One of my favorite things about working with food and cooking is that there is always something new to learn. There are so many ingredients, styles and techniques that we have virtually endless combinations of things to try.
Last weekend, I decided to venture into my first pickling and jarring recipe. The experience was easier and more fun than I thought it would be.
Fall is a popular time for pickling and canning because it is harvest time. This year I had an excess of cherry peppers from my garden and I wanted to jar them for myself, not only for the learning experience, but also to enjoy them and share my creation with friends and family.
You don't need to have a special canning unit at your house. You just need a pot large enough to hold your jars so they are completely submerged in water, a wire rack that fits in the pot to rest on the bottom so the jars do not sit directly on the bottom of the pot and a pair of good kitchen tongs and perhaps a skimmer with a flat head and long handle. The most difficult part about this process is lowering the jars into hot water and removing them from the water safely. You can purchase a variety of quality kitchen utensils at The Chopping Block to better assist you in your jarring experience.
Fill your pot with water and get it boiling. Sterilize your jars (not the lids) by letting them sit in the boiling water, completely submerged, for 10 minutes. I used a single quart sized jar for my first run. Be sure to use jars specifically designed for this purpose, with a sealing lid and a band to tighten. While they are sterilizing, wash and trim your veggies.
To fill the jar I used:
- Half of a carrot sliced into 1/8" rounds
- Half a small onion cut into large pieces
- 1 celery stalk cut in 4" sticks
- 4 cloves of garlic, halved
- 3 black peppercorns
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/4 tsp dried thyme
- 1/4 tsp dried oregano
- 1/4 tsp dried dill
- Enough cherry peppers to fit in the jar
Place all of these items in your sealing jar after it has been sterilized. They should fit close together, but avoid smashing the peppers. I tried to arrange them in an attractive pattern, but cooking is my specialty; jar-art, not so much.
For the brine:
1 1/2 Tablespoon Salt
1 Tablespoon Sugar
2 cups White vinegar
3/4 cup water
Combine the brine ingredients in a small pot and bring to a simmer. Once the sugar and salt have dissolved (approx 5 minutes), pour the hot brine into your jar that has the vegetables and spices in it. Don't fill the jar all the way. Leave approximately 1/4 inch of space at the top. Use the handle of a wooden spoon to gently poke the veggies around to release and air bubbles that may be trapped. Wipe the rim of the jar with a clean cloth, place the sealing lid on the jar and tighten the band to just hand tight.
Lower the jar gently into the hot water bath. It should be completely submerged. Let it sit in the boiling hot water for 12 minutes. Remove from water bath carefully and allow to cool at room temperature for 12-24 hours. Check the seal of the jar by gently pressing on the center of the lid. If the top is slightly inverted and does not move under some pressure, it is sealed properly. If it is not sealed, you don't have to throw it away. It can be refrigerated at that point and kept in the fridge for several weeks. If it is sealed properly it can be stored at room temp for several months. You can also try this method of pepper pickling which requires no canning at all.
There are endless combinations of veggies, spices, vinegars and other flavors to use. And you don't have to limit yourself to peppers when learning how to pickle. Even grapes can be made better with a little brine. I hope you enjoy your pickling experience!
While all of our pickling and canning classes at The Chopping Block are done for the season, we are still utilizing our pickled products in our cooking classes and private events. They go great on a cheese and charcuterie tray as a holiday party appetizer or to perk up a dinner party salad. We'll have plenty of pickled goodness to accompany our Bloody Mary Bar in our upcoming Bloody Mary Brunch on Saturday, November 7 at Lincoln Square. Sign up now.