Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
How many pickled peppers did Peter Piper pick?
The first print version of this tongue-twister appeared in 1813, and I find myself playing it over in my head as I slice and dice this season’s refrigerator pickled peppers. One of the simplest food preservation methods I know, refrigerator pickled peppers require no processing, minimal salt, and come with minuscule risk of failure.
I had yet to discover refrigerator pickled peppers when I wrote about preserving peppers in 2012, but now I’m happy to offer up the recipe as the best solution for assorted peppers harvested at season’s end. You can combine sweet and hot peppers or keep them separate, though you must avoid the temptation to include peppers that are so underripe that they still taste bitter. When in doubt, taste green peppers before including them in the mix. Very immature peppers belong in the compost.
It’s also crucial to use squeaky clean peppers and jars, because refrigerator pickled peppers are never heated. I find that a serrated knife works best for cutting conical peppers into rings. When cutting hot peppers, wear heavy duty kitchen gloves and avoid touching your face.
Pickled Pepper Recipe
The pickling liquid, or brine, has only four ingredients:
- 3 cups white vinegar
- 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
Heat the mixture to simmering to dissolve the salt and sugar, and pour it over peppers stuffed into jars. Screw on the lids and refrigerate up to 4 months.
Unlike most foods preserved in jars, refrigerator pickled peppers are not cooked, so they keep their crisp texture and much of their fresh flavor, too. The jar lids need not form an airtight seal, so you can re-use clean glass jars and lids from purchased foods if you like. This is also a great use for once-used canning lids.
Some people include a piece of wax paper between the jar and lid of refrigerator pickles, which helps prevent corrosion of the metal bands. Or, you can use a screw-on plastic lid.
If you are an experienced food preserver, you will notice several differences between refrigerator pickled peppers and similar recipes for making refrigerator pickles with cucumbers or squash. There is no initial salt soak, and no steps are taken to season the brine with herbs, garlic or pickling spices. Peppers are so flavorful on their own that companion spices are not needed, though you are welcome to add them.
Tips for Refrigerator Pickled Peppers
You will often see big jars of whole pickled peppers, but at least 10 percent of my peppers have funky things going on inside that I would never want in my food, so I am a confirmed slicer. Pared peppers are also more convenient to use on salads and sandwiches, and it’s easy to get a tight pack in the jar when the peppers are sliced or diced.
The jars should be truly stuffed, which is best done with a table knife and nimble fingers. There being an exception for every rule, allow very hot peppers to float freely in the brine, because you will use the fiery brine as a condiment rather than eating the peppers themselves.
It’s also important to cover the peppers completely with brine, and to then check the liquid level after a few days and pour off any excess. Some peppers release juice into the brine, which can cause the liquid level to rise.
Wait at least a week to start eating your refrigerator pickled peppers, or to share pretty little jars with fellow pickle lovers. Expect them to last until Christmas, or until the last pepper is gone.
As for Peter Piper, a peck is one-fourth bushel, or 30 to 50 peppers, depending on size. It takes 4 to 5 medium peppers to fill a quart jar, so that’s a lot of pickled peppers!