My pepper plants are doing very well this year. Last year they were very disappointing, but they do like the conditions we've had this year – and maybe the composted chicken poo I mixed into the soil helps. Marie and I like jalapenos and use them in cooking a variety of dishes. Banana pepper rings are great as sandwich peppers and can be used in soups, casseroles and stews. I'm about to put up a batch of peppers for use through the winter and next spring. Want to watch?
Peppers can be preserved by freezing, dehydrating or canning. If canned, they can be pickled and water-bathed, or pressure canned in water. I'm going to can these. Pressure canning means cooking them at a high temperature for a longer time, and results in a mushier end product, so I'll pickle this batch in a vinegar brine.
If I were going to can them whole or cut them into long strips, I'd blister them first and remove the skins. But putting them up as rings sidesteps the need for that.
What You Need:
• 6 pounds of peppers
• A fist of garlic (only for the banana peppers)
• A sharp knife
• 10 pint jars with lids and bands
• 1 stainless steel or enamelware pot for heating the brine
• A large pot or canner
• A canning tool kit is very helpful, but you can do this without it.
• 10 cups white vinegar
• 2 cups water
• 8 teaspoons pickling salt (pickling salt has no iodine added, Kosher salt works too)
• 6 teaspoons Truvia (or 4 tablespoons sugar)
Core and slice your peppers into bowls. I'm doing jalapenos and bananas so I keep them separate, but the recipe and processing is the same so they can all be canned in one batch.
Coring a banana pepper is easy: cut through just the pepper flesh all the way around the shoulder but not into the core. Now grab the stem and give it a gentle, rotary wiggle. That will break the webbing, and the core – complete with seeds – will slide right out.
For jalapenos, core them if you want, but keep the seeds to be included with the peppers. A lot of the heat is in the seeds, to keep their heat, include the seeds.
Put your jars into the canner (or large pot), cover with water, and sterilize by boiling for 10 minutes (more if you are above 1,000 feet of elevation). Do the lids too.
In the stock pot combine the vinegar, water, sweetener and salt (note the salt is not a preservative but for flavor enhancement; you may omit it if you want). Heat this mixture just to boiling, then reduce the heat to maintain an easy simmer just to keep it hot.
Remove the jars one at a time with your jar grabber (found in that oh-so-handy canning tool set) and dump the water out of the jar into the sink. Fill the jar with pepper rings. If this jar is banana peppers, put a clove of garlic in the bottom first. Don't waste your garlic on the jalapenos, you won't taste it anyway. Go for a “firm fill” of the rings. Too loose and you'll have little product in the jar and will run short of brine. Too tight and the rings break and become strips. Some people are kind of obsessive about having rings, so don't mash them in too tight.
Install your jar funnel (tool kit) and ladle in hot brine. You will want 1/2 inch of headspace (air space above the liquid) so stop ladling a little short of that. Remove the funnel. Use a thin implement (I use an orange peeler, but anything you have on hand will do) to slide down the sides of the jar to jostle the rings a bit and dislodge any trapped air bubbles. Now top off the brine to achieve the 1/2-inch head space.
Wipe the rim with a clean paper towel or cloth, install a lid and a band and tighten just until finger tight. Guys, this is not the time to display your inhuman strength; just barely snug it up. Put this jar back in the canner and repeat.
If you run a little short on brine, top up that last jar with some straight vinegar.
When they are all filled, turn up the heat under the canner and bring to a boil. Start timing when you have a good rolling boil going. Process for at least 10 minutes: more if you are at a higher elevation. I do mine for 13 minutes. Then turn off the heat and let the canner cool down a bit.
Remove the jars from the water. Be careful not to clank the jars into each other or the canner; they have an unfortunate tendency to explode right now. Be gentle and set them on a tea-towel-protected countertop to cool. Leave plenty of air space between them. Let them cool for a good 30 minutes.
You should hear the lids plinking as the vacuum builds inside the cooling jars and the lids seal. That's a good thing, it means you have done well.
After the jars have cooled so you can touch them, test all the lids. They should be sucked down tight so they don't move or make noise when you press on the center of the lid. If it makes a plink-plonk sound when you press and release it, move that jar to the fridge and eat it first (give them two weeks to pickle). Those that sealed can be labeled, moved to your canned foods shelves, and put into long-term storage.