Homemade hot pepper vinegar is a fine thing, isn’t it? Sprinkled over beans, greens, fried fish, potato salad, or used in a homemade vinagrette, it adds sparkle and zip. It’s a great “mop” to brush over slow-smoking meats like ribs or a pork shoulder, and the vinegar can even be used in making savory tart dough.*
Small, green “sport peppers” soaked in vinegar are a table condiment all over south Louisiana; Trappey’s (pictured) and Cajun Chef are two common brands, usually sitting atop cafe tables aside the Tabasco, Louisiana, Crystal, or other hot sauces, beside the salt & pepper shakers.
It’s easy enough to make pepper vinegar from scratch….take a short stroll through the backyard pepper patch, picking enough to fill a clean, narrow-necked glass bottle. No peppers growing in the backyard? (Consider it for next year’s garden; many peppers grow well in containers.) Look for small, thin-walled peppers at the farmers’ markets or food stores. Serrano, tabasco, birds’ eye, scud, or other small, non-fleshy chilis are ideal.
Homemade pepper vinegar
- enough small hot peppers to fill a 3 to 8 ounce, narrow-necked glass bottle
- 1 narrow-necked, clean glass bottle
- 3 to 8 oz vinegar (white or cider vinegar)
- 1/2 tsp salt
Rinse & dry the peppers. Poke a hole in each one (to allow vinegar to penetrate), using a large needle or knife tip, and break off any excess stems above each pepper’s green cap. Stuff the peppers into the bottle (a chopstick is ideal to force the peppers into the bottle) and add the salt. Bring enough vinegar to fill the bottle to a boil in a non-reactive saucepan. Remove vinegar from heat, allow to cool for a minute or two, then carefully fill the pepper-stuffed bottle, using a funnel if necessary. Allow bottle to cool, then cap tightly and shake to dissolve the salt. For hottest flavor, let vinegar stand for several weeks before using. Store out of direct sunlight. Discard when peppers begin to break down.
*Try a vinegar pie crust recipe like this one by Rose Levy Beranbaum, substituting pepper vinegar, and use the pastry as a crust for savory quiche or a tomato tart.