Pickled Jalapenos and Red Onions Recipe
Both pickled jalapenos and red onions are traditional toppings for tacos (and I used them both for Texas style potato salad just the other day). Pickled jalapenos are also used for nachos, hot dogs, sandwiches, jalapeno corn bread, taco salad and chopped up into salsas. Pickled onions are great on sandwiches, hot dogs and taco salad, too, but they also are great diced and sprinkled on top of chili, mixed in chicken salad, served with carnitas, with brats and many other kinds of sausages, or even included with an antipasto or cheese plate. If you’ve got a bumper crop of jalapeno peppers or have more red onions than you know what to do with, I’ve got the answer: with this recipe and just five minutes, you can prepare quick pickled jalapenos and red onions that could be ready to eat in as little as 20 minutes!
WARNING: This recipe produces refrigerator pickled peppers and onions – they aren’t shelf stable and must be stored under refrigeration. This is not a canning recipe. To can low acid foods (vegetables like this), you need to use a vinegar with a minimum level of acidity (5%) and a recipe specifically calculated to maintain a minimum level of acidity . There are plenty of canning recipes out there such as this Roasted Peppers Recipe or this Sweet Pepper Relish Recipe that you could use instead.
Gluten Free Pickled Jalapenos and Red Onions. Certain vinegars can be problematic for those with gluten sensitivities or celiac disease. Distilled white vinegar is grain based, and it is my understanding that while technically it is gluten free (since the distillation process purportedly breaks down the gluten and it tests well below 20 PPM), a small percentage of people can have bad reactions. Why take the risk? (Note, the Heinz company claims its Heinz Distilled White Vinegar is distilled from corn, and therefore gluten free.) Apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar and red wine vinegar should be acceptable substitutes, and for rice wine vinegar, you need to check the ingredients to ensure there are no grain based components (such as barley malt). If you want to be absolutely sure there has been no cross-contamination, here’s an article on making your own vinegar from wine.
Handling Chile Peppers Safely. Capsaicin (C18H27NO3), the compound which gives chile peppers their “heat” and spice, can also be a major irritant when it comes in contact with your skin, mucous membranes and worse still, your eyes. You may not feel it at first, but trust me, later on you too could feel the awful burning sensation in your hands that lasts for hours or even overnight, and risk contaminating your spouse, kids or pets if you touch them with capsaicin on your skin. As someone who has accidentally squirted pepper juice into my face, and who thought (once) why bother with the gloves, its only one jalapeno I’ll be handling, I can tell you from personal experience, don’t do this, wear gloves. You may be tempted to use the rubber gloves that you use for dish washing, and I caution you against this, because you may have trouble getting them clean, and they may further spread the capsaicin. Use disposable gloves instead. If you wear contacts, take them out before you start working with the peppers, and put your glasses on instead – this will have the added benefit of protecting your eyes in case of pepper spray. Use a sharp knife to keep pepper cuts clean and fast, and minimize pepper juice spray. If you’re like me and have a tendency to lean into your work, make a conscious effort not to do that, and keep your face back as far from your work as possible. When finished, immediately clean off your knife, cutting board and anything that touched the peppers in soapy water, place everything, including the sponge you used to clean them, in the dishwasher, and discard the used disposable gloves. Give your hands several washes in soap, just to be safe.
DISPOSABLE GLOVE TIP: I also dye quilt fabric, so I’ve worn more disposable gloves than most people will in a lifetime, and have researched which disposable glove is best. I recommend against using food preparation gloves, they don’t fit your hand so they are more awkward to use, they tear more easily, and because they have an open end, rather than one that fits your hand, some pepper juice could still get onto the skin of your hands. I recommend Nitrile Disposable Gloves (clear, if you can get them). Clear is preferable so you are more likely to see if you’ve gotten something between the gloves and your skin. Nitrile gloves because they don’t have the problems with allergic reactions that latex gloves do, they fit your hand well, allow for very good dexterity, and because if they’ve been punctured and a hole has been created, they tend to immediately tear. This is actually a good thing, because it alerts you to the fact that the glove barrier has been breached, you can take off the glove, treat your hand to minimize the burn, then replace the glove and continue.
½ red onion
2 – 3 jalapenos
1 cup distilled white vinegar, red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, or apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1 teaspoon whole mustard
Pair of tongs or a spoon with a long handle
Well cleaned glass jar/lid (15 oz. pasta sauce jars work)
PEPPER BURN TIP: Accidents happen. You slice into a pepper, and some juice gets you right in the eye. What do you do? Well, first off, take off your gloves, you don’t want to worsen the contamination while you’re dealing with the problem. When I did this, I ran over to the sink and flushed out my eye with water. It stung quite a bit for a few minutes, but a good flush does wonders for minimizing the stinging discomfort. Here are some instructions what to do if you get capsaicin in your eye. I do something different when I get pepper juice on my skin on my hands and arms, see how to treat pepper burns on your hands for more details. Basically, I put rubbing alcohol on my hands and forearms, wait a minute or two, bathe my hands and arms in milk, and then after a few minutes, repeat the rubbing alcohol. I’ve tried other things that are recommended elsewhere, vegetable oil, for example, and for me, nothing works nearly as well as the rubbing alcohol and milk combination. Please note, you have to be very careful about what you put on your face, and you shouldn’t use rubbing alcohol anywhere near your eyes, nose or mouth. For those more sensitive areas, its better to flush liberally with water, and to consult your physician if the pain persists.
