These homemade habanero pickles with garlic will change your view on pickles, regardless if you are an aficionado or merely tolerate these crunchy snacks. Store-bought pickles come in all sorts of flavors and varieties, but in my opinion, most don’t come close to the homemade version. These spicy pickles remind me of the “half sour” dill pickles we used to get at East Coast delis when I was younger.
We used habaneros to really spice up these pickles, but you can substitute a milder pepper if you can’t take the heat. Sliced jalapeños or Thai red peppers work quite well.
It’s important to note that habaneros, like any pepper, vary widely in the amount of spiciness (from capsacim). With this recipe, you’re better off with less rather than more. If, after a day or two, you find things aren’t spicy enough, you can add more to the mixture and they’ll quickly make themselves known. It’s much more difficult to drop the heat level you find things too hot.
What type of cucumber do you need to make the perfect Pickle?
Technically, you can make pickles from any type of cucumber. But there is a difference between “slicing” cucumbers and “pickling” cucumbers. The slicing variety are often larger and have thinner skins that don’t hold up quite as well in the vinegar liquid, and often lose their snappy texture. Pickling cucumbers are smaller, and have thicker flesh and skin that holds their crunch better. If you can find them, some pickling varieties such as the Boston Pickling Cucumber are seedless, making for a better final product.
The age of the vegetable is also key. Older cucumbers will have tougher skin and the seeds will be larger and often bitter. Younger cukes will be sweeter with smaller seeds. Size is probably the best indicator of age – smaller ones will be younger.
If you can find them, fresh cucumbers from a farmers market or organic store are preferable. Supermarkets typically offer commercially-grown cucumbers that can have a wax coating, which can provide an unpleasant texture.
How do you like your pickles sliced? Whole, spears, rounds, or “stackers”?
Whole or spears are perfect if you are going to be eating these pickles on the side. But, if you’re like me, and want pickles on your sandwich or burger – medium to thin sliced is key. I like to make longwise slices that give maximum coverage on the sandwich.
Refrigerator pickles vs. canned pickles
The recipe below is for refrigerator pickles – basically, the pickles must be refrigerated and will be safe to eat for about a month. If you want shelf-stable pickles, you can follow a canning process which will allow you to store the unopened jar for far longer on a pantry shelf. I find the heat of the canning process can partially cook the cucumbers, though, leading to a less crunchy result.
When you’ve demolished all these amazing spicy pickles, don’t empty the jar! You can reuse the pickling juice, just by adding more sliced cucumbers. In a day, you’ll have another batch. You can even branch out from cucumbers – green beans, cauliflower, and carrots are great in this magical mixture as well.
- Pickling cucumbers
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup white vinegar
- 2 cups water
- 3 tablespoons salt
- 3 tablespoons pickling spice
- 1/3 fresh habanero, sliced thinly
- 5 cloves of garlic, smashed
- Combine water, vinegar and salt in a saucepan.
- Bring mixture to a boil, making sure all the salt is dissolved into the liquid.
- Allow liquid to cool.
- While liquid is cooling, wash cucumbers thoroughly, and then pat dry.
- Slice cucumbers in the desired shape. Make sure to remove the ends of the cucumber where the stem was attached - this portion of the cucumber contains enzymes which can soften the cucumber.
- Place smashed garlic, habanero, pickling spice, and cucumbers in a mason jar, packing everything tightly without damaging the cucumbers. Leave a little room at the top of the jar
- Pour cooled liquid over the vegetables, making sure everything is submerged in the liquid.
- Place lid on the jar, and refrigerate for at least 1 day.
- 1 tablespoons black peppercorns
- 1 tablespoons dill seeds
- 1 tablespoons coriander seeds
- 1 tablespoons mustard seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/2 tablespoon allspice berries or 1 teaspoon whole cloves
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