For the last few weeks, the chillies in the greenhouse have been tucked up under horticultural fleece overnight, to protect them from the rapidly falling nighttime temperatures whilst the chilli peppers continue to ripen. I have watered, removed dead and decaying foliage, cosseted and pampered this precious and abundant crop, waiting for the time when I could pick and then pickle them. With the smaller Cayenne chillies ripening rapidly, it was the Ohnivecs that I was waiting for.
Then earlier this week, with several Ohnivecs finally achieving full redness, and others in varying degrees of orange, I noticed that something had been nibbling on my Ohnivec chillies and some of them had a neat little hole just below the point where the stalk meets the actual pepper! Concerned that I might lose the Ohnivecs, I took the decision to harvest what I needed for my pickling, including a couple of the nibbled ones, leaving the rest in situ, to continue ripening. Only the Ohnivecs have been holed. The Cayenne, Little Elf and Patio chillies haven’t received any unwanted diners, although I am not being complacent and I am keeping a very close eye on things.
I took a selection of dark green and bright red Cayennes and a mix of light green, orange and red Ohnivecs, washed, dried and topped them. I made a small hole in the tip of each pepper, sliced off the topmost section of the chillies which had been nibbled, split the rest of those chillies in half to ensure the diner hadn’t made himself at home inside (nothing was found) and set the whole lot to one side.
The pickling recipe I used can be found here but I had done plenty of reading beforehand and had realised that the pickling liquor for chillies was fairly flexible. I used a mix of 2 parts distilled vinegar, to 1 part white wine vinegar. The water, sugar and vinegars were poured into a large pan and simmered. This recipe doesn’t specify a simmering time but I felt that the recipe inferred that the length of time required for sterilising the jars, plus the time needed to fill them with the chillies, was sufficient and so that’s what I used.
The 1ltr Kilner clip lid jar that Little Mudlet had given me for my birthday, was my chosen pickling jar and so I placed it in the sink, filled it with boiling water from the kettle and left it alone for 15 minutes. I used the time to prepare the pickling flavourings.
First, I thinly sliced a clove of garlic and then added 5 or 6 whole black peppercorns. A large bay leaf and a teaspoon of freshly ground sea salt joined the garlic and peppercorns. These went into the newly sterilised jar, once the water had been emptied out, followed by the prepared chillies. Boiling hot vinegar was poured into the jar, leaving a 1cm rim clearance and a gentle jiggle of the still open jar released the air bubbles trapped within. The lid was then shut and clipped into place, forming a tight seal.
This has been by far and away the easiest preserving attempt I have made to date. Whether or not the end result is any good remains to be seen (or tasted, as it actually looks quite pretty) but from all I have read, this pickle should be ready in as little as two weeks and should keep for up to a year, if stored in a cool, dark place. All in all I am pretty pleased with the way the pickling went and I still have plenty of chillies in the greenhouse, although quite what I’m going to do with all of them is still up for debate.