quality and the nutritional content are of paramount importance to me.  Mass produced pickled Jalapenos are way overcooked, mushy, and lack any real chile punch.  They are a sad example of what a pickled chile should be.  Conversely, the pickled Jalapenos I bottle are carefully selected, sliced, and minimally processed to optimize flavor and crispiness.
I make them Jalapa Style, which means I add bias sliced Carrots, and an Onion wedge in the bottle.  My brine is clear, and should not discolor in the pasteurization and curing process.  The standard recipe to make a quart of brine is two cups of white vinegar, two cups of spring water, one tablespoon of granulated sugar, and one tablespoon of sea salt.  Mix the brine components in a sauce pan and bring up to boiling temperature.  While the brine is warming I wash and slice the Jalapenos, Carrots, and Onions to go into one pint jars.
I'll usually stuff about four pints at one time, which fits the brine recipe well.  At the end of the season, or when I am canning for Christmas, I'll double or quadruple the recipe.  Get all the jars stuffed, and then fill the jars with the boiling hot brine, carefully.  Then immediately add lids to the jars, and process them.  The Pasteurization process needs to bring the temperature inside of the jars up to 180 degrees Fahrenheit, and maintaining that temperature for 10 to 15 minutes.  This is to sterilize any remaining bacteria that make it into the jars.  I always clean and sterilize the jars, wash the vegetables, and wash anything that comes into contact with the vegetables before starting the Pasteurization process.  Then the actual Pasteurization process cleans up anything that got missed.  There are several methods for doing this at home, look for information on home canning.
After the Pasteurization process the bottles need to cure for some time.  At this point they are cooked, and can be eaten, but they will be better if you let them sit for a while.  Give them at least 24 hours, a week is better.  The flavors will meld, and they are better.  The Carrots and Onions pick up some of the heat of the Jalapenos, and the Jalapenos will pick up some of the sweetness of the Carrots, and the sharpness on the white Onion.  Usually these don't get a chance to sit around very long.  They are so good you'll want to eat them on everything, even ice cream...

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