Preserving Chilies

Sambal Oelek (Chile Paste). Get the recipes in The Complete Guide to Pickling by Julie Laing.
Sambal Oelek (Chile Paste). Photograph by Andrew Purcell.

Just like the cabbage I wrote about last week, chilies feature heavily in my pickling cookbook, The Complete Guide to Pickling. I pickle and preserve them on their own in recipes ranging from Beer-Pickled Jalapenos to Spicy Vinegar and from quick-pickled Chile Rings to fermented hot sauces. I also drop them into many of the savory pickles in the book and even a few of the sweeter ones, like Jerk-Spiced Banana Pickles.

Do I preserve so many chilies because we grow more than 40 pepper plants every year, or do we grow that many plants so I have boxes of chilies? It’s hard to say, but at least half of our homegrown peppers carry a mild to a fiery heat. Jalapenos and poblanos take up much of the hoop house space, but I bump up the Scoville scale with serranos, bird’s eye chilies, habaneros, and cayenne peppers.

The mix varies each year—as does the quality and size of the harvest. After buying and pickling pepperoncini to test for a new recipe for the cookbook, I grew some of these mild chilies for the first time last year. They started turning red when they were smaller than my thumb, so I pickled them in pint jars. This year, a plant from Swan River Gardens has grown taller than the cherry tomato cages and produced peppers longer than my index finger. Two half-gallon jars are stuffed full in my fridge, and more peppers are ready to harvest.
Read more about preserving chilies and learn to make Sambal Oelek (Chile Paste)

Preserving Cabbage

Preserving cabbage. Get the recipes in The Complete Guide to Pickling by Julie Laing.
When Americans think of pickled foods, they often start with two vegetables: cucumbers and cabbage. For both types, the options extend far beyond basic dill slices and sauerkraut. I included 11 cucumber and 7 cabbage pickles in The Complete Guide to Pickling, ranging from quick pickles to relishes to ferments.

In the cabbage category, curtido has become one of my favorites. This pickled cabbage slaw originated in El Salvador and typically combines cabbage, onion, and oregano, sometimes adding other flavors like carrot, chili, garlic, lime, and cilantro. It comes together in just 20 minutes, but letting it sit in salt for a couple of hours to draw out the vegetables’ natural liquid keeps the mixture from becoming watery. After it sits another 6 hours, the curtido is ready to eat—but it keeps in the fridge for several weeks.
Read more about preserving cabbage and learn to make Eight-Hour Curtido

A Year of Pickles

It’s hard to believe that this time last year I was gearing up for my cookbook’s release. Sample recipes from The Complete Guide to Pickling at TwiceasTasty.com.
Fermented Red Onions and Half-Sour Dill Pickles. Photograph by Andrew Purcell.

It’s hard to believe that this time last year I was gearing up for the launch of my first cookbook, The Complete Guide to Pickling. The timeline of writing and publishing a book means that I spent September 2020 sitting on my hands, resisting the urge to share my favorite recipes from the book ahead of the sales schedule and Brenda Ahearn’s stunning photos from my side project, The Pickled Picnic recipe collection, before the cookbook’s release.

As the cookbook’s official on-sale and launch party dates approached, I shared a handful of recipes from the book and offered details on some helpful tools I’d discovered while working on the project. This year, I’m able to get a jump on sharing new recipes from the book while many of us are still in the heart of harvest season.
Sample recipes from The Complete Guide to Pickling

Fresh Pickles

Curried Green Tomatoes. Get the recipe in The Complete Guide to Pickling by Julie Laing.
Curried Green Tomatoes. Photograph by Andrew Purcell.

When most Americans think of pickles, they think of what I’ve gathered into the Fresh Pickle chapter in my new cookbook, The Complete Guide to Pickling: vegetables pickled in vinegar and either stored in the refrigerator or canned in a boiling water bath. The recipe list for that chapter includes some pickles that are likely old favorites (Kosher-Style Dill Pickles and Water Bath-Processed Beets) but also some fun, possibly new-to-you flavors (Curried Green Tomatoes and Szechuan-Spiced Cucumber Rounds).

But some of my new favorite fresh pickles fall in a later chapter of the book: Sweet and Fruity Pickles. I was surprised by how much I loved creating the pickle recipes in this chapter, because I generally turn up my nose at pickles labeled “sweet.” But that term is usually applied to pickled vegetables, like cucumbers and beets, that my brain doesn’t register as needing to be sweet. Fruit is a different story: whether I’m adding sugar or relying on the natural sugars within a fruit, my taste buds find that sweet and fruity pickles balance beautifully with the tang of vinegar or salt brine.
Read more about fresh pickles and learn to make Fresh Pears with Lemon