Easy Fermented Jalapeños Recipe
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When we first started growing jalapeños, we did so with the intention of using them to make homemade salsa. We figured we’d be lucky to get enough jalapeños to make all of our salsa for the year, especially since we’d tried growing sweet red peppers before without much luck (the plants only grew about 3 or 4 peppers each).
But as it turns out, jalapeños are much more prolific than sweet peppers –at least in our garden– so we ended up with more than we needed.
Of course we didn’t want to waste them, and we were in the thick of canning season, so we didn’t really want to add yet another canning project to our list.
I decided to ferment the extra jalapeños for a few practical reasons:
Reason #1: Fermenting vegetables is super quick and easy
Reason #2: Fermented foods are the most nutritious foods you can eat
Reason #3: I’ve always loved pickled jalapeños; I find that the flavour intensifies while the spice mellows just enough to make these spicy little peppers even more delicious than if you were to cook them or eat them raw or as part of a salsa.
In the end, we were not disappointed (we being my husband and I… These are still much too hot for our 5-year-old).
In fact, fermented jalapeños have quickly become one of our favourite fermented foods, and one of my favourite ways to get my probiotics on a regular basis:)
What makes fermented foods so healthy
Fermented foods –vegetables in particular– are some of the most nutritious foods you can eat because not only are you getting all of the nutrition from the vegetables, you’re also getting a healthy dose of probiotics (aka. good bacteria) with every bite you eat.
These probiotics are incredibly good for your gut flora, and having a healthy gut teeming with beneficial bacteria is an essential part of maintaining overall health and a strong immune system.
How fermentation works
In a nutshell, fermentation occurs when beneficial microbes break down sugars and starches in foods and convert them into lactic acid (or, in certain cases, alcohol).
The process of fermentation captures wild yeasts and beneficial bacteria that are in the air and on the foods themselves. The microbes then produce carbon dioxide as they consume the sugars, which is what makes many fermented foods and beverages bubbly and carbonated.
Get it? CARBONated, as in CARBON dioxide? Anybody else just have an “Aha!” moment? Just me??
In essence, fermentation is a natural process that occurs with or without human intervention. But over thousands of years, we’ve learned how to harness the power of fermentation to prepare and preserve all sorts of different foods that have helped shape not just the foods that we eat, but humanity and culture as we know it.
Think about it: Without fermentation, we would have never invented beer or wine or bread or cheese or pickles or yogurt or vinegar…
And we certainly wouldn’t have the fermented jalapeños recipe I’m about to share with you;)
How to make fermented jalapeños
Fermented jalapeños are so incredibly easy to make. All you need are the jalapeños themselves, along with some water and pure salt (sea salt, kosher salt or pickling salt).
Do not use table salt with iodine and/or anti-caking agents as these added chemicals can interfere with the fermentation process.
This recipe makes one quart and calls for 3 cups of sliced jalapeños, one quart (4 cups) of water and two tablespoons of salt, but feel free to halve, double or multiply this recipe to make however many fermented jalapeños as your heart desires!
Start by bringing the water and salt to a simmer over medium heat. Stir until all of the salt has dissolved, then set the salt water aside and let cool while you slice the jalapeños.
Slice the jalapeños, being careful to protect your hands in the process (you might want to wear gloves or even use a plastic baggie to protect your hands as the capsaicin in the seeds can burn your skin if you’re in contact with them for too long).
Add all of the sliced jalapeños to a clean, quart-sized Mason jar and then cover with the salt brine once it’s cooled to room temperature (or slightly warmer). Weigh the jalapeños down using a fermentation weight (more on that in just a minute), and then place a fermentation lid or a coffee filter on top.
Let the jar sit out at room temperature for at least 5 to 7 days and up to 2 or 3 weeks, checking the flavour every few days until it’s to your liking.
Once you’re happy with the flavour, put a lid on the jar and store in cold storage or in the fridge for up to a year.
Technically you could store fermented jalapeños in the fridge for longer than a year and they would still be safe to eat, however the quality does start to degrade over time so they’re best eaten in the first few months after you make them.
How to keep fermented vegetables submerged in brine
Like all fermented vegetables, it’s important to keep these jalapeños submerged under the brine. If they’re exposed to air they could start to mold and go bad.
