Some days, life needs a spicy kick to every mouthful. And when your nightly supper becomes something along the lines of a sandwich comprising a slice of processed cheddar wrapped around two slices of cheap turkey deli meat, eaten while foraging through the fridge for some other edible, non-beer item -- okay, also while drinking a beer -- a hunk of spicy, vinegary home-pickled jalapeño might just make that open fridge door a bit more interesting.
Let's learn how.
Jalapeño peppers are some of the most suitable for pickling for having flesh that is neither too thin, such as habaneros, or too thick, such as poblanos. The jalapeño burn varies greatly, but the classic escabeche mix of carrots and onions, with the addition of squash, cauliflower, or turnips, can create the taste of mild chiles, and mouth-searing carrots.
Two points of advice for homemade pickled jalapeños: distilled water and latex gloves. Do you want your chiles sitting in that same grime you see building up on the walls of your shower? I think not. And speaking of showers, taking a shower after bare-handed contact with a pound or more of hot chiles, even hours afterwards? Ouch . . . Wear gloves!
1 pound jalapeño peppers 2 medium carrots 1 medium white onion 1 or 2 Mexican grey squash
2 cups distilled water 2 cups distilled white vinegar 2 tablespoons kosher salt 1 bay leaf 2 cloves garlic 1 teaspoon whole black pepper ½ teaspoon Mexican oregano ½ teaspoon coriander seed A piece of cheesecloth
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Wash the jalapeños and squash thoroughly. Cut the top off the chile, then cut in half lengthwise. If the chile is particularly long, cut into two on the bias. Peel carrot, and cut into quarter-inch-thick rounds, cutting the carrot in half lengthwise depending on the size. Cut off the ends of the squash and remove any bruised pieces. Cut into quarters lengthwise, and cut into quarter-inch pieces. Cut the top and bottom off the onion, peel, cut in half, and cut into quarter-inch sticks.
Place all the spices inside a large-enough piece of cheesecloth to contain them. This step is optional but highly recommended, as it makes removing the garlic cloves from the end result easier. Bring the vinegar, distilled water, kosher salt and spice bundle to a boil in a large enough pot to contain the liquid and all the vegetables. Allow to boil for approximately five minutes, to cook out some of the harshness of the vinegar. Add the jalapeños and carrots to the pot, cooking for an additional six minutes. Add the squash and onion, and turn off the heat. Pour the by-now very fragrant mixture into a glass container (also highly recommended but not necessary) and place in the refrigerator to cool, uncovered.
As proprietor of Muñeca Mexicana handcrafted food, Minerva Orduno Rincon makes everything from mole poblano to goat milk caramel to spiced (not spicy) cocoa. Find her at a farmers market near you.