Pickled Banana Peppers

My mom makes this hot potato salad that has been on my Favorite list for over 20 years. It's one of those magical things she makes that I know is easy to put together but I never wanted to know much about it because it just seemed like a Magical Mom thing, and I don't like to ruin that.

But then I got into cooking. (Contrary to what you might assume, I had never been interested in cooking whatsoever before I had kids. Now I'm die hard. See, evolve). 

I had a birthday party for my daughter one year and asked my mom to make the potato salad. I hadn't had it in a few years, and since I finally understood how to boil water, I had to know what was behind this fabulousness. Plus, these recipes don't get passed down by themselves.

And it IS quite easy! It's basically just potatoes and spices and -- you guessed it: hot vinegar peppers. 

I always thought she made the vinegar peppers herself, but they happen to come in a handy-dandy jar already made and ready to go. You basically just add the peppers in their vinegary-spicy-hot juices to create one ridiculous hot potato salad. I mean, her technique is the real secret here, but I'm not allowed to pass down everything, folks.

(At least, not until my next blog installment).

Which is how I had been making it, until I became an ingredient-label-reader. And noticed that the ingredients for those bright yellow pepper rings are:

Banana Peppers, Water, Distilled Vinegar, Sea Salt, Calcium Chloride, Natural Flavors, Sodium Bisulfite Added as a Color Stabilizer, FD&C Yellow #5.

MOTHER.

It's the Yellow #5 that really gets me, because, well, cancer and ADHD links. It's not a real food, it's synthetic crap, we don't need that in our bodies just to make vinegar peppers look neon yellow.  SEE HERE

I went on the search for alternatives in the health-food-store world and found surprisingly little else out there. I even happened upon a "homemade" jar at a local farm, and found that even THEY added the dye! Appalled.

If you're making them from scratch, use turmeric! Have you ever gotten that stain on your hands?! It works.

The point is, I realized that if I wanted to enjoy my mother's potato salad (and other recipes) without sacrificing my principles, I was going to have to make them myself.

So I did.

And it worked. Without neon.

This was pre-jalapeno slices. Imagine them in there. 

This was pre-jalapeno slices. Imagine them in there. 

I realize it's way easier to go to the store and buy a jar, and you want to do that, I'll be sharing the recipe soon. But it's summertime and the farmer's markets are aplenty, and they carry banana peppers in giant crates. You can buy a few pounds of them and set aside an afternoon to make your own, can them, and enjoy them until next year when you can do it all over again. 

Here's what you'll need:

  • 2 pounds of banana peppers, washed, seeded, and sliced into rings (organic preferred, peppers are a Dirty Dozen food)
  • a few jalapeño peppers, washed and sliced into rings (depending on your heat preference -- I used 5, unseeded)
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 4 cups white vinegar (not white wine vinegar)
  • 2.5 cups water
  • 1T sea salt PER pint mason jar 
  • 1 tsp each celery seed and/or ground mustard for enhanced flavor, optional
  • Turmeric (a few dashes per jar), if you really just love that hue!
  • Mason jars and lids (available here, or at Walmart type places) for canning. I use pint size and half-pint size, but you can use whatever sizes you like.

Now if you're just making a single batch or two and plan to use it within the next couple of months, then you don't have to go through the canning process (which is more lengthy and involves sterilizing the jars for long-term storage). In that case, you can skip right to the meat of the Instructions (see "Meat of the Instructions").

But if you want to make a whole lotta jars (like me), you'll need to can them properly so nasty bacteria doesn't start growing in the jars. I'm not going to reinvent the wheel here -- I literally learned how to do this by Googling it. I do have a handy photos for you to look at, though. In the meantime, you can find the instructions HERE.

These are the lids in just-boiled water. I admit, I sterilized the jars in my dishwasher on the "Sterile Rinse" cycle, instead of placing them in boiling water. Just be sure to keep them in the dishwasher until you are ready to use them to avoid any contamination as they sit on the countertop and you spill your way around, like I do.

These are the lids in just-boiled water. I admit, I sterilized the jars in my dishwasher on the "Sterile Rinse" cycle, instead of placing them in boiling water. Just be sure to keep them in the dishwasher until you are ready to use them to avoid any contamination as they sit on the countertop and you spill your way around, like I do.

 

Once you have your jars and lids ready to go, you can go ahead with the

MEAT OF THE INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. In a saucepan, bring vinegar, water, garlic, salt, and spices to a boil until salt dissolves. **IF YOU LIKE SOFTER PEPPER RINGS, you have the option to boil them in this mixture to soften them! Otherwise, move on to Step 2.
  2. Fill your mason jars with tightly packed banana and jalapeño rings (make sure your hands are clean).
  3. Pour the vinegar solution into each sterilized mason jar, filling it up to about 1/2 inch of headspace.
  4. Seal each jar with lids and rings (making sure they are from a sterilized pot, if canning) and set aside to cool. 

When cooled, refrigerate for at least 48 hours before eating to allow flavors to incorporate. Can be stored in fridge for several months.

**IF CANNING FOR LONG TERM STORAGE: Fill a large stockpot with water and bring to boil. Using canning tongs, submerge each sealed mason jar in boiling water for 10 minutes. Remove from boiling water and allow to sit on counter. The lids should suction-seal "POP!" over the next few minutes to ensure a proper seal. To test for this, just press on the middle of the canning lid to make sure it doesn't do that up and down popping action -- it should be fully suctioned on. Once cooled, place in storage area for up to a year (maybe longer? I've never tried).

It's actually fun and it's pretty cool to taste something you've made in this fashion. Makes you feel tried-and-true and just LEGIT. 

Now all you have to do is wait for my to post the recipes on my list that use these babies. In the meantime, put some peppers on your next sandwich or salad and enjoy them simply. Best day ever.

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