When pickling peppers, selecting the right salt and vinegar is critical to the process. Fresh spices are also important, with noticeably better results than powdered spices. Brass, copper or iron cookware should be avoided, as well as jars with metal lids. Once the pickling is complete, peppers will need between two to four weeks to mature.
Cooking salt is typically used in the process of pickling peppers. Most table salt contains iodine, which is usually avoided because it has a tendency to discolor the peppers. Look for salt that does not contain iodine for the best and most attractive results.
The type of peppers chosen for pickling and the individual recipe will determine what type of vinegar should be used, with cider vinegar and distilled white vinegar among the most common. Regardless of the variety of vinegar selected, aiming for those with 5% acidity (50 grain) is ideal. A dash of sugar can be used to soften the acidic taste if desired. Peppers should be covered by at least one inch (2.5 cm) of cold vinegar for crisp pickled peppers.
Using fresh spices often gives the best results for pickling. Powdered spices make the vinegar cloudy and lack the taste of fresh ingredients. Pickling spices vary with each recipe, but common ingredients include cloves, mace, and ginger. Other common additions call for allspice berries, celery seed and stick cinnamon.
Some metals can react with vinegar and alter the taste of pickled peppers, and for that reason, brass, copper and iron cookware should not be used for pickling. Instead, aluminum or stainless steel pots should be chosen. Enamel covered pots can also be used, provided the enamel is not cracked or chipped.
Metal lids may also react with the vinegar, which has the potential to significantly alter the taste. When pickling peppers, jars with rubber seals are recommended for the tightest fit without ingredients touching metal. Kilner jars, which have rubber sealed glass lids held in place by clips, are considered ideal for pickling peppers.
Large peppers such as sweet bell peppers will not fit in pickling jars unless they are first chopped. The white core and seeds should be removed from chopped peppers and discarded. Smaller peppers can be pickled whole, but slits must be made in the pepper to allow the vinegar to fill the cavity inside.
Many peppers are quite spicy, and some protection may be required while handling them. Rubber or plastic gloves should be worn to keep the hands free of irritants while working with them. Special care should be taken to avoid touching the face and especially the eyes when pickling peppers that are spicy.
After the pickling process is complete, the peppers will need time before they are ready to eat. Typically, pickled peppers should be allowed to stand for two to four weeks before they are mature enough to eat. Pickles left too long, generally over three months, are still edible, but they will usually begin to lose their crispness.