It’s our lacto-fermentation week! Read my intro to the week here, and our first recipe, roasted salsa, here. Today’s lovely recipe comes from Sarah who blogs at Heartland Renaissance. Thanks Sarah! I can’t wait to try it.
You could say that I’m a bit of a taco connoisseur.
I can’t help myself, really. I grew up in a largely-hispanic farming community in the Sacramento Valley of California. A third of the kids in my (bilingual) grade-school class were children of migratory workers, with six or seven of them spending half of the year with us each year, as their parents worked in the community nearby, and half the year in other schools, as their parents followed the ripening crops. I was surrounded by good, authentic Mexican food and took it for granted, that is, until my parents moved us to Alaska when I was in the eighth grade, and I realized that not everyone knew the nuances of a good refried bean. . . Alaska introduced me to the joys of eating and fishing for fresh ocean fish (I lived in the Salmon Capital of the World! Literally!) but in terms of Mexican food? We were a few too many thousand miles away to find the good stuff.
After I graduated high school in Alaska, I went to college where it was warm and dry, New Mexico! There I became re-aquainted with authentic Mexican food, became enamored with New Mexican cuisine and, as a penniless college student who visited Mexico regularly on the weekends (yes, that Mexico. Before it became so dangerous to cross over!), I enjoyed strolling through the mercado and became familiar with some of the best, least expensive food in the area, the humble taqueria.
One of my best meals, ever, in my life, was in a little, un-air-conditioned, family-run restaurant off the main strip in Juarez. Featuring maybe six tables, it’s front window was lined with roasting, whole chickens on spits, the juices from the chickens sizzling down on top of each other, which the grandmother tended. The granddaughter took our order, her mother cut off fresh chicken from the spits and served it on top of fresh corn tortillas she had cooked to order on a big barrel-drum griddle located in the middle of the “kitchen.” Served with a baked potato (no rice and beans here) and a few wedges of lime, with a bowl of fresh salsa, a bowl of pickled vegetables, and a squeeze bottle of homemade, ultra-spicy orange hot sauce on the table, we were left to glory in the juicy feast. Yum.
True Mexican food is simple food prepared well. Braised and roasted meats, served on fresh tortillas with a bit of cortido and a wedge of lime. That’s all you need. Add a spoonful of fresh salsa or chomp on a pickled jalapeno or carrot from the bowl on the table and you’ve got me hooked.
My favorite taqueria condiment? Escabeche.
Escabeche, or Jalapenos en Escabeche are basically a Mexican pickled jalapeno. Far better than those little Nacho rings you buy in the store, escabeche is flavored with onions and garlic, frequently carrots, sometimes radishes or cauliflower, and is a pickled treat that I love to snack on. I’ve seen escabeche pickled in vinegar, and heat-processed in cans my whole life, but my favorite version is one that I developed last year, a lacto-fermented version of escabeche, and one that I’m happy to share with you below!
I love snacking on the crunchy carrots that have been soaking in the spicy brine, while my husband prefers the peppers. If served at a restaurant, there’s a very good chance I’ve made my way through the bowl on the table, before we even get our food! I make mine with a majority of jalapenos with a few sweeter peppers thrown in. Make sure that you use fresh, blemish-free, firm peppers when you make this. Enjoy on the side of a Mexican dinner, or straight from the jar.
makes about 4 pints
- * 4 cups of sliced hot and sweet peppers
* 4 carrots, peeled and sliced on the diagonal into 1/4″ ovals
* 6 cloves garlic, minced
* 1/2 of a medium sized white onion, sliced into half rounds and separated
* 1 Tablespoon black peppercorns
* 1 teaspoon fresh oregano leaves
* 1 Tablespoon sea salt
* 4 Tablespoons fresh whey
Special Equipment: Plastic Gloves, Clean, sanitized jars and lids
First, put on your gloves. Seriously, put them on. I bought a box of 50 disposable gloves at the pharmacy in my local grocery store for about $5.00. If you don’t want your hands burning for the next three days and/or have to do things with your fingers that you don’t want jalapeno juice soaked into them (such as changing your contacts, rescuing rocks out of your baby’s mouth, etc.) put on some gloves.
There, you can’t say I didn’t warn you.
Second, with your gloves on, slice up your peppers and place them in a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients except for water and mix with your hands. Allow to set for a few minutes.
Into your clean, sanitized jars (still wearing your gloves!!) start bottling your vegetables. Push down gently, but firmly on the vegetables, packing them in firmly until they just reach the lower lip of the jar, about 1/2″ from the top. Continue until you have all of your vegetables in jars (don’t worry if the last jar isn’t quite full), making sure you have a fairly even mix of peppers, carrots and the peppercorns are evenly distributed. Press down on the vegetables in all the jars once more.
Now, to each jar, add a little water (filtered is best, but I just used the stuff out of the tap) to fill the space in between the peppers and to just cover them. Poke a chopstick in and stir to allow any bubbles to release and to make sure the vegetables are completely submerged. Cap and keep on your counter for about two days before transferring to cold storage. Allow the flavors to mingle for about a week before tasting. The flavor will be of a traditional cooked jalapeno en escabeche, but much fresher and crisper.
I would note that this lasts several months in cold storage (refrigerated or in a cold root cellar, if you have one available), but I’ll be honest and tell you that I still have a jar left over from last summer’s batch in my fridge! Carrots are still crunchy, and we are almost to the bottom – just in time to make more this jalapeno season!