the-road-to-pickle-proficiency Recipes

pickled garlicky red peppers

Flashback: The Great February Pickle-athon: Inspired by Cathy’s fantastic account about pickling Brussels sprouts with fennel fronds on Serious Eats, I decided it time that I go beyond the giardiniera and the lightly-soused red onions and into the great thereafter of vacuum seals and factory-like precision. Of course, I didn’t use her recipe–why would I do that? I knew it would work! What fun could that be?–but one I’d seen several pickle junkies swear by on Chowhound.

february pickle-athon

I steamed baby Brussels (7 minutes), cauliflower (5 minutes), haricot vert (3 minutes) and red peppers (2 minutes), arranged them in their individual jars, poured in the brine, boiled the jars for ten minutes and let them cool until the seals vacuumed with four consecutive resounding pops that sent us jumping from the sofa hours later when our minds were far from the day’s brine. I set them aside for two whole weeks, admonished Alex to “not touch!” and exactly thirteen days later, with the suspense too much to bear, we dug in and I proceeded to swear off pickling for good.

february's pickle-athon

What went so horribly wrong? The first thing was the brine. Those lovely Chowhounders? They were discussing a cucumber brine, one that was significantly more salty than less sealed-off veggies like peppers and Brussels can bear. The result was like ocean water and I considered it inedible. The second was that despite my precise steaming and cooling, they were all very overcooked, and the ten minutes additional cooking time while boiling the jars was to blame.


They were all beginners’ mistakes, I know, but I’d lost heart to try again. Spring was creeping up on us and we started taking biweekly walks to the incomparably fun and delicious Pickle Guys on Essex Street, coming home with great big bags of peppers, spicy carrots, tiny grape tomatoes, peperoncini and half-sours. It was only when I found a receipt in one of the bags for nearly fifty dollars that I realized my home-pickling phobia was getting costly, and called myself out on my ridiculous. I had to either make my peace with vinegar, water, salt and sugar or give up my regular access to brackish delights.

whatcha doin' in there, kids?

Enter my mother-in-law’s garlicky red peppers, the only small dish of hers that we love more than seeniye.The technique is gloriously simple–roast and peel several peppers, then sit them for a day or so in a brine loaded with garlic–but the results are unparalleled. You’ll eat them right out of the jar. You’ll put them on bread, on sandwiches and drape them over your burgers. You’ll never pay anyone to make them again.

pickled red peppers

And here’s the craziest part: the jars sealed themselves! The brine was still warm, as were the peppers when I put them in the fridge two nights ago, and twisted open the next day with a POP! I can’t promise that this will work for you at home–it is in no way the accepted jar-sealing technique–but along my winding road to pickle proficiency, it’s these accidental discoveries that serve of a remind that trial and error can actually be fun. And fantastically tasty.

pickled red peppers

Pickled Garlicky Red Peppers

2 1/2 cups distilled white vinegar
3 cups water
2/3 to 3/4 cup sugar
5 tablespoons kosher salt or 1/4 cup table salt*
10 bell peppers, all red or a mix of red, orange and yellow (the sweet varieties)
4 large cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped**

Roast the peppers: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line peppers on a large baking sheet and roast them for 45 minutes, turning them once, or until they are soft. Better to extend the cooking time than shorten it, as the skins will only come off easily if they’re fully cooked.

Prepare pickling liquid: Bring vinegar, water, sugar and salt to a boil in a 3-quart nonreactive saucepan over moderate heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Cool about 30 minutes. (Want to speed this process up? Leave aside two cups of the water, only boiling one. Once the sugar is dissolved, pour that cold water back in. It should take no time at all for it to finish cooling.)

Once peppers are roasted:
While they’re hot, throw the peppers in a large bowl and cover it with a lid or plate, trapping the steam inside. In 15 minutes, they should be cooled, and their skins should be easy to remove. If not, give it another 10 or 15 minutes to rest.

Once all of the pepper skins are removed, remove the core and seeds, and tear the peppers into strips, tossing them into a large bowl, jar or container. Pour the pickling liquid over the peppers (if you have extra brine, save it for next time) and add the chopped garlic. Chill them, covered with a lid or plastic wrap, for one day.

