I've been planning to make my own pickles the past few years, wanting to go the fermentation route (because I tend towards the slowest, most basic ways of doing things), letting the cukes sit in a salt brine at room temperature for a week or more and allowing nature to take its course: the chemistry of mild heat and salt lead to a satisfyingly tart and crunchy pickle with no added vinegar. Unfortunately, the one ingredient I can never seem to supply is room temperature. My kitchen invariably gets too hot, my pickles mold and I end up with nothing. Either that or I just don't bother trying, giving in to the heat from the start. Instead, I turn to recipes not as reliant on ambient temperature, brines made tart with plenty of vinegar. And a recent favorite of this type are whole pickled peppers based a Michael Symon recipe, by way of Michael Ruhlman.
The procedure is straightforward: vinegar, water, salt and sugar are simmered with aromatics, the hot liquid poured over whole peppers, which are left, refrigerated, to marinate. The aromatics can be adjusted depending on what it's the spice cabinet, the fridge, the garden: a few springs of fresh herbs, crushed garlic, coriander, allspice, cumin or whatever else. But the type of peppers is what can really change the outcome, in terms of color, heat, flavor and more. Smaller, thin-walled peppers work best; varieties that don't chart too high on the Scoville scale. If you can find them, green Japanese shishito or Spanish Pardón peppers work wonderfully, but just about anything resembling what you'd find on an antipasto plate will do the trick.
Adapted from Ruhlman
1 pound peppers
2 garlic cloves, smashed
4 sprigs thyme
1 tablespoon allspice berries
2 tablespoons coriander
2 fresh bay leaves
1. Pack the peppers into a sealable glass jar and cover with water. Pour out the water into a measuring cup, discard half of it and replace that half with vinegar. Then, through a nifty Ratio-like trick, add 2 tablespoons salt and 2 tablespoons sugar for every three cups of liquid.
2. Transfer to a saucepan and add in the aromatics, which can be adjusted to your own tastes or what you happen to have on hand. Bring to a boil over medium heat then reduce to a simmer, letting the pickling juice slightly reduce, for about 5 minutes, picking up the flavors of the aromatics.
3. Let the liquid cool a bit then pour over the peppers. Cover with lid and let sit to cool. Once the jar has reached room temperature, transfer it to the fridge and leave it alone for at least a week before eating. The longer they sit, the more flavors of the pickling juice will permeate the peppers, so exercise some patience.