October 4, 2019

Chinese Pickled Chili Peppers 自製泡辣椒

chinese, fermented, lacto fermentation, pickled chilies, Pickled Peppers, recipe, 腌制, 辣椒, 泡椒, 自製

Dear readers, do you recall this delightful little tongue twister?
Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
Where's the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?
I challenge you to try to say this teaser more than one time in a row.  We couldn't get through more than one reading of this tongue curler before we burst out laughing at the garbled nonsense coming out of our mouths!  

Like everyone I've known this rhyme forever but only recently did it occur to me to wonder what exactly pickled peppers are.  And why the heck chili peppers needed to be pickled.  I actually didn't think I'd ever had pickled peppers at all, but it turns out I was wrong.  I love the jalapenos used in Mexican food and they are a pickled pepper!  

I decided to make a batch of Chinese Pickled Chili Peppers 泡辣椒, also known as 腌制辣椒,  to see what all the fuss was about and discovered, to the delight of my 老公, that pickled peppers are so much MORE!

chinese, fermented, lacto fermentation, pickled chilies, Pickled Peppers, recipe, 腌制, 辣椒, 泡椒, 自製
Fresh chili peppers, ready for pickling...

For our pickled chili peppers we used bird eye chili peppers, those super hot small peppers that are commonly used in many southeast asian countries.  You can use any pepper you like, just remember that smaller chilies are hotter than larger chilies!  

Interesting food fact: did you know that all chilies around the world originally came from Central and South America?  The Spanish and Portuguese traders and missionaries spread the chilies throughout the world thru their travels, explorations and conquests.

chinese, fermented, lacto fermentation, pickled chilies, Pickled Peppers, recipe, 腌制, 辣椒, 泡椒, 自製

These Chinese pickled chili peppers are lacto fermented* which is a fancy word for putting vegetables in a salt water brine and letting the naturally existing lactobacillus bacteria transform the sugar/starch in the veggies into lactic acid, thus both preserving the vegetable and giving the resulting pickle its distinctive tang.  

Meanwhile the salt both preserves and helps keep the crunch.  The transformation not only yields some delicious results but also creates probiotics and enzymes that benefit your health and especially your digestion and immunity system.

At its most basic pickling brine is salt dissolved in water.  Our pickling brine (see photo above) also has spices added and a wee drop of chinese wine.  The spices I have chosen here, sichuan pepper, cinnamon bark, star anise, will produce a traditional Chinese pickled flavor.  You can, however,  play around with all kinds of spices to get subtle flavor layers into your own custom made brine.

The chinese white wine 白酒 used should be above 28% proof, easy to buy as all Chinese wines are intensely alcoholic.  We used Fen Chiew white wine 汾酒, a favorite of mine, a wine from Shanxi with a light, delicate, fruity floral aroma.

*Note: Lacto fermentation is different from pickling with vinegar which is yummy but does not produce probiotics that pickling in brine does.

chinese, fermented, lacto fermentation, pickled chilies, Pickled Peppers, recipe, 腌制, 辣椒, 泡椒, 自製

For a successful lacto fermentation there are two important things to remember.  The first thing is that the fermentation will release gas, carbon dioxide to be exact, so you need to allow that gas to be released.

Enter this groovy looking pot, a traditional Chinese pickling urn, specifically made for pickling.  These urns have a unique lip at the neck of the jar into which water can be poured.  Then, when the water filled lip is covered by the urn cap (the cap is the small bowl to the side of urn, see photo below of the cap in place), it becomes a water lock for the fermentation, allowing carbon dioxide to bubble out through the water but nothing to enter vice versa.  

It's fascinating to watch the bubbles bubble up through the water at random times!

These pickling jars are hard to find, I looked for one for years and found finally these in a tiny out of the way store that, of course,  no longer exists.  But ironically for me and luckily for all of you the Big A now sells a lovely B&W porcelain fermentation jar.  

Or you can also use a modern mad scientist looking fermentation glass jar with an airlock that does the same job.  And lastly you can just use a regular glass jar, as long as it has an airtight lid.  In this case, you just need to open the jar every couple of days to let the fermentation gas out.

chinese, fermented, lacto fermentation, pickled chilies, Pickled Peppers, recipe, 腌制, 辣椒, 泡椒, 自製

The second thing you have to remember is to keep oxygen away from whatever you're pickling, in this case peppers.  This is easy to do...if you pack your peppers in snuggly enough they won't float up.  Just pour in enough brine to completely cover and the peppers are oxygen free. 

If your jar is big enough that the peppers do float, you can weigh down the chili peppers with a ceramic saucer or even a leaf of cabbage laid over the top.  Whatever keeps all the chili peppers below the surface of the brine.

chinese, fermented, lacto fermentation, pickled chilies, Pickled Peppers, recipe, 腌制, 辣椒, 泡椒, 自製

And the final result?  Was it worth it to pickle a peck of pickled peppers?  Yes, yes and yes!  Pickled chili peppers are MORE!  My 老公 was ecstatic over the flavor of these pickled peppers, raving on that the intense spiciness was still there, perhaps even a bit hotter, but the pepper's flavor was now transformed to something more rounded and nuanced, fragrant with a delicate hint of floral.  Poetic man for pickles, who knew?

The thing that is so lovely about making pickled peppers, especially red pickled peppers, is that they become even more beautiful as they pickle.  Especially the red ones... they become an even more luscious red.  It's so pretty to look at!  

So of course I had whip out my POSCA markers to dress up a pretty jar for my Chinese Pickled Chili Peppers!  So then dear readers, watcha waiting for?  It's time to make yourself a peck of Pickled Peppers!

PSST...check out our post on pickling all kinds of vegetables!

chinese, fermented, lacto fermentation, pickled chilies, Pickled Peppers, recipe, 腌制, 辣椒, 泡椒, 自製

Making and eating fermented foods is something we actively pursue these days, making a conscious effort to include probiotic goodness of naturally fermented foods in our diet.  If you're curious about making your own, check out our other pickled fermented foods recipes.  Fermented foods have intense wonderful flavors that are surprisingly addictive and help our bodies become healthy and strong.  
Chinese Pickled Chili Peppers Recipe

(adapted from Key to Chinese Cooking)  
Prep time: Cook time:




Wash peppers and cut off stems, leaving stem cap intact. (The green part that looks like a little hat.)  Let the peppers air dry until completely dry, leaving overnight is a good idea.

Add water, salt, sugar and spices into a small pot and bring to a boil.  Let simmer for 10 mins.  Let cool completely, even allowing to steep overnight to boost flavor.

Fill sterilized pickling urn or jar with the dry chili peppers, standing them upright and packing them in snuggly (this will hold the chilies in place and not allow them to float.)  Pour brine in jar completely covering the chilies but not high enough to touch the lid.  Add in chinese wine.  If the chili peppers are floating up use a glass or ceramic saucer to weight down so everything submerged by the brine.

If using fermentation urn fill the neck lip with cool boiled water then cap.  Remember to refill neck lip water as needed.  If using modern airlock glass jar follow jar instructions.  If using a regular glass jar close the air tight lid and store in a dark cupboard and remember (this is important!) to open the lid every 2 days to allow the fermentation gas to escape.  

After 20 days your pickled peppers are ready to eat.  Store with brine in refrigerator and use clean dry utensils to remove peppers.  Chop and add some kick*ss spice to your favorite salads and noodles dishes.  Enjoy your Pickled Peppers!



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