Brilliantly hot and spiked with fresh garlic, these fermented jalapeños are delicious and so easy to make. Like most fermented vegetables, you begin by packing the jar with peppers, pour in a saltwater brine, and simply wait. Within about a month you'll have a pleasantly sour, delicious pickle that's brimming with flavor.
What is it?
Fermented jalapeños are made by submerging fresh chiles and garlic in saltwater brine, which promotes the formation of beneficial bacteria. As these bacteria metabolize the carbohydrates in the chiles, they form lactic acid which, in turn, preserves the peppers.
For vinegar pickled jalapeños, the peppers are submerged in an acidic solution of salt and vinegar which preserves them. Both fermenting and vinegar pickling jalapeños preserve the chiles with acid, however, fermentation often gives the chiles a more complex flavor. Further, fermentation preserves many key nutrients lost to the heat processing required in most vinegar pickling.
What's in it?
At their simplest, fermented jalapeños need only chiles, salt, and water; however, you can add herbs and spices to the jar. With time, those herbs and spices will release their flavors and aromas which will then permeate the jalapeños. Garlic pairs particularly well with hot chiles.
Fermentation is easy. If you can pack a jar or stir salt into water, you can make this recipe. With that in mind, there are a few simple tips to keep in mind.
- Use fresh, good-looking chiles. Your chiles should be crisp, free from blemishes or mushy spots.
- Use adequate salt. Salt keeps your chiles crisp and also helps to prevent cross-contamination in your ferments while the beneficial lactic-acid producing bacteria get their start. Hot chiles should ferment in a brine that's at least 3.5% salinity. You can weigh your water and salt for accuracy, but I prefer to use 2 tablespoons salt to 1 quart water which produces a brine that's slightly saltier than 3.5%.
- Use the right equipment. Glass weights keep the jalapeños submerged in brine, helping to prevent the formation of mold. Similarly, fermentation seals help maintain the right environment for fermentation.
- Temperature matters. Cool room temperature is optimal for vegetable fermentation. This is about 65-72 F. Your peppers will ferment faster at hotter temperatures and more slowly and colder temperatures.
Fermented Jalapeño Recipe
- 8 ounces jalapeños (sliced lengthwise into spears)
- 4 cloves garlic (sliced thin)
- 2 tablespoons finely ground real salt
- 4 cups water
- Pack the jalapeño spears into a jar, and then drop in the garlic. Place a glass weight over the jalapeños to completely submerge them.
- Whisk the salt into water to make a brine, and then pour the brine over the jalapeños. Seal the jar, and then allow the chiles to ferment at least 1 month, or until they achieve a sourness you like. Transfer the jar to the fridge, and consume within 6 months.
Add carrots. Fermented carrots and jalapeños is a delicious combination. They're traditionally partnered in the Mexican side dish jalapeños in escabeche, which combines the two with white onion and garlic in a vinegar-based brine.
Swap jalapeños for other chiles. You can use this same technique with other hot chiles including aji amarillo, habanero, or cherry bells.
Add cauliflower. Many people will add cauliflower florets to their jalapeños as they ferment, forming a spicy cauliflower pickle.
Slice the jalapeños into rings. If you prefer rings to spears, you can slice the peppers into rings about ¼-inch thick. Or, alternatively, you can also ferment your peppers whole.
Add herbs and spices. Coriander, black pepper, allspice, and even flowering dill work well with fermented jalapeños as they do with other brine pickles such as sour pickles.
Fermenting jalapeños takes about 1 month; however, you may find that you prefer the flavor of a younger or more mature ferment. So use your judgment to decide how long to let your chiles ferment.
Mushy ferments can usually be attributed to elevated temperature or lack of salt. Make sure to ferment your chiles at a low room temperature (65 - 72 F) and use adequate salt (3.5% brine is optimal). Adding a horseradish leaf or grape leaf can also prevent mushy ferments.
Properly fermented vegetables will last a year or more if stored in the fridge. I recommend eating these jalapeños within about 6 months.
Using glass weights and a fermentation seal helps prevent the formation of mold that can sometimes happen in mason jar ferments. If you only have a mason jar, shake the jar daily to help prevent mold formation. In addition, burp the jar every three days to prevent the build-up of carbon dioxide. These steps are unnecessary if you use proper equipment.
Store them in the fridge or at a temperature of about 40 F. Cold storage slows down the fermentation process, helping to preserve their flavor and texture.
Use them as you would any other pickled pepper. They can add interest to a charcuterie platter, flavor to barbecued meats, chop them and add them to casseroles, or serve them as a relish. They're also delish in this appetizer recipe.