Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Bread & Butter Jalapeno Peppers

It’s a long-standing tradition in my family to “put up” a few dozen jars of bread and butter pickles every August. When the Michigan pickle crop comes in we go to work washing and slicing, boiling and filling jars, and stocking up for the year ahead. But this pickle season came and went before I could get my pickling on. I was still in a cast and recovering from surgery and there were a couple of consecutive weeks of brutally high temperatures. Next thing I knew, we were into September.

While the bread and butter pickles are a joy to make and eat, by the time I was ready to start canning I couldn’t find the kind of pickles I like to use. So I took a look at what was in full harvest and saw bushels and bushels of jalapeno peppers. Not only were they abundant, inexpensive and beautiful, but I thought their heat would mate well with the sweet and tangy brine of the bread and butter pickle recipe. A little research revealed that a lot have made a sweet pickled variation of the jalapeno. I already had a good brine recipe, so why not try it? 

For a little extra color, texture and flavor, I included some red bell peppers and onions. The bread and butter pickle recipe calls for green bell peppers and onions, so I figured help with the consistency of flavors. I chose to put these in pint and half-pint jars, but now I’m sorry I didn’t make up a few quart jars! These are wonderful on hot dogs, sausages, burgers, grilled cheese sandwiches, ham sandwiches, or thrown into potato salad or a meatloaf. It brings a wonderful sweet heat to the party!

Bread & Butter Pickled Jalapeno Peppers

8 lbs jalapeno peppers – washed and sliced crosswise
4 large red bell peppers – washed and chopped
4 large white or yellow onions – chopped
1 ½ cups pickling salt
7 lb bag of ice

I recommend that you wear gloves when cutting up the jalapenos. Slice the washed jalapeno peppers into rings about a half inch wide. You have the option of “knocking out” the center of the rings, which contain the seeds and some of the membranes. This is where much of the heat comes from. If you want them to be milder, push the center out of the rings with your thumb. I did this to about half of them.  When the jalapenos are sliced, chop your red peppers and onions. Evenly divide the vegetables into three large bowls. Salt each batch with one half cup of pickling salt and then put one third of the bag of ice over each batch. Push some of the ice cubes into the vegetables and let batches sit for at least an hour.

In the meantime, wash and sterilize your jars, rings and lids. I used pints and half pints, but you can use whatever size you like. After my jars are washed and sterilized, I like to keep them in a 250 degree oven until I am ready to fill them. Now you can make your brine.

I needed to make two separate batches of the brine for the amount of vegetables I had to preserve.

5 cups vinegar (either white or apple cider – make sure it is 5% acidity)
4 cups white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 ½ tsp turmeric
1 tsp celery seed
1 ½ TBSP mustard seed
½ tsp ground cloves

Put all contents in a large pot and slowly bring up to almost a boil. Stir to make sure all the sugar is completely dissolved.

Remove vegetables from their ice bath using a slotted spoon and put in large colander. Give them a good rinse – you want to flush away any access salt or loose seeds. Add half of your vegetables (one and a half batches) to your first pot of brine. Stir vegetables gently and increase heat so brine JUST COMES TO A BOIL and then remove pot from heat. 

Fill your hot jars with vegetables and brine, leaving a half inch of head space at the top. You will need a canning funnel. After jars are filled, use something non-metal (I use the handle of a plastic spoon) to work any air bubbles out of the jars. Then wipe the top rim of each jar with a clean damp cloth to remove any brine that may have splashed on it. Place the lid on each jar and secure with a band – hand tighten. Jars are now ready to be processed in a water bath.

Lower jars into your canner and process for 10 minutes in boiling water. Jars should be covered by at least an inch or two of water. After 10 minutes, remove jars and set in a safe place where they can rest and cool. A vacuum will be created and each lid should seal as the jars cool. After the jars have cooled completely, move jars to a cool and dark place. Let them alone for two weeks before opening so that the full flavors can develop.

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