- To get those beautiful long strands of onions, cut the onion in half, from the root to the stem. Remove the peel, cut off the root and stem from each half.
- Place each onion half, cut side down, on the cutting board. Hold your knife ¼” away from one of the cut ends and make thin cuts ¼” or less thick. I find it easiest to make a few thin slices, then to rotate the onion 180 degrees, use your fingers to hold the already sliced onions to the onion, and start cutting slices from the other side. (In my experience, its easiest to make the last cuts when they are in the middle of the onion, rather than on a smaller end.)
- Put on your protective gloves. Using a sharp knife, slice the jalapeno peppers into ¼” thick rounds. Discard the stem end. Don’t take your gloves off until after you have added all the peppers to the jars.
- While still wearing your protective gloves, add your sliced jalapenos and red onions to the jars. I can get a several chile peppers and about half an onion in each 15 ounce jar. Clean off your knife, cutting board and anything else that came into contact with the jalapenos with soapy water. Place the knife, cutting board and the kitchen sponge or scrubbing brush into the dishwasher before removing your gloves.
- For each jar, measure a cup of vinegar, add the black peppercorns and mustard seed. Add mixture to a small saucepan and heat on the stovetop over a low flame.
- Add the sugar and salt to the vinegar mixture while its heating. (It doesn’t matter if there are lumps in the sugar, they’ll dissolve when heated.) Stir with a spatula to incorporate thoroughly. Heat the pickling mixture just to a simmer, there’s no need to bring it all the way up to a boil. Once it reaches a simmer, turn off the heat, and remove from the flame.
- Carefully pour the hot pickling brine to the jar of vegetables. If you’re reusing a clean 15 ounce pasta sauce jar, there should be enough liquid to almost cover the onions and jalapenos. After a minute or two, the vegetables will wilt slightly in the warm vinegar solution, and you can use tongs or your spatula to push them down further into the pickling brine.
- As they begin to pickle, the vegetables will soften, the red onions will turn from purple to a beautiful pink color, the jalapeno slices will turn from a dark green to an olive green color, and some of the mustard seeds and peppercorns will sink from the surface. DO NOT put the lid on top of the jars while the contents are still hot, or bad things could happen. Put the lid on only after the contents have cooled.
- If you used red wine vinegar, you could eat the pickled vegetables in as soon as 20 minutes. If you used distilled white vinegar, you might want to taste a bit first before eating them: distilled white vinegar has a stronger taste that will mellow over time, so depending on how strident you like your pickled vegetables to taste, you might want to . wait up to a couple of days before using them. As soon as the jars have cooled, put the lid on, and refrigerate.
- ½ red onion
- 2 - 3 jalapenos
- 1 cup distilled white vinegar, red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, or apple cider vinegar
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon whole mustard
- Cut each onion in half, starting at the root end and cutting down to the stem end. Peel the onion and cut the root and stem from each onion half.
- If you have problems with onions causing tears, you can soak the onions in water for a few minutes before cutting. With a sharp knife, starting at either the stem or root end, cut a few thin slices (1/4" or less) from that end, rotate the onion around, and begin slicing from the other end, holding the onion and slices together with your fingers to make them easier to cut.
- Put on disposable protective gloves. Cut the jalapenos into ¼" thick slices. Discard the stem end of the pepper.
- While still wearing your protective gloves, add the onion and pepper slices to the glass jar. I can fit about half an onion and several jalapenos in each jar. Keeping your gloves on, wash off the knife, cutting board, and anything else that came in contact with the peppers (counter tiles, tongs, etc.) with warm soapy water, and place them, and the kitchen sponge used to clean them, in the dishwasher. Now you can remove and discard your gloves.
- Measure 1 cup of the vinegar of your choice, and the mustard seeds and whole black peppercorns. Add to a small saucepan, heat on stove over a low flame.
- Add the sugar and salt to the vinegar and spices. Stir gently until they dissolve in the liquid. Heat the vinegar solution until a gentle simmer (there's no need to boil). Once it begins to bubble, turn off the heat.
- Using a funnel if you desire, slowly pour the hot vinegar brine over the jalapeno and onion slices. If you are re-using a 15 ounce pasta sauce jar, the liquid should come up almost to the top of the vegetables. After a few minutes in the pickling juice, the onions will soften, and you can use tongs or a spatula to push anything above the vinegar down into the pickling solution.
- As they begin to pickle, the normally purple onions will turn a beautiful shade of pink, the jalapenos will turn olive green, and the mustard seeds and whole peppercorns will sink towards the bottom. This is all normal, don't be alarmed by the color changes. While the vinegar is still hot, leave the lid off (bad things will happen if you put the cap on before everything cools sufficiently).
- Depending on which vinegar you used, you may be able to eat the pickled vegetables in as little as 20 minutes. Distilled white vinegar has a more strident taste than other vinegars, and if you use it, I recommend you taste the pickled vegetables before using them. Vegetables pickled in it will mellow their taste over time, and you may need to wait several days before the flavor mellows to your liking. Once the jars have cooled, you can put the lid on top, and refrigerate.