Pickled Jalapeños

 

You know those little orange cans with the glamorous Mexican lady offering pickled peppers? They are one of the best things you can buy in a bodega. I love the can’s cheery kitsch, and the pickles are as good with a hasty breakfast of eggs and leftover rice as with tacos or burritos. (They get an honorable mention in the latest edition of Sweets & Bitters Quarterly, Corner Store Entertaining.)

There’s nothing wrong with opening one of those cans, but you can make pickled jalapeños from scratch really easily. The advantages of cooking your own are that you can add other vegetables–cauliflower, radishes, young turnips–and the sense of pride that you get from making something yourself.

I’m going to give you a recipe, but you don’t need one. Just slice some carrots and pierce some jalapeños (so the brine gets inside, and so they don't squirt you in the eye when you bite them). Put them in pot and cover them with equal parts of water and vinegar. Season the brine with salt and sugar, and a handful of pickling spice if you have it. Garlic is good too. Some people drizzle in a bit of olive oil. Bring it all to a boil and simmer it until the peppers change color. That's it. Now put everything in glass jars, refrigerate them, and wait at least a day (three is better) before eating the pickles.

Pickled Jalapeños

makes 2 quarts

  • 8 medium carrots
  • 15 jalapeños
  • 12 cloves (1 bulb) garlic, peeled
  • 3 cups water
  • 3 cups apple cider or white vinegar
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup kosher salt*
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 2 Tablespoons pickling spice
  • (or 1 Tablespoon peppercorns and a cinnamon stick)
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil (optional)

Wash the carrots and jalapeños. Slice the carrots into ¼ thick rounds. Pierce each jalapeño.

Put everything in a large non-reactive pot. If the vegetables aren’t covered, add a little more liquid. Bring to a boil. Simmer for 3-5 minutes, until the jalapenos change color (from bright green to olive green). Scoop the vegetables into clean glass jars, then cover them with brine. Seal and refrigerate.

*Iodized table salt contains anti-caking agents that will cloud  brine. Also, due to the crystal size it’s nearly twice as much salt per volume as kosher salt. You can use table salt if you don’t mind cloudy brine, but use half as much.

 

 

Homemade Grenadine (it's really easy)

Did you love Shirley Temples too? I thought they were the height of sophistication (those and shrimp cocktails). Neon red cherries in syrupy soda might not seem so appealing now, but homemade grenadine could pave the way to a grown-up version (or something you won't feel bad about serving your kids). It's a key ingredient in a lot of classic cocktails too.

Homemade Grenadine
This grenadine is easy to make and WAAYYYYY better than store-bought.

  • 16 oz bottle POM Wonderful
  • about 1 cup superfine sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon pomegranate molasses (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons vodka (optional)

1. Pour off half the juice so the remainder reaches the waist of the bottle (drink what you’ve poured off or save it for something else).  Fill the bottle to the top of the next bulge, just below the neck, with superfine sugar. Screw the cap back on.

2. Shake fiercely until the sugar dissolves. It’s important to use superfine sugar, or this step will take all day. Once the sugar is dissolved, add the pomegranate molasses and vodka, if using. Shake to combine. Keeps refrigerated for months.

Note: sometimes I add a few drops of rose water too.