pickled banana peppers

Last night I walked around the garden as the sun was setting. It’s my favorite time of day, with its mix of shadow and light and the warm glow that bathes everything and seems to put its arm around you and say “Here, sit. Relax.” 

In our garden, the brown turkey figs are finally beginning to blush and ripen. Every summer it seems to take forever, but that’s just because I get anxious and worry. I didn’t re-pot the fig trees this year, and have noticed several little shriveled figs sitting on the soil beneath the tree. Hiro, our dog, the garden’s guardian, always seems to find them and make a small meal of them while I water. But even though I worry when I see shriveled figs sitting on the soil, the garden has a rhythm of its own and will blossom when it is time.

No worries, though, when it comes to the banana pepper plant. It has been putting out peppers prodigiously, and so I decided it was time to try my hand at pickling. Enter, of course, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman, which I rely on for almost everything I don’t know how to do. To get the job done, I used the recipe for “Three Day Pickles.” My husband and I concocted our own version of pickling spices after comparing a few different recipes from other books and also checking what was available in our pantry.

The recipe below makes enough pickling liquid for two pint-sized or one quart-sized mason jar. The original recipe called for 2 pounds of cucumbers or whatever else you might like to pickle. The ten banana peppers I had were ripe though still a little on the short side, but I picked them so the young plant would keep producing. With the ten peppers I made a half-recipe which filled a pint-sized mason jar. This week we tried the pickled peppers on burgers, but I can also imagine them on pizza, or a sandwich made with a crusty roll with homemade mayo and roasted chicken. With the small amount of time needed to prepare and just a few days of waiting to eat, I’ll be pickling these peppers as long our garden’s bounty provides.

Pickled Banana Peppers

(recipe adapted from the cookbook How To Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman)

20 yellow banana peppers, from 5 to 8 inches long
2 pint-sized or 1 quart-sized mason jar, depending on length of peppers
2 cups white wine vinegar
2 cups water
1/4 cup salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons salt for soaking peppers

Pickling spice mix:
2 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
1 tablespoon whole allspice pods
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon caraway seeds

Wash and dry the banana peppers. Cut the top stem end and a little of the bottom end so that liquid can pass through the pepper. Remove the seeds inside.

Gather peppers into a bowl, and mix with enough water to cover, then mix in one tablespoon of salt. Let sit for 30 minutes, then drain, put in a colander and sprinkle with another tablespoon of salt, and let sit for another 30 minutes.

While the peppers are draining, make the pickling spice mixture. Mix the mustard, coriander and caraway seeds together with the allspice pods and black peppercorns. Crush lightly using a mortar and pestle or heavy skillet.

In a medium saucepan, mix together the vinegar, 1/4 cup of salt and 1/4 cup sugar, 2 cups of water, and add the pickling spice mix. Bring to a boil over high heat, then remove and let the mixture cool for several minutes.

Put the trimmed peppers into two pint-sized or 1 quart-sized mason jar, and pour the pickling liquid into the jar. If using two pint-sized jars, use a fine strainer to catch the pickling spices when pouring liquid into each jar, then divide the pickling spices evenly between the two jars. Stir to distribute spices. You can add equal amounts of vinegar and water if the peppers are not fully covered after adding the pickling liquid.

Let the peppers cool to room temperature in the jars, then seal with the lids and refrigerate for three days to develop the flavors before eating. Peppers can be stored in the pickling liquid for 3 weeks.

Makes 20 pickled peppers in two pint-sized or one quart-sized jar

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