Do ahead: Pickled vegetables keep, covered and chilled, for 1 week.

* Technically the conversion for kosher to table salt is 1.5, so a more accurate equivalent would be 3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons, if you want to be a fusspot about it.
** My in-laws, as well as every other Russian I’ve met, are mad for garlic, thus this amount will imbue the peppers with a serious garlic kick. If you’re nervous about the spiciness, you might want to use less. Personally, though, I wouldn’t dream of it.

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48 comments on pickled garlicky red peppers

  1. I cannot believe I am net the only person crazy enough to do my own pickling. 2 weekends ago, I spent the afternoon making what turned out to be 14 jars of bread and butter pickles. I’m still waiting for them to actually pickle, so the jury is still out as to their quality, but the juice smelled like heaven while we were cooking!

  2. Oh… Soooo yummy lookin!

    I think you may have just made a pickler out of me.

    MK, I know it’s totally unlike me, but I can’t think of anything else to say… I’ll just go drool over in the corner there.

  3. Yum, they all look so good! My mom used to pickle things in Russia, but now she’s grown indifferent to it. I’ll have to revitalize our family tradition! looks delicious!

  4. OK…Pickle Guys will ship, but I’m torn…Do I want the half sour or the new pickles?!?

    Never heard of the Kool-Aid pickles Jen referenced and I’m about 2 hours south of Cleveland…that’s MS, not OH. Thought the article was pretty interesting, but I’ll have to pass. Sounds pretty nasty if you ask me.

  5. Pretty pretty pictures. How come we have the same camera but my pictures come out nothing like this? Is it the lighting in your kitchen? Do you have spotlights in there? I try the same (see my i-pod pics on my blog today) and they come out whited out. Please advise!

  6. deb

    I was completely terrified by the Kool Aid pickles, I have to say. But I don’t like sweet pickles.

    Howard — You want the half-sours, IMHO. But I don’t like new pickles. ;)

    Joc — I dunno. Were you using flash? I don’t use mine.

    DC365 — That’s fabulous! I’m mighty impressed. Pretty please can we have one? I did make overnight pickles once or twice out of slivered English cukes, with salt and dill. They go into a potato salad I can’t wait to make again this summer–I bet you’d love it!

  7. Wow, I’m flattered to have inspired greatness! Terrific work, and as a fellow beginner, the one jar I DIDN’T mention in my story was this utterly vile and disgusting clouded one with cucumbers, cinnamon, a lemongrass stalk and other stuff that must not have been properly who-knows-what. Here’s a tip that seemed to work with my brussel sprout pickles: I chilled the brussels on ice for an hour or so after steaming them (to zap the cooking process?). Beginner’s luck I suppose!

  8. I tried taking some with no flash and you can only see the screen of my new color i-pod. You must have fantastic 100 watt bulbs in your kitchen. You know how all the bulbs in the BDL are muted, energy efficient 40 watt bulbs. It is the only thing I can think of.

  9. Hmmmmmm…I’m on the fence. I’m a pickle eater, sour over sweet any day but peppers? They rank up there with raisins in my book because of the texture. But, you roasted them and skinned them. I wonder if they would be less offensive to my palate because there is no rubbery membrane on them… Also, did the pepper flavor still come through or was it more like a giant piece of garlic? I shan’t say why I’m asking the question but the answer will help me decide which side of the fence I want to climb down.

  10. deb

    Cathy — I should try that next winter. I really want to get the brussels right. I’m wondering if I can get the jars to self-seal again if I put all the ingredients in warm. Only more trial and error will tell!

    Jocelyn — It was light still in that top picture and we have a skylight in the kitchen. (Has it really been so long since you’ve been over? We must fix this.) It’s the lens, too, that we use. Its a 50 mm that’s really good for low-light and indoor conditions, so it takes advantage of whatever minimum light is available so you don’t have to have the shutter open as long and pictures are less blurry. And it’s $70! You should really, really buy one. You’ll use it always.

