Cowboy candy. Pickled jalapeños.

With the warm Spring weather the jalapeños have been very productive, so I have more than I can cook with and give away. It was time to get creative and try ‘cowboy candy’, sweet pickled jalapeños. I’m glad I did.

Since moving here I have been keen to plant a variety of chilis. People talk about how there’s a lot more to chilis than heat, with different fruity flavours behind the bite, but my experience has mainly been with the little thai chilis that grow so well here. I bought seeds of a variety of chilis, but I ended up with about 10 jalapeño plants and a few others that are still developing.

thai chili

Thai chilis ripen from green through purple to red.

Thai chilis are colourful as well as useful in the kitchen

Thai chilis; plentiful and colourful

The little thai chilis are standard here for home growing, the ones that point upward on the bush and ripen from green through purple to red. They are great for heat and we use them for thai – style dishes like Tom Yam.

Jalapeños are a much larger chilli, and they hang down from the stem. They are fleshy like a capsicum, and a good size, but quite hot. One jalapeño is about right for one person in a meal to our taste, as long as they are seeded.

green jalapeño chilis

the jalapeño bushes bear plenty of chilis

The plants are bearing well. The custom seems to be to eat jalapeños green, and they sit green on the plant for a long time. The red ones are also good though.

jalapeno plants

Looking through the jalapeño patch

Another aspect of jalapeño lore that I’ve read is that the fans choose the ones that have cracks down them. Apparently this is a sign that they have had a bit of stress, which increases the heat.

red jalapeno chilis

A red jalapeño showing the characteristic cracks in the skin.

Once I had about a kilo of chilis picked, it was time to get pickling. The process is very simple and there are plenty of recipes to choose from online, so I will only outline the one I used.

As I was wary of the heat, I halved and de-seeded all of mine. This is a lengthy process when you have a lot to cut up, and also a bit dangerous. I was wearing vinyl gloves, but managed to get two sprays of juice in my eyes, which stopped me for a while. Next time I’d wear my safety glasses from the garden. The more standard method is just to cut them into 5 mm rings, which would be much quicker. (Now that we are used to them I just use the seeds-and-all method).

cowboy candy: sweet pickled jalapeño slices

A serving of cowboy candy ready for the table.

The pickling liquid is just vinegar with sugar added. The ratio is very much a taste thing, as just the vinegar and boiling should keep your pickles sterile. I use cup for cup sugar and vinegar, but some methods use a lot more sugar. I boiled that up, added the cut up chilis, and boiled for a couple of minutes. Then I packed them into sterilised jars, filled the jars with the cooking liquid, and sealed them. As with most pickles, the longer you keep them, the better the flavour, but we were into the first jar in a couple of days. After opening, keep the jar in the refrigerator.

The cowboy candy goes well with all sorts of food. As a side to roast meat it is great, but we have been having them with goats cheese on bread; whatever takes your fancy will probably work.