Red Wicket Market Farm is a small farm 25 minutes from downtown Columbus, Ohio, near Slate Run Metropark. Breeding Black Copper and Blue Copper Marans to the Standard of Perfection.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Hot Pepper Vinegar

We planted super-hot peppers this past spring with much fanfare, but didn't end up with much to show for it. Out of the four varieties of chiles planted, only the Fatalii germinated well and made it to the garden. I have figured out what I did wrong--super hots are finicky germinaters, and need a constant moisture level and relatively high temperatures. They also grow more slowly than standard hot peppers, and simply can't compete with weeds. Next year I'll start my super hots around Christmas and try again.

This year however, we got twelve peppers off our three Fatalii plants. They are pretty peppers from Africa, and rank somewhere in the top ten hottest peppers in the world, at around 125,000–400,000 scovilles. I can't say exactly where they are on the list as it changes changes every year, with hotter and hotter varieties being cultivated. Last I looked, Fatalii was the seventh hottest pepper in the world. That's hotter than a habañero, but not as hot as a Bhut Jolokia (ghost pepper). We found them to be delicious--fiery hot, of course, but also floral and fruity and wonderful. These may be our favorite hot peppers we've tried to date.


The big question was: how do we use these peppers? Since we had such a small number I decided to make some hot pepper vinegar. If you've never used hot pepper vinegar before, it's just the vinegar from pickled hot peppers. It's yummy on lots of things (I like it on ham sandwiches) but the classic way to use it is on a big mess of collard greens. I may not be Southern, but I love a classic Southern feast of a mess of ham, blackeyed peas, cornbread, and greens doused with hot pepper vinegar.

Since I had so few peppers to work with, I put only a couple of peppers in each jar of vinegar; just enough to flavor the vinegar. I also made tiny jars, since I knew we'd only use small amounts of vinegar at a time. If I had the luxury of lots of peppers, I'd have filled each of the jars with yummy pepper rings just waiting to be used on pizza and sandwiches, but this year I was working with what I had and wanted the largest number of jars of vinegar I could get.

Making and preserving hot pepper vinegar is ridiculously easy. First, chop your peppers into rings, or cut them in half or simply leave them whole and crush them with the side of a knife, your choice. You have to break the skin of the pepper in some way so the vinegar can get inside. I cut mine into rings because I like the pepper rings on pizza. DO NOT TOUCH THE INSIDE OF THE PEPPERS WITH YOUR BARE SKIN. USE CAUTION AND DO NOT TOUCH YOUR EYES OR OTHER SENSITIVE BITS AFTER HANDLING PEPPERS. USE GLOVES IF YOU HAVE THEM. I, myself, was out of gloves, so I used a pair of tongs to hold the peppers while I chopped them. I used the knife to put the peppers in the jars, and never touched any of the peppers with my hands at all. Once, when I was young I had an unfortunate incident with hot pepper on my hands, and it is an experience I never, ever want to repeat.

I cannot stress enough how much you do not want this in your eyes.
After you've chopped your peppers, put as many as you'd like into your jars. Again, I only used two peppers per jar because that's how many I had. Ideally, I would have filled the jars with pepper rings.

So sad--so few peppers

Ladle a hot mixture of vinegar, salt and sugar over your peppers. If you'd like, you can stop here, stick the jars in the fridge, and they'll keep for up to two months. If you want your vinegar to stick around for a bit longer, process the jars in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes. Make sure to let this sit for at least two weeks before you open it, to let the peppers pickle and get the chile flavor into the vinegar. Enjoy!

Doesn't look like much, I know. But the point here is to use the vinegar, not just eat the peppers.

Red Wicket Hot Pepper Vinegar

  • Chile peppers--jalapeño, habañero, Fatalii, Bhut Jolokia, Trinidad Scorpion--whatever kind you can handle. Or mix the types. 
  • 4 1/2 cups White vinegar, at least 5% acidity
  • 2 tsp. Sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. Canning salt (table salt will leave an unattractive residue in the jars)
Put the vinegar in a non-reactive saucepan and add 2 Tbsp. salt and 2 tsp. sugar for each five cups of vinegar. Bring to just to a boil--don't let it boil like crazy. Get your canning kettle up to boil at this time, too.
Slice or crush your hot peppers and put as many as you'd like into each of five washed and sterilized half pint canning jars (jelly jars).

Ladle the hot vinegar mixture over the chiles to 1/2" from the top and attach hot, sterilized lids and clean rings. Process in boiling water canner for 10 minutes.

This will also keep, unprocessed, in your refrigerator for up to two months.