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Quick pickled jalapeño peppers, crunchy and sweet and hot. Let’s face it: the best pickled jalapeños are homemade because you can slice them just as you like; de-seed or not, and maybe throw a habanero in the jar to trick everyone.
Pickles are usually among the things you should buy rather than cook, unless you have an allotment/orchard/farm and really a bumper crop of one vegetable or another. It’s tedious, the outcome is far too much to go through in a season so even a small jar ends up cover with furry mould hiding the onions/gherkins/cauliflower inside.
Pickles are among the things that you’d seen your Gran do, taking hours and hours, and wondered why she couldn’t just buy the things in the shop – especially that shop bought were usually much nicer than her efforts. Pickles in old-fashioned jars with rubber bands that I could never manage to open; the damn band would go into hiding under the lid and there was nothing to grab, or you pulled too hard and the jar exploded in a firework of gherkins or plums in vinegar (especially foul).
Anyway, who needs or eats pickles? ‘Pickled’ is an off-putting word to start with, suggesting that something that should rightly be dead is being artificially preserved, against the law of nature and common sense. There are much better preserving methods: dry your vegetables and you’ll be able to re-hydrate them to be almost as good as fresh; drying intensifies the flavour too. But pickling? It just makes everything taste sour.
And it would all be well and I could confine pickles to a culinary cemetery if not for one dish: tacos. How can you possibly have a taco without pickled jalapeños? It would be like having an egg without salt, scones without cream or burger without gherkin (hmm, another use for pickles?) I for one couldn’t. And I am a devoted tacoista.
I can repeat after young me: go and buy a jar, it will be perfectly nice. But why not make a tiny little jar, just for a couple taco sessions, removing the seeds if you mind them (like me) or slicing the peppers really thin if that’s what you like? And the major plus of this recipe here is that it’s quick, there are no rubber seals and the juicy jalapeños are ready in an hour.
Go ahead and give it a try at your next taco session and you won’t go back. And I might revisit the issue of gherkins (no burger without a slice) and extend my pickle repertoire.
pickled jalapeñosServings: makes 1 small jarTime: 20 minutes plus chilling
- 4-5 fresh jalapeños
- 2 tsp coarse sea salt
- 1 tsp caster sugar
- 20g (1 tbsp.) light brown sugar
- 60ml (¼ cup) cider vinegar
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- ½ tsp black peppercorns
- ½ tsp mustard seeds
1. Top the jalapeños and slice them into thin (3-4mm) rounds. Remove most seeds with your fingers or a small knife; leave the membranes intact.
2. Place the sliced chillies on a sieve over a bowl and toss them with the salt and caster sugar. Chill in the fridge for 2 hours.
3. Drain any released liquid and transfer the slices into a small bowl.
4. Place the sugar with vinegar and the spices in a small pan and bring to the boil; simmer until the sugar dissolves. Pour the hot liquid over the jalapeños in the bowl, toss well. Leave it to stand for 10 minutes and toss again.
5. In the meantime prepare a small (200ml) jar with an airtight lid by rinsing it with boiling water, microwaving for 1 minute or sterilising in low oven for 30 minutes if it’s not microwaveable. Transfer the pickles to the jar and pour over the liquid. Press the pickles down with a spoon so they are immersed in the liquid. Put the lid on and chill for an hour before serving.
6. The pickles will keep in the fridge for a few weeks.