About a month or so ago we made over a gallon of (lacto-fermented) pickled jalapeños.
Yup, I said a gallon.
Our motto isn’t go big or go home. It’s go big at home. Because who doesn’t need a gallon of pickled jalapeños??
My friend whom we get produce through was supposed to get a 5 lb box of the spicy peppers (for $13.50! How could I pass up that deal?) from a local farm, and we were going to take about 4 and a half of that. But her produce guy sent something closer to 9 lbs! Since I was the one who requested them, I felt obliged not to stick her with 4 extra pounds of jalapeños!
So we took 8 and a half pounds, which, sliced up, filled 2 large recycled pickle jars, which are a little more than a half gallon each.
J did most of the work on these — one, because I didn’t want my fingers burning — but two, because he’s the one who eats the pickled jalapeños in this house! It was a good thing, too, because even tho I wasn’t the one working with the jalapeños, I was still doing stuff in the kitchen, and had to leave several times because I couldn’t breathe! Even just the oils from the peppers in the air constricted my lungs, and I had several serious coughing fits on the sunporch trying to recover with some fresh air!
He cut the tops off, sliced them with our food processor in several batches (using the 4 mm slicing blade — J commented that if he did it again, he would probably want to use the 8 mm slicing blade instead, not that we have one!), and threw them into a giant stainless steel bowl that we got years ago at a restaurant supply store. Best $10 (or something like that!) we’ve spent! If you don’t have a 3-foot wide stainless-steel bowl, and do anything in big batches, you don’t know what you’re missing! We use it ALL the time.
J also remarked that if he did it again, he might rinse them in water to take some of the seeds out — because these turned out REALLY spicy! But if you’re into that sort of thing …
I sprinkled the sliced peppers with about 6 tablespoons (3/8 cup) Celtic sea salt, and mixed 1 packet of Caldwell’s starter culture with about a cup of filtered water, and poured that over the peppers. If you’ve rinsed the seeds off the peppers, tho, you might not need to use even that much water. You do want to make sure to thoroughly mix in the starter into water and then into your veggies, tho.
We sterilized the jars with some iodine-based solution that J uses for his homebrewing. I’m not entirely sure how necessary this was, but we decided it was better safe than sorry, since the jars generally live in the basement, and, well, we were making a gallon of pickled jalapeños. It would have royally slurped if we screwed that up because we hadn’t sterilized the jars.
We put grape leaves in the bottom of the jars. (Fresh grape leaves have a compound in them that can help keep pickles crunchy. This is why we have a grape vine in a pot in our backyard. Never have gotten any grapes from it.)
Then J mixed the bowl of superpowered spiciness up well with his hands, packed it all firmly into the two pickle jars, and topped them with a few more grape leaves. When you pack everything in tight, liquid starts to rise up, but if it doesn’t and your jars are full without a layer of liquid above the squished-down peppers, you’ll need to add more filtered water until it rises above them. (When I do this — with other veggies — and J’s not around, I put the jars on the floor and push down with my hand in the jar and use my body weight to press down on them. And even then I’m usually not strong enough to get enough liquid to squish out of the veggies.)
You may have to press things down to stay under the liquid. If you have a pickle crock, it often comes with a stone that fits securely inside the lid and holds things down for you. We do not have a pickle crock yet, tho, so we hack it — we put a clean plastic bag into the jar, fold the edges of the bag over the edge of the jar, fill the bag with water to the point that it’s holding down all the pepper pieces, and the liquid is rising up the sides of the bag, and screw the jar lid on. When the edges of the bag completely go outside of the jar, none of the extra water in the bag should accidentally leak into the fermenting pickles — unless we missed a hole in the bag somewhere!
The plastic bag method isn’t ideal. Sometimes with this method, the force of the rising fermentation gases push water up out of the bag, so we make sure to leave the fermenting jars on some towels that will absorb any excess water, and/or a tray so that whatever they’re sitting on doesn’t get damaged. And if too much water gets pushed out, then it’s not holding the stuff down in the liquid any more. Plus, we try to keep as plastic-free a kitchen as possible, and this has plastic in contact with acidic, bio-active food for an extended period, which definitely isn’t ideal in my book. Someday, tho, we’ll get a pickle crock and all will be resolved. Until then … we make do.
The Caldwell’s starter cultures say that the ideal fermentation temperature for these bacteria is a constant 70 degrees. Well, that can be challenging to maintain–even in the late summer/early fall, temperatures in our house can still fluctuate substantially. But I thought to myself — J has a makeshift “beer cave” that he’s got set up for his beer fermentation and that can hold the inside temperature within a few degrees of whatever you set it at (assuming you set it at a temp lower than the temp outside the “cave” — i.e. it doesn’t heat, only cools) — and he wasn’t using it at the moment to ferment anything — there’s no reason we couldn’t ferment pickles in it!
(It’s basically an old dorm fridge which he took the front inside panel — the little plastic shelves that are on the door — off of and replaced with a scrap of board, and to which he installed this handy little device, which has a thermometer that’s duct taped to the inside of the fridge, and a thermostatic control panel which tells the fridge to turn on and off when the temperature gets above its set point.)
This worked GREAT for keeping the pickles bubbling at the perfect temperature, and resulted in the crunchiest pickles we’ve made so far with this culture! (We also made some pickled carrots/celery/bell peppers alongside the jalapeños — in separate jars from them! Basically the same exact procedure, tho, with a little extra water added.) They fermented for about 2+ weeks at 70 degrees, at which point we transferred one of the jars to our regular fridge, and turned the temp down on the “beer cave” to about 45 degrees for the remaining jars, until we make room for them in the main fridge.
J says they’re quite tasty and demonstrated their crunchiness to me by eating one by itself, not mixed into his chili, so I could hear the crunch! (I’ll take his word for it!) He says they’re definitely worth making — MUCH cheaper than the equivalent of all those little jars he’s been buying for so many years, even with an account for the (not exorbitant) amount of time it took to actively make them. Plus, you don’t get anything extra added in — and he’s found he’s very sensitive to the artificial colors and flavorings that are very often thrown in to those little jars. And from my perspective, I’m excited he’s getting more probiotic bacteria in his diet!
This post is part of Fresh Bites Friday, Freaky Friday, Fight Back Friday, Food on Fridays, Mingle Monday, Make a Food Friend Monday, Mangia Monday, Tasty Tuesday, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, and Hearth and Soul Hop.
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