When I make pickles, I cheat—instead of following complex instructions to sanitize jars, maintain the perfect acidity level, and balance a bevy of spices, I settle for “refrigerator pickles.” Easy to prepare but meant for long-term storage, refrigerated pickles only last a few months, during which time they develop a mild bite. Floating in sour brine with a little air, stored in a cold environment, these pickles pose few health hazards. Botulism risk remains low as long as you keep the jars refrigerated for the entire storage period, not just after opening. With a minimal time commitment—Sunday after lunch—I put away a batch of home grown banana peppers.
Although pickles currently command the attention of hip foodies, who knows when dills and farmer’s market fancies will turn passe. Blindly following trends characterizes the half-sour hipster impulse. This product was made without harming any hipsters and without compromising my distate for food hipsterdom—perpetually chasing the next best food, forever exploiting tradition for the sake of cool. My grandfather brined green tomatoes from his backyard, so I claim a measure of familial pickle cred. Last week, I decided to preserve my peppers for an entirely practical reason: over a brief vacation away from home, the peppers would certainly spoil.
Begin with an armful of banana peppers. In grocery stores, they come smooth and long like their namesake fruit. At home, they grow knobbly, arthritic fingers that twist in bony spirals. Slice the tops off the peppers, remove the seeds, and cut slits down their sides. Boil five cups of apple cider vinegar, one cup of water, one cup of salt, and one cup of sugar. Reduce the heat and simmer for ten minutes. Stuff the peppers into a sanitized mason jar with one garlic clove and one cayenne pepper—seeds removed and cut in half. Pour the brine over the banana peppers, leaving a little breathing room at the top of the jar. Screw the lid on tightly and refrigerate. Wait two weeks. Eat within three months.