So long as they’re submerged beneath the brine, you’ve got nothing to worry about.
In order to keep them submerged, you’ll need something to weigh them down. In the past I’ve used smaller Mason jars (like the 4oz jars), as well as clean rocks to weigh my ferments down. But I recently decided to invest in some fermentation weights –and by invest, I mean buck up $25– and I have to say they’re a game changer and I highly recommend them!
The ones I use are called pickle pebbles, and I love them because they fit the jars perfectly and weigh down my ferments effectively without any vegetables floating to the top.
Also, unlike using smaller Mason jars as weights, these don’t stick way out of the jar and prevent me from putting a lid or a coffee filter on top to keep the fruit flies out (although fruit flies tend to steer well clear of these spicy fermented jalapeños!)
I like to put coffee filters over any jars that I have fermenting on my counter. This keeps bugs and dust out while also allowing the ferment to breathe and expel excess carbo dioxide so it doesn’t build up too much.
So far the coffee filters have worked well, but at this point I’m fermenting enough to warrant investing in some fermentation lids soon. They’re as affordable as the fermentation weights and I can already tell they’ll be better than using coffee filters, although the filters work great in a pinch!
* You can save on both the pickle pebbles and fermentation lids by getting them bundled together right here.
How do I know the jalapeños are fermenting and not rotting?
Many people are afraid to try fermenting because they worry they’re going to do something wrong and make themselves or their family sick. Rest assured that it’s practically impossible to make anyone sick with fermented foods as fermented foods are full of good bacteria, which makes them safe by nature because the good bacteria keep the bad bacteria at bay.
In some cases ferments go wrong and you do end up with spoiled food. You’ll know right away if this is the case because the smell will typically be off-putting and there will likely be visible mold on top of the jar.
In most cases, if this happens simply skim off the mold and discard any moldy vegetables and everything else under the brine should be fine.
If you bit into a fermented vegetable and it tastes bad (like that earthy, moldy taste), you’ll also know your ferment has gone bad.
In any case, you’ll know right away if your ferment has gone bad and you won’t want to eat it. However, so long as you keep the jalapeños submerged beneath the brine you shouldn’t have any problem with mold.
You will notice the jalapeños begin to change colour from bright green to a more muted, olive green colour the longer they’re left to ferment. And the brine will turn cloudy and possibly have streaks of white in it. This is all totally normal and means the fermentation process is working.
How to use fermented jalapeños
There are so many ways to use fermented jalapeños! Try adding them to homemade nachos, tacos, chilli, pizza, salads, burgers and anything else you can think of that could benefit from a little spicy heat (and a healthy dose of probiotics;)
Whatever you do though, try not to cook them; The heat from cooking will destroy all of the healthy probiotics that make fermented foods so healthy to begin with. Instead, use them as a garnish or to top foods after cooking.
Or, if you really like heat, just grab a fork and eat some straight out of the jar! (But maybe keep a glass of milk on hand to cool your mouth down… just in case;)
- 1 quart water
- 3 cups jalapeños, sliced
- 2 tablespoons salt (pure kosher, pickling or sea salt)
- Add the water and salt to a small saucepan and bring it to a simmer over medium heat. Stir until salt is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool.
- Slice the jalapeños into roughly ¼-inch thick rounds, leaving the seeds and pith intact. Add the sliced jalapeños to a clean Mason jar. Then, once the salt water brine has cooled, pour it over the jalapeños until they’re completely covered. (The brine should be room temperature or a little warmer but not hot!)
- Place a fermentation weight on top of the jalapeños to keep them submerged beneath the brine. Cover with a coffee filter or a fermentation lid and let the jar sit at room temperature for at least 5 to 7 days and up to 2 to three weeks. Taste it every few days until the flour is to your liking.
- Once you’re happy with the flavour, put a lid on the jar and transfer it to the fridge or to cold storage and store for up to a year.
P.S. Wanna learn more about fermenting? Get the August 2021 issue of Modern Homesteading Magazine (all about Fermentation) now! The September issue will be out soon, but you can still read the August issue for free when you subscribe, or become a member and get full access to our entire library of issues!
Wishing you homemade, homegrown, homestead happiness 🙂
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