Some cooks prepare and study when they want to try something new. Sometimes, I want to be one of those cooks. Alas, I am not. I try new things at random, with only a cursory glance at the internet or a few random cookbooks. That's exactly how I learned to make refrigerator pickled jalapeños.
I love hot peppers — fresh, dried, from a jar, I love them all and will use some kind of heat to spice almost any dish. One day, fresh jalapeños were on sale at my favorite local market, I had an hour to kill before picking up the kids at school and I knew it was time to try pickling my own peppers. I searched the internet for "quick pickles," "refrigerator pickles" and "lazy pickles." I also searched for pickled pepper recipes, got a vague idea in my head of what needed to be done and got to it.
I heated some water and cider vinegar on the stove, adding sugar, salt and some umeboshi plum vinegar, because I didn't have enough cider vinegar. "Necessity is the mother of invention" is truth in my kitchen, stemming from the days of "nap jail," when my children were babies. Halfway through a recipe, I would realize I lacked one essential ingredient, and there was no way I would wake a sleeping baby to go to the store to get it. Creativity was key.
I sliced my jalapeños, a few habañeros for color and a few cloves of garlic for flavor. I filled a jar with the peppers, packing them in as tightly as possible. I poured the hot liquid over the peppers. (I did have the sense to warm the jar in water before I did it, because cracked glass is a surefire way to ruin pickles.) I closed the jar, leaving it to cool on the counter upside down, rationalizing that the peppers at the top would be more pickled, leaving the ones at the bottom to mature.
Did I do it right? Not really. Did it work? Absolutely, and now I always have a jar in the fridge. And my experiment has me inspired: I recently pickled some watermelon rind using a similar method and plan to figure out how to it the right way before the end of the summer, so my efforts can be stored in the pantry instead of the fridge.
When you experiment in the kitchen, how much do you prepare? Are you a planner or an improviser?
(Image: Anne Postic)