Each year I harvest far more chillies than I can use at one time. I have only two small chilli plants and each year I’m amazed at how productive they are. One of the problems that so many chillies pose, is that they are so hot that one only needs to use a few at a time and the majority will rot before you can put them to use. As a consequence, you don’t have any home grown chillies when you want to use them in the future.
I overcome this glut of chillies by pickling them. Pickling is extremely easy.
The first thing to do is get some jars, of a suitable size (I like using the smaller, wide mouthed salsa jars), wash them and then heat them up (with the lids, detached from the jars) in an oven for about half an hour at about 120 degrees C (about 250 degrees F).
After washing and rinsing the chillies, slice them (discarding the stems), complete with the seeds. A note of caution here, if you have sensitive skin wear rubber gloves. Needless to say, keep you hands away from any mucosal membranes afterwards, or you’re going to be in for a character building experience.
Pour enough apple cider vinegar (or any vinegar that you have on hand) to cover the sliced chillies into a pot. Then add olive oil equal to about 20% of the volume of the vinegar, and bring the mixture to a boil. Once the vinegar and oil is at a rolling boil, carefully add the chillies. Boil the chillies in the mixture for about a minute or two.
As a variation to this recipe, you can slice up some garlic and add it to the chillies at this point.
Take the jars out of the oven and put them in a dry sink. While constantly stirring the pot contents, ladle the chillies and vineger mixture into the warm jars, leaving about 1.5cm (about half an inch) space to the top of the jar. When you have no more chillies left, top up the jars with the remaining oil and vinegar mix, making sure that you completely cover the chillies and then take the warm lids out of the oven and screw them onto the jars.
The remaining oil and vinegar mixture can be kept as a condiment chilli oil. When the jars have cooled down to room temperature wash the jars in soapy water, to removed any residual chilli oil.
Store the chillies in a cool dark place. I’ve used chillies preserved like this, one and a half years after I’ve pickled them, with no ill effects. Always store the opened jars in the refrigerator after use. When the pickled chillies have been refrigerated, the oil solidifies, but don’t let that worry you as it doesn’t affect the flavour.
I use my pickled chillies in cooking and I’ve noticed that the oil and vinegar take up a lot of the chillies “heat” so keep that in mind when you cook. Just add more of the oil and the “heat” goes way up.