    Jenifer — Think roasted red peppers from a jar, but with a more garlicky and briny flavor. Like, if roasted red peppers were well-seasoned and not just… floppy red things. That was gross.. just not a huge fan of them plain.

  11. That’s exactly where my line of thought was coming from…roasted peppers from a jar. I can stand them when the skin is taken off but the whole gumminess, no flavor thing is what gets me. I love them IN (blended, pureed, etc.)stuff but in their natural form, peppers are UGH on my list. Maybe I’ll work up the nerve to try a peck of pickled peppers.

  12. This looks so interesting! I must admit to being a little paranoid about food poisoning. Of course I imagine these are more shelf stable than plain ole’ canned stuff, and not prone to botulism like oils are, but… is it okay to store these without having boiled them up like a normal canning? How long do you think they’ll keep?

    I absolutely love roasted peppers, …must try this recipe!

  13. I wouldn’t worry too much about your jarring technique. My mother used to jar her own annual supply of tomato sauce. Our method was to use hot jars straight from being heated in the oven, filled with just taken off the stovetop boiling sauce and to tighten the lids on immediately. They lasted the year without a problem. No one has died yet ;)

  14. I’m a dedicated “jammer” and steam up my kitchen every summer. I can verify that NOT boiling is often OK. It’s the “inversion method,” using the heat of what you are canning to create the seal. Also, acidity helps keep the bad bad bugs out. Still, I once listened to an entire batch of peach jam un-pop over a two day period and vowed to never ever ever ever use this method again.

    Alton Brown has killer recipes for for pickles. I wish I wasn’t the only person in the house who likes them. Yours look GORGEOUS.

  15. deb

    Jenifer — You’ll just have to come visit, and then we will convert you to Brineland. Soon you’ll be eating pickled green tomatoes, something that Alex is addicted to which entirely repulses me.

    Rachael — I hear you about that, but you buy these special jars and special lids (they actually say you’re only supposed to seal with each lid once) which vacuum, and its exactly like what you’d buy in a store. That said, I can’t imagine keeping something for a year, but I loved the idea of giving them as food gifts that weren’t so time sensitive. My mother-in-law, whose recipe this, doesn’t seal jars or any of that noise. She just keeps these in the fridge, in Gladware no less, and they get eaten within a couple weeks. Ironically, I wasn’t even TRYING to seal these pepper jars, it just happened accidentally as they cooled.

    Christine — Glad to hear that. It makes so much sense that way! I had so carefully mathed (yeah, I know that’s not a word) out the perfect steaming times for each veggie, and it all went to waste in the canning. I think next time I want to seal jars, I’ll just use warm brine and slightly undercook the veggies. Love the “no one has died yet”–you know, the old school approach to food science. ;)

    Lauren — They were pretty cute, weren’t they?

    Wendy — Thanks! I’m so glad some canners have chimed in. This is all COMPLETELY new to me, and I appreciate the advice. Mm… peach jam.

  16. ann

    You need to run out and buy the Ball Blue Book stat! But hide it from Alex. 100someodd pages of pickle recipes might make his head explode ;-)
    My mom’s uber-famous Dilly Bean recipe is from there and I swear to god, it’s one of the greatest briney things on earth. And this recipe? It’s like a light slap on the face. How did you know I bought some pickled roast peppers from Rick’s Picks yesterday? Now I feel guilty ;-)

  17. Judy

    I’ve been pickling brussels sprouts for year, as well as cauliflower, broccoli, beans, pea pods, not necessary to cook them first, just makes them mushy. i use my favorite dill recipe. Ever try a pickled brussels sprout in a martini? Yum.

  18. I make jam every year and don’t boil the jars.No one has died either. If the heat of the brine (or jam, as in my case) is sufficiently boiled, the heat will seal the metal all on its own. I simply invert the jars for 5 minutes to thoroughly heat up the lids, then turn them back and leave them for 12-24 hours. Within an hour I hear every jar “pop” and seal itself. For home use, its acceptable and it seems there is no issue about letting them sit too long. Happy pickling!

