Hot damn chile pickle!

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My tomatoes might have been a little worse for wear after my 3 week absence, most of them took a suicide leap that ended in a bloody-red mess. i did however, manage to save a couple-eight pounds of them. and proceeded to make this again this year – if you have a bunch of overripe tomatoes. make it now…and thank me later. back to the point of this post:

have chiles …will cut ’em. for those of you who have been hanging around here for quite some time, you know that i love me my chiles! this year, the chile-gods and chile-goddesses had mercy on me, and my little ‘ole plants of plenty produced big time!

i cook up this indian-style chile pickle when i have an abundance of chiles. any kind will do – hot or hotter. it’s cooked down, loaded with chiles, garlic and ginger, and packed with oil. so don’t even think about hot water bath canning it. i put mine in the fridge in little jars, which lasts a year or even up to two!

the depth of flavor comes from the ‘tarka‘ or sputtering of the whole spices in oil. it’s a traditional indian technique that both releases and enhances the flavor of a particular spice. i eat this pickle on anything that remotely resembles the palate of the eastern hemisphere; on top of rice, stirred into yogurt, tucked inside flatbread, beside a good curry or stew.

hot damn chile pickle! adapted from my bombay kitchen 

3 pounds chiles – any kind, stemmed & chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1 & 1/3 cups light sesame oil (not toasted, or another vegetable oil)
1 tablespoon whole brown mustard seeds
1 & 1/2 teaspoons fenugreek seed
1 & 1/2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds
1 & 1/2 teaspoons whole fennel seeds
3/4 cup garlic, chopped fine*
3/4 cup ginger, chopped fine*
1 teaspoon cayenne powder (optional)
1 & 1/2 teaspoons turmeric powder
1 & 3/4 cups white wine vinegar
1/4 cup light brown sugar (i use turbinado)
2 & 1/4 tablespoons sea salt

yield: 3 pints

1. heat oil over medium heat, once hot, add mustard seeds. the mustard seeds will sputter and turn a light gray within 15-20 seconds. when they do, add the whole fenugreek, cumin and fennel seeds. let them sizzle until they are just a shade darker, about 15 seconds. very important: do not burn the spices, they should not get dark brown, err on the side of not cooking enough. if you are unsure count to 15 after you add them and you’re good!

2. add the garlic and ginger, let sizzle a few seconds until just lightly golden. add the cayenne if using and the turmeric, stir once and add the chiles. stir.

3. add salt, sugar and vinegar. bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer on low for 45 minutes to 1 hour. if during the cooking process it sticks and seems too dry, add more vinegar by the tablespoon, do not add water. it is done when the oil separates and sits on top (it will look similar to the photo above).

4. let cool slightly and taste. this should be a salty pickle used as a condiment – add salt here if it needs more. fill clean 1/2 pint or pint jars. store in fridge for a year or more.

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