Friday, August 7, 2009

pickled hot peppers:
it is easier than you'd think to avoid any and all double entendres using the word "hot."

i'd like to begin this entry by declaring this: friends are important. so important that the sentence "friends are important" is immediately the biggest understatement ever. but, it is the closest to the truth that i can get right now. friends are often how you know the things you know. you can learn so much from them, and they can learn so much from you. i feel incredibly lucky to have so many solid friends. i'm trying not to brag too hard. but, really. they're great. monica and ross do the silliest things sometimes.

this brings me to simon thrasher. if you ever have the privilege of meeting this man, you will truly understand why the sentence "friends are important" is partially some sick joke. i am positive that simon is one of the most incredible people living today (and when he is dust, he will be one of the most incredible people of the past), and it is from him that i learned how to make picked hot peppers.

see? full circle. also, i am openly accepting all claims of simon not being one of the finest humans ever, mostly as a dare. 

to note: this guide is mostly all approximations. later i'll even call myself a hack.

so, i was inspired to do this upon coming home from work, giving the garden the ole once over, and seeing a nice number of hot peppers glistening on their stems, so ready to be picked. it was also an activity i could mostly do entirely while sitting on the porch, which is always preferable. 

harvest your peppers. cradle them in your arms because you do indeed love them very much. bring them to your cutting board and slice off the stems (lovingly), keeping them to use as cute little hats for your friends or for inanimate objects in your house. they are aesthetically quite versatile. 

before i go any further, there is something i need to stress. do not, do not, really do not touch your eyes at all during this whole jam. don't touch any festering wounds, either. wash your hands after you're done with everything. have an adult on hand to help you if any of this is difficult. i mean it. 

so, cut up all your peppers. i like cutting them in rounds, but you can really do whatever you want. 

get your jars together (good buddies ball or mason) and boil them and the lids in water for a while to get them all sanitary. 

jam all your peppers into your jars. really smush the peppers into the jars, make them pretty tightly packed.

add salt to the jar. for each pint jar i used one tablespoon of sea salt. for quart jars i use two tablespoons. 

sprinkle the salt on top and then fill the jar with water, leaving a real small amount of room at the top for air. then, seal them up!

leave them at room temperature for about three days (opening them slowly and slightly every once in a while if you think it might bust without releasing some of the bubbles), and then keep them in the fridge after that. then put them on food. you will probably find yourself planning meals specifically around their usage. when i was introduced to them, i ate so much mexican food just so i could work them in all the time. i highly encourage this practice.

in effort to tie simon back into things, i will share this. the very peppers that i used for this canning grew from plants that were delivered to me by my pal marybeth from simon, from the ithaca farmer's market. they were in trays in their infancy when i received them, and are now popping out peppers like it's nothing. oh, agriculture

i'm going to be honest here and say that i am a total hack when it comes to some things. this tutorial is based on the way i do things, which may or may not be the best/most efficient/most radical way to do it as a whole. i'm kind of casual about measurements and taste and all that stuff, and often my fermented foods will explode out a slight bit upon being opened after a few days of sitting, but i am okay with this. experimentation, people! another great way to learn things.

this way of fermenting things is called lacto-fermentation. it keeps all the good bacteria in your food, versus using vinegar to pickle things and killing off all sorts of friendly bacteria. lacto-fermentation often uses whey, which is not at all vegan, so is nothing i am remotely interested in using or instructing on. you can lacto-ferment things with just salt! you can make pickles with just cucumbers, water, dill, salt, and garlic. sure, coriander and cumin seed would be good, too, but you get the point! lacto-fermentation can be so simple but so incredible! crazy sciency stuff about it can be found here. freaking rad stuff about it from a guy who really knows what he's talking about can be found here. i feel like there is so much to be said and shared on fermenting, and i don't even know a quarter of it. 

i documented a fermentation night at our house that turned out a bunch of dilly beans, pickled beets and sauerkraut. i think that calls for another whole blog post, eventually. maybe i'll have more info together by then.

next on the personal agenda: perfecting the home-made and home-grown hot sauce. when the oil crash hits, i'll still be able to incinerate my tongue at every meal. life is wonderful.