Pickled jalapeños

I’m quite picky about pickled jalapeños. Having tried probably every type that’s readily available in this country, I’ve come to the conclusion that the only one worth bothering with is a Californian brand called Mezzetta. There’s something wrong with every other kind – some taste of iodine, some are too squidgy and have little flavour, some are too sweet, too salty, too vinegary… Mezzetta is just about perfect.

A couple of years ago, Mezzetta products disappeared from the shelves. Apparently some kind of problem with the labelling meant they couldn’t be sold in Europe, and although I emailed them to suggest that maybe they could ship me a few cases directly, it was impossible. Luckily the bureaucratic nonsense has all been sorted out now, but they’re still not exactly easy to find (Waitrose stocks them, hardly anywhere else does).

So here’s a recipe for the next best thing – assuming you can get fresh jalapeños, of course, which could be even trickier than tracking down a jar of Mezzetta. I found these ones in Sainsburys, of all places.

Ingredients (to fill a one pint / 500ml jar)

350g fresh jalapeños
3 garlic cloves
200ml cider vinegar
200ml water
60g brown sugar
1 tsp salt
2 bay leaves
2 tsp mixed dried Italian herbs (oregano, thyme, etc)
2 tsp mustard seeds

Slice the chillies into chunky rounds. Peel the garlic and lightly squash the cloves with the flat of a knife.

Put the rest of the ingredients in a saucepan and warm it to simmering point. Turn off the heat and leave for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, sterilise a jar by putting it upside down in a cold oven. Turn the heat to about 140C, and when it reaches the desired temperature switch off the oven. Clean the lid or rubber seal by pouring boiling water over it.

Pack the jalapeños and garlic into the jar and cover with the pickling liquid. Seal and leave for a couple of weeks, so the chillies become soft and mellow.

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