I’m an avid backyard vegetable gardener. I channel my Italian grandpap Pete, who had a half-acre garden and could grow anything. My scope is not nearly as ambitious. I plant four 8×4 raised bed boxes, about 40 feet of bush beans against a fence that gets a lot of sun, and about 25 tomato plants in an out-of-the-way corner of the back yard. The results are usually pretty good. I only grow what we like to eat (with the exception of kale which nobody eats), and we have fresh tomatoes, zucchini, summer squash, beans, and peppers all summer long. I’m pretty lazy so I put down 3-mil black plastic sheeting around my plants to keep the weeds at bay. My beans have to fend for themselves.
By far my pride and joy are my peppers. I dedicate one entire box to them, and I’m considering expanding to two next year. I do minimal prep to the soil in the spring folding in some 10-10-10 fertilizer and some epsom salts. I put my plants in just after mothers day, about 5 rows of four plants each for a total of about 20. I learned a long time ago that I couldn’t grow decent bell peppers. They always wind up scrawny and thin-walled, and take up valuable room from my real love, chilies. I’ve toyed with the very hot stuff like habeneros, but found that a little of these go a long way. I settled on the following: jalapenos, serranos, Anaheim poblanos, Hungarian wax, and cayenne. The cayenne get put into the dehydrator and ground into crushed pepper for pizza and general food flavoring. The Hungarian wax are pretty hot and mainly get stuffed with sausage and cooked in our home made tomato sauce. The Anaheims are a new addition this year, and are very prolific and fast-growing. We used them to make excellent chili rellenos. But the jalapenos and the serranos get sliced into rings and pickled.
Last year, I did a post on my wife’s food blog and cold pickling jalapenos. We had a banner year last year with four prolific regular jalapeno plants, and two giants. The giants tended to have less heat, but I probably got a bushel of peppers which kept me in pickled pepper rings all year long. This year, I had less luck as the jalapenos never really got going. The serranos had a better run, so I would up with a mixture of the two. I call them Christmas peppers as they are a colorful bright red and green in the jar. Without a bumper crop, I have had to pickle in smaller batches. After making the pickling liquid, you place the pepper rings in the hot liquid for about 10 minutes before spooning them into canning jars. As this is a cold pickle, you have to refrigerate them, but they will keep for a long, long time. The one thing I noticed was that the serranos tended to get mushy, and I think it was because they had cooked for too long. I decided to try a truly “cold” pickle this time to see if I could keep the peppers more crispy.
After the last batch, I had about a quart of pickle juice left over which I kept it in my fridge. I picked about 50 or so mixed jalapeno and serrano peppers, and sliced them into rings. I then put the rings directly into clean jars and added the pickle juice. The resulting rings are much brighter in color as they are not really cooked. Too bad it isn’t closer to Christmas as these would make nice presents.
After about a week in the fridge, I opened a jar to sample them. They are indeed much crisper than the cooked peppers, but a bit hotter. I’m betting that the pickle juice will bring the heat down with time. I plan to give a jar to my main tester, Lisa. She knows to be brutally honest with me or she won’t get any more peppers.
This is an excellent way to prepare small 1-2 pint batches. Just create the pickle as follows:
The Cold Pickle Recipe
This is pretty standard stuff and you probably have everything in your kitchen somewhere.
3 cups of water
3 cups of white vinegar
3/4 cup of white sugar
1/4 cup of salt
4 cloves of garlic – crushed
2 teaspoons of oregano
1 teaspoon of coriander seeds
Bring to a boil in a large sauce pan. If you use some to pickle, save what’s left for when you have small batches. This will also work with zucchini sticks (which tend to wilt when cooked too much) and beans.