We love the stuffed cherry peppers we find in gourmet shops, though at upwards of $10 a jar, they can be a bit pricey. But peppers from the farmers' market come cheap, and with a simple brine, you can get the same results for much less.
I first discovered pickled cherry peppers at the Ruby Tuesday salad bar. I was a suburban teenager and the restaurant was located at the entrance of the local mall. We were bound to meet. I'll admit, I enjoyed the occasional shopping trip, but what I really wanted was a plateful of those tangy peppers that would explode in my mouth with a burst of seeds and brine (and the restaurant's crunchy-soft pumpernickel croutons - apparently the food bug was already beginning to take hold). I'd never had anything like them.
These days, I usually see pickled cherry peppers in gourmet food shops, often stuffed with cheese and sliced meats. They're delicious, but expensive.
Fresh peppers, on the other hand, can be quite a bargain. While I was browsing the multicolored pepper offerings at one of my favorite market stalls, I noticed a box filled with bright red cherry peppers just begging to be pickled. I paid about $2 for the whole bunch.
The few recipes I found suggested removing the tops and seeds from the peppers before pickling, but I really wanted to get that burst that I remembered, so I poked the tops a few times with a knife and kept them whole. The brine was extremely simple - plain white vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper.
The results? The same tangy explosion of seeds and brine, followed by ... hot! My fresh-pickled peppers packed more of a spicy punch than the ones I remember, but not so much heat that it can't be tamed with a bit of cheese and a cracker or two.
Quick-Pickled Cherry Peppers
makes 1 small batch
12 cherry peppers, washed well 2 cups white vinegar 2 cloves garlic, cut into thirds 1 teaspoon salt 5 peppercorns
With the tip of a knife, poke a few holes around the tops of the peppers. Place peppers and remaining ingredients into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer over medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until the peppers are slightly softened.
Cool for approximately 30 minutes. Transfer peppers and brine to storage container and refrigerate. Eat peppers once they've cooled or store for up to a week in the refrigerator.
Serve them whole or scoop out the seeds and stuff them with your favorite cheese or meat.