In the springtime, I approach food preservation as if it were an act of art. My jams are fussed over, with plenty of thought given to size of my fruit dice and maceration times. My pickles are packed into jars with great precision and accuracy. That time of year, I’m simply delighted to be anticipating the coming abundance.
Come August, my elevated aspirations are gone. I can to get it done, to get those bits of summer into their respective jars before the season is gone and I’m left with the potatoes, storage squash and kale of winter (I’m a big fan of all those vegetables, but they don’t excite me the way a peach does). And so my many acts of preservation become a bit frenzied and as easy as I can make them.
Take the jalapeno peppers I pickled recently. I bought a pound when we were in New York a few weeks ago because I wanted to bring back some little bit of the Union Square Green Market. The berries were too fragile and I didn’t see any garlic that was clean enough for my suitcase. Jalapenos are sturdy little guys and so I knew they’d withstand the rigors of the MegaBus. Plus a pound cost a mere $3, which I believe is the perfect price point for an edible souvenir.
When I got them home, I washed and halved them (please do get yourself some gloves to wear when dealing with hot peppers. I gave myself a humdinger of a capsaicin burn this time around), packed them into jars and topped them with a very basic brine.
I didn’t spice my brine at all, because I wasn’t trying to create an artisinal condiment or a pickle to be eaten on its own. I’ll use these peppers throughout the year as an ingredient in things and so I want the flavors of the peppers to remain clear and identifiable. Several will join various batches of salsa and most the rest will spice up pots of turkey chili.
The reason I like this kind of utilitarian canning is that by investing $3 and 35 minutes of effort, I’ve created something that will fill a kitchen need all year round. It breaks no culinary ground, but fills me with joy nonetheless. It also doesn’t hurt to know that I have something to turn to come January when my taste buds are in desperate need of revival.