Peter’s pickled peppers
One of the best things I ate in a time before Covid-19 was a pepper pickled by a guy named Pete. Pete took some peppers at their peak (although I can’t be sure if Pete picked those particular peppers), passed them through a wood-fired oven and popped them into a delicate pickling liquid punctuated with pungent fish sauce.
This recipe is a slight departure from that method but the principle remains the same. Lightly grill a pepper you want to eat whole, then rest it in a pickling liquid that you want to drink.
Pickles are all lumped in together as a preserve of some description. These preserves can involve salting, or light salting with fermentation. Or alternatively, light vinegar or sweet vinegar can be used. Each style has a different use or purpose. Some pickles like the ageing process, some break down, some taste better fresh or chilled rather than at room temperature. All are equal and yet individual in my eyes. I love them in any form.
The purpose of this style of pickle is to celebrate the vegetable perhaps at its peak or on its way out. Eat them at the beginning of a meal as a standalone, to get the tastebuds going.
Pepper production in Australia has prospered lately with a truly staggering number of varieties now found in market gardens and stalls unlike five years ago. It started with the Galician variety padrón and has since increased to a multitude of varieties with varying heat and flavours. My favourite variety for this style is the shishito. It’s a mild and particularly vegetal style that is very moreish. Ultimately, though, any pepper will do.
This method can be used with other vegetables but some consideration is needed with the water content of the vegetable and the balance of the pickling liquid. Use this as a base and experiment from there. You may become obsessed – or perhaps that’s just me.
- 40g sugar
- 300ml fish sauce
- 150ml soy sauce
- 100ml rice wine vinegar
- 100ml lemon juice
- 1 shallot, sliced
- 1kg assorted peppers (shishito, padrón etc)
- Bring 300 millilitres of water to the boil in a small pot, then add the sugar and let it dissolve before removing from the heat to let cool.
- Once the liquid has cooled add the rest of the ingredients, excluding the peppers, and blend using a stick blender until the liquid goes a little creamy. Strain through a sieve.
- Using either an open wood fire or grill, or a gas-burning stovetop, blister the skin of the peppers directly over a flame until the skin blackens. (This should only take about 20 seconds on each side.) Be careful not to blacken the skin too much as the aim is to simply break down the skin a little and provide enough residual heat for the pepper to cook without losing too much texture.
- Once the peppers have cooled run your hands over the outside to remove some of the blackened skin but not too much. Pack these peppers into a preserving jar and pour the strained liquid over. Retain at under 12ºC for at least 24 hours prior to eating.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on April 17, 2021 as "Pickles that pop".
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