  19. Janet

    Kool Aid pickels are famous here in the Native American reservations in NM, we have been making them for over 10 years (with out the sugar added) around here, even making Kool Aid sunflower seeds. You have to have the crave for sourness to enjoy the tartness. Those of you who may be cringing at the thought can’t knock it till you try it.
    Kool Aid sunflower seeds recipe- 1 bag of you favorite sunflower seeds 1) place seeds in a ziploc sandwhich bag 2) add 1-2 packets of your favorite kool aid (preferably a red colored one) 3) add1/4 cup pickle juice just enough to make the kool aid moist enough to cover the seeds(squish the seeds in bag to mix) 3) line a cookie sheet with wax paper pour out the seed/kool aid mixture onto the wax paper and let dry over night ( stir the seeds once or twice during drying time). Pop in you mouth and enjoy! We all have a kid in us that would enjoy the taste. You can add more kool aid packet to you taste, and add more pickle juice as needed to make the mix moist enough to cover all seeds. If you add to much it will be liquidy and will need more sunflwer seeds to be added. Set to dry. Hope you like it if you try it1

  20. Another canner here, or I was in a former, more housewifely life. And I really still ought to be, now that I have the Very Large Kitchen, because canning is a nice thing to be able to stretch out a bit for. I was always a bit of a punk rock canner, trying to figure out how much of the equipment — short of the Ball jars, for which there is no earthly substitute — I could get away with inventing myself. I think I used a lobster pot with a row of cookie cutters on the bottom, so the jars wouldn’t touch, and poured stuff into the jars through a rolled-up plastic placemat because I didn’t have one of those little canning funnels… you get the picture. It’s a wonder we didn’t all die of botulism. But things usually came out well, except for some tomatoes which made themselves manifestly obvious in their rottenness very early on. I’ve never tried pickles for some reason – probably because I work close enough to Zabar’s to make the idea redundant. But I make a mean, mean jar of pickled beets – beets, onions, a few cloves, I think, and I can’t remember what else. The recipe comes from a Farm Journal Country Cookbook that I got for 25¢ at a tag sale, and it’s perfect. I can eat a quart of them straight from the jar in one sitting. I must make some SOON. And now I’m dying to try those peppers, too. Will report back.

  21. my mother had a huge garden (still does) when we were growing up and she was duty bound to can or freeze all of it. She is “the processing queen”. She now lives alone and still has 2 freezers, and a large basement full of jars that date back to the 90’s. One year she had a bumper crop of swiss chard and none of us would eat it. So she pickled it. Cut off the leaves and pickle the stalk, throw in a piece of red beet into the jar and wow. You have these amazing pickled purple stalks that are a hit anywhere. My husband once took them to a union meeting and I was hounded by everyone for more.

  22. Rachel

    I second the dilly beans. I learned to pickle because of a commerical version that was hot and spicy. Two summers ago I perfected my recipe for them and pitted them in a taste test. My were way better. The great/bad thing is it is a small batch recipe (4 pints) so it is easy but never makes enough. I think I blanched the beans for a min and then processed the jars for 5.

  23. gisele

    Mum’s been jamming, pickling and preserving for years. Preserving she uses the water bath method, canning to all of you in America I believe. But for jams, jellies, sauces, chutneys and relishes we wash and sterilise the jars in the oven, and the lids in a pot of boiling water, drying the lids carefully before we put them on the jars. We very rarely have something that doesn’t seal, and if it doesn’t seal within a couple of hours it goes straight in the fridge to be used up first. Mum still has jams dating from the early 90s in the pantry that are tightly sealed and show no signs of spoiling.

    My friends laugh at me for preserving etc, im only 23 and love doing this sort of thing. Mostly the itemsa re given away as christmas gifts. That popping sound is the most satisfying sound after a few hours working hard in the kitchen though!

