Confessions: my name is not Peter and I don’t pick peppers. However, hypothetically, if Dale received a quarter of a peck of Shishito peppers in his CSA share, how many pickled peppers could he make?
Well, it turns out the answer isn’t very straight forward because it depends on how you prepare the peppers and what you put with them.
What I had was roughly 1½ pounds of fresh Shishito peppers: more than 8 cups. That’s a lot of peppers but not a lot when it comes to preserves. When these peppers first showed up in my CSA share a month ago, I started experimenting with them in everything and I quickly fell in love them. A great example is in my Penne Arrabiata with sausage. As described there, these thin-skinned peppers are unique for their tenderness, sweetness, and lack of bitterness. They have a delicate pungency you’d associate with a ‘hot’ pepper but they don’t have much if any heat (reportedly, less than 1 in 10 are ‘hot’ but I’ve used dozens already and I haven’t met a single hot pepper in the mix).
So with the CSA challenge and the season coming to an end in another month, there would be few more peppers coming … and few more Shishitos too. The question is, then, could I preserve them?
I knew I wanted to pickle them whole but it turns out this presents a critical and important challenge: whole peppers have air inside them and this air, and the oxygen in particular, is anathema to preserves. In all my research, I read everything from slice the peppers, to leave them whole, to slit them, to fry them. Because I was learning in the process, I tried two methods and created two versions of the brine below (with the same proportions of spices): one with apple cider vinegar and other with plain distilled white vinegar. Both vinegars are well-accepted preserving agents and both contain the same volume of acid (5%) but I was warned in my readings that apple cider might present an aesthetic challenge. It turns out that this might be more true for certain foods, but in this case, the colour difference of the final product was negligible.
The other challenge was that I didn’t have enough Shishito peppers to do up a big batch of preserves so I opted to include some other more traditional bell peppers in the mix to create the volume I needed … and I sliced them up so they could be added. I also added some carrot for colour as much as anything and to see what a pickled carrot might taste like. I also added red onion (vs. more traditional pearl onions) because that’s what I had in my CSA share and because I wanted more colour. And, finally, because the Shishito pepper is traditionally not at all hot, I added a hot finger pepper to each pint for both colour and flavour. Omit these if you’re averse to heat but the result wasn’t spicy anyway.
As mentioned, in my research I discovered a number of ways to prepare the actual peppers, including instructions from someone named “Chef John” who prepared a similar looking pepper called a “Padron Pepper” (native to Spain) by quickly pan-frying it first (see his video here on All-Recipes.com). This technique it turns out has a number of advantages: it brings out the flavour of the peppers (and their sugars), it softens them and makes packing them in the jars (whole) a lot easier, and it allows you to get the air out of the peppers more easily too. Intrigued, I did half the peppers in this method and half without frying. I haven’t tasted both (yet) but I’ll let you know what I discover by way of a taste-test later.
And, so, how many pickled peppers does it produce? About 5-6 pints, depending on how you prepare your peppers. Enjoy these pickled peppers in sauces, slice them up on pizza or a sandwich, serve them as a garnish, or just plop them in your mouth as you might crave any pickle … and enjoy the fruits of your labour throughout the winter.
Prep time: 45 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Total time: 70-90 minutes (depending on how fast your water boils)
Servings: 5-6 pints
Pickled Shishito Peppers
- 2.5 lbs of ‘sweet’ peppers
(use a combination of shishito, and coloured bells)
- 1 hot finger-pepper per jar
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into sticks
- 1 small/medium red onion, cut into sixths
- 6 cups white or apple cider vinegar (5% acid)
- 2 cups of water
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 2 Tablespoons pickling salt
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 1 teaspoon whole mixed peppercorns
- 3/4 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
- 6 pint-sized jars and snap lids, sterilized
- Put on a larger canning or stock pot of water on to boil.
- Meanwhile, cut off the excess stems of the peppers. If using larger and/or bell-peppers, core and seed them and cut them into 1-inch slices. Peel carrots and cut into sticks. Peel tough outer skin from onions. Wash all veggies thoroughly in cold water and set aside to let dry in a strainer.
- When water comes to boil, sanitize jars and lids by placing them in water and boiling for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the brine by adding all the ingredients to a medium sized pot and bring to boil.
- While the brine is coming to a boil, take a sharp paring knife, and slit each pepper, but not the finger-hot peppers.
- If opting to pan-fry your peppers, begin by heating a skillet to high. Make sure you turn on your hood-fan before doing anything else — the steam/smoke from the peppers will be loaded with capsicum and will burn your eyes if any of the peppers are hot. Add a small splash of olive oil to the pan then the peppers.
Fry for about 5 minutes, turning the peppers and swirling the pan regularly. The goal is simply to simply to ‘blister’ the skin, not completely cook the peppers.
- While peppers cool, finally prepare the onions by topping/tailing them and cutting them into sixths.
- Remove sterile jars from the water and in each jar, place a 1/6th of an onion, a few carrot sticks, and, if using bell peppers, a few slices of them as well.
- Using sterile tongs, begin to pack in the Shishito peppers until the jar is full to the top of its neck. Repeat with remaining jars.
- Once jars are filled, take the boiling brine and begin to fill each jar to the neck and make sure each jar gets its share of garlic and spices. Using the tongs or a sterile spoon, force down the peppers and any air pockets/bubbles to the surface. As you do this, the peppers should begin to fill with the brine. This is the reason you slit them.
- Once all the bubbles have been forced out, top up each jar with more brine within 1/4″ of the top of the jar. Wipe the rims and place the lids on the jars. Gently screw the caps on top of the lids until they stop turning. Then tighten each until finger tight.
- Carefully place the jars in the canner, ensuring the tops of the jars have been covered by water. Return canner to a boil and boil for for 10 minutes. Remove jars from the water and let cool. You should soon hear the snap of each lid as they seal. Let cool overnight and then store in a cool, dark place until ready to consume.