PICKLED BANANA PEPPERS
SUBMITTED BY CHEF THOMAS KEPNER OF RAIL TRAIL FLATBREAD COMPANY, HUDSON MA
PHOTOS BY MICHAEL PIAZZA / STYLED BY CATRINE KELTY
Growing up I spent a lot of time with my Grandpa (or, as I like to call him, G-Pa). Given that I was a rambunctious little guy, my G-pa put me to work. During the winter months I remember riding on the back of his tracker to the woods to cut down trees and split wood so that he could keep his home warm. Once the thaw hit and spring was upon us he would always tend to his garden while my cousin DJ and I would get distracted and start playing on the old rusty farm equipment. He’d always yell over telling us to “get the heck off that” before we fell and killed ourselves… He was a very blunt man, which I’ve grown to appreciate. As the weeks passed we would help him pull weeds from the garden. He mostly grew tomatoes and banana peppers, along with an assortment of other veggies, but without fail he always had his tomatoes for sauce and the banana peppers for pickling and marinades. Every Sunday G-Pa would put those tomatoes to use by making pizza for the family. He was a great cook and it was always something to look forward to… except I never would eat the one with the peppers. I was a strictly cheese kind of kid. Now as a chef, I’m all about spice, and I actually use my G-Pa’s pickling recipe for the banana peppers that we use in our calamari at the Rail Trail. This is a simple recipe that takes no time and once you’ve made them correctly they can sit in your pantry for years if need be.
NOTE: when pickling and canning, sanitation comes first. Here are some quick tips that will make this process easy. 1—Make sure jar has been washed prepickling. 2—Your pickling liquid must be at least 180°F before filling the jar. This will kill any bacteria that may be left after the jar has been washed. 3—Cover tightly and then put the jar in an ice bath to cool rapidly. You can keep it in your pantry for pretty much forever,but be sure to refrigerate after opening.
Special equipment: instant-read thermometer and a 1-quart Mason jar
2 pounds fresh banana peppers
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 cups water
peeled zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 tablespoon salt
½ tablespoon sugar
5 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
Remove seeds from the banana peppers and slice into rings, then layer them into the 1-quart jar. Combine liquid and dry ingredients in a pot and bring contents up to 180°F, using an instant-read thermometer. Pour hot liquid into jar over peppers, then top with the lid and chill in an ice bath.
Sarah Blackburn is a home cook, recipe developer, vegetable gardener and managing editor of Edible Boston. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org