  24. Nice set of picking jars, and i have to say that I admire your patience on this one, I would be nibbling away at these as soon as I put them in the jar. Hope you are well and all is good, London Town is as per usual, kinda cool, and we know how to pickle over here, so perhaps I can dig out some tips :-)

  25. Cuocere

    Deb – have you tried this again? I have started a brooklyn veggie garden this spring, and hope to can some of my peppers (hoping to grow some first! perhaps Im getting a little ahead of myself!). You’re the best!

    1. deb

      Well, I make the pickled garlicky red peppers all of the time. People gobble them up if we put them out at a party; they’re a favorite. I haven’t done much canning since, but I have done a lot more “refrigerator” pickles (you can see some recipes here, including two of my favorites, the sugar snaps and carrot sticks). The Food in Jars blog, btw, is a wonderful wonderful web resource on canning. Hope that helps!

  26. Carmen

    I’ve just gotten up the courage to start pickling myself. My first attempts will be dilly beans and these garlicky roasted peppers. Any suggests for those of us making them in the pint sized Ball jars? Do you know how many pints this recipe yields?

  27. Helen

    Is there any way to pickle without using sugar? All the recipes that I’ve seen have lots of sugar in them which is prohibited for me.

  28. Kara

    Oh my, these are so good. I studied abroad in Russia for a year and so so miss all the Russian food my host mother and others would make. Love all the Russian recipes you have; any chance your mother-in-law has any good preserved fruit recipes? That’s what I’m craving most right now – all the home-made fruit preserves made from mysterious Russian/Siberian berries. Mmm.

  29. Colleen

    I just started canning a few months ago and I too had some not so wonderful results, but after a bit of trial and error things have gotten a lot better. For one thing I’ve stopped cooking the veggies. Like you said they turn to mush. I just wash them well, pack them into sterilized jars and pour the hot brine over them before processing them in boiling water. At this point I have one brine recipe I use for most everything. 4lbs Veg, 2.5C Water, 2.5C White Vinegar, 1/4 Kosher salt. I season with a few cloves garlic, often a slice of onion, a pinch of red pepper flakes, some peppercorns, and mustard seeds. Keep in mind that red onions, beets, and radishes will stain the liquid and dye any other veggies that might be rooming with them. Some veggies will lose their color if not blanched, but I’m a bit lazy sometimes and terrified of mushy possibilities, so let the little buggers fade. If you do venture again into the world of canned pickling I hope these suggestions help. I can’t wait to try your red pepper recipe this weekend!

  30. TJ

    I tried your recipe but cut the peppers in rings because that is how my husband likes them, didn’t roast them & put extra onions in (sweet onions). Made this thnking my husband would just eat them like the cucumber & onion s he love so much. He hadn’t eaten very many by the second day so I decided to can some. Packed them into a couple of pint jars with brine to cover them then used a boiling water bath to seal. put them in the pantry & a couple of months later when he was wanting peppers for a sandwich I pulled out a jar. He was hesitant at first but after opening & trying them he said they were better than the name brand store bought peppers that he was so fond of that we had been buying for years. Score one for your recipe & my skills!!!

  31. ce.leb

    deb, do you think its possible to pickle other vegetables like this? like, zucchini and others, that will last just a few days in the fridge, or is there something particular about the peppers other things dont have?

  32. Jennifer

    I’m just wondering . . . do you mean only 4 cloves of garlic? 4 cloves doesn’t sound like a lot of garlic, considering the amount of other ingredients, especially since you have that disclaimer about your garlic-loving relatives. (I’m a garlic freak myself).

  33. ce.leb

    deb – thanks for your answer!
    I made three jars of peppers und and three jars zucchini last week for a party.
    I really liked the peppers more, but the zucchini was also good. I liked the fact that I just had to open a jar for the buffet, but it stil was homemade!
    and, like everytime: I never tried out this recipe before, but it was really easy and tasty, like everything on this blog!
    thank you!

  34. Teresa

    How long do you think these will keep in the fridge? The store-bought jarred ones seem to last somewhat indefinitely (read: months) but you say just a week for these…any luck with having them around longer?

  35. fran

    good afternoon to you!
    I am looking for a receipe for sour pickles, can you help me with this request ?
    thanks fran, fran