When late August folds itself into September, peppers begin to arrive in our CSA box. A beautiful assortment of both common and obscure peppers appear, and one of the best ways to preserve them is to toss them into a fermentation crock and let the good bacteria do their work. This recipe for fermented pepperoncini is a great way to get started.
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Preserving Hot Peppers
When hot peppers appear in abundance in late summer, and they always do, there's many ways you can preserve them. I tend to favor drying the peppers or fermenting the peppers, as both methods use very little energy and take minimal effort in the kitchen.
- I dry many of them in my dehydrator, and then grind them into hot chili flakes using a spice grinder. We season our foods with the dried chili flakes all winter long, just as we'd use black pepper.
- I puree the peppers and ferment them in classic salsas like this Raw and Fermented Tomatillo Salsa.
- I make Fermented Hot Chili Sauce from the red jalapenos and brilliantly colored Scotch Bonnets.
- I pickle jalapenos and peperoncini whole using the method below.
How to Ferment Peppers (brine-pickling)
I use two primary methods in preparing fermented vegetables: shredding the vegetables, or pickling them in a simple brine. I like the charm and appearance of a whole jalapeno or whole peperoncini pepper served in a dish of antipasto, so I typically ferment hot peppers much in the same way I'd ferment true sour pickles: in a saltwater brine, seasoned with garlic, herbs and spices.
- Pour the water into a medium-sized sauce pan and warm over medium-low heat until it reaches about 100 F. Sprinkle in the salt, and whisk it into the hot water until it dissolves. Pour the warm saltwater into a pitcher, and let it cool to room temperature. Whisk in the starter culture, if using.
- Pack a quart-sized fermentation jar with whole peperoncini, taking care not bruise them. Place the garlic cloves and bay leaf among the peperoncini, and pour in the cooled saltwater brine. Seal the crock, and allow the peppers to ferment for 10 days. Their color will fade and yellow. After about 10 days, open the crock and try a pepper. If you prefer a sourer flavor, continue fermenting the peppers until they acquire the flavor you like, testing every 5 to 7 days, at your leisure. Transfer to the refrigerator or cold storage. Brine-pickled peperoncini will last about 1 year, properly fermented.