Wednesday, August 5, 2015

I make it myself: Pickled Jalapenos and Poppers!

When life gives you Jalapenos, make pickles....and poppers!  And fresh salsa, but that will be a post for another day.

Someone asked me if they could come to my house sometime while I was canning, I said, yes, but I don't remember who it was.  Pickling and making jam are probably the easiest form of canning because the acid level in the food only requires a hot-water bath, not pressurized canning.  I do use a pressure canner when canning tomatoes.

Anyway, I have gotten a lot of jalapenos from my garden this year and my husband loves pickled jalapenos on his nachos.  He puts a single jalapeno slice on each chip...okay, almost each chip.  Needless to say, he uses a lot of pickled jalapenos so I try to can as many as I can.

To pickle just about anything there are some tools that are essential:

Canning jar tongs, sometimes called a lifter.  You cannot lift jars out of boiling water without one! At least not without burning yourself.  Ask me how I know.

Another helpful tool is a wide funnel.  It is nearly impossible to scoop hot liquid into a hot jar without one.  Sure you can use a ladle and very carefully ladle it into the jar, but this makes it much easier and neater.

You will need canning jars, fresh lids and rings.  
These are 1 pint size jars with regular lids and rings.  I did a few of these and a few 1/2 pint jars.  Canning jars also come in wide-mouth in all sizes (1/2 pint, pint, and quart).  If I am making pickles, I like wide-mouth ones because they are easier to "stuff."

And a giant pot that is big enough to cover your jars with at least an inch of water.  I also have a rack at the bottom of the pot, but have done it without one.  The bubbles from the boiling can sometimes get trapped under the jars and make a it kind of turbulent.   You can see in the pot there are some jars that are already sealed up and getting their "bath", the one with the upside down top is sterilizing and ready to fill.

So, that's good place to start.  Put your pot with water in it on your stove to start to boil.  It will take  a while.  Covering it will speed the process some.  You can put in your jars and tops and rings in there too.  I use regular kitchen tongs to get the rings and tops out of the boiling water make sure you have a long pair of those too. 

IF you are doing jalapenos, be sure to WEAR GLOVES!  Don't kid yourself.  Even if you think you will not touch them, or you will "be careful," you're wrong.   Wear gloves.

Next gather your jalapenos (or other pickling veggies).   

Wash them, cut off stems and cut into slices.

Then prepare the brine indicated in your recipe.  For jalapenos, it is simply:
2 cups water
1 1/4 cups white vinegar
2 1/2 Tablespoons pickling salt (any non-iodized salt will do.  Iodized will discolor your veggies.  Kosher salt is least mine is.) 

This will only pickle about 3 pints.  I had to make two batches, but it's easy enough to make a second batch.  Put in a pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer (I turned mine off.)  

Once your jars are boiling, lift a jar out with your tongs and carefully pour out the water.  Take it over to your sliced peppers and pack them into it (I hope you are still wearing gloves!)  Smash them down into it, pressing with a spoon.

Then take your full jar over to your brine (the jar will still be hot, use a pot holder or your jar tongs to move it, unless you have a high tolerance for hot like me.)  Place your funnel into the top of the jar and pour the brine slowly into the peppers to within 1/2" of the top of the jar.  It is okay if the peppers are floating about it a little.  With tongs, remove your lid and ring from the boiling water and place it on the jar.  Make sure there are no little seeds or anything around the rim.  Secure the lid and ring to the jar and using your jar tongs, put it back into the boiling water.  Peppers and other pickling recipes that use vinegar and salt require a 10 minute boiling water bath.  By the time I am done filling all of the jars, the first one is done, but I set a timer for 10 min at the end and so I know they are all fully bathed.  When you remove them from the water, or even while they are still in there, the lids should "pop" sealed.  If the tops can still be pressed up and down (think baby-food jar lid) after 5-10 minutes, they are not sealed, put them back into the bath for a little longer.

NEXT Jalapeno Poppers!   Jalapeno Poppers are jalapeno peppers stuffed with cheese and baked. 

So, while I was slicing my jalapenos for pickling.  I chose some of the fattest and biggest peppers to make poppers.  I simply cut them in half long ways, trying to leave the stem for consumers to handle them easily.   

 Then, I put them in the sink and with a sharp knife scored around inside edge to remove the seeds.  
(I am still wearing gloves!)

Next, stuff your peppers.  Because I make my own goat cheese (a previous, "I Make it Myself" post), I use Chevre with Wildtree "Hot Chili Pepper and Garlic Blend" mixed into it.  You can use cream cheese, plain or with the dip mix in it.  I like the added flavor of the dip mix.  

Then top off with some pre-cooked bacon pressed slightly into the cheese.  If you don't pre-cook the bacon, you will end up with cheesy peppers bathed in grease, topped with under-cooked bacon.  At this point, you can pop them in the oven at 350º for about 10 minutes or microwave them or put them in your freezer to quick freeze and put into freezer bags for football season! Enjoy!