Escabeche is a pickling technique that was brought from Spain to its many colonies; the main difference from quick pickling in a hot vinegary liquid, is the addition of a pre-cooking step for at least some of the ingredients, usually in oil, which elevates the complexity of flavours in both the main ingredients and the aromatics. Spanish recipes usually involve meat, especially fish; Mexican cooks’ conceit of their creativity drew them not only to adopt these recipes, but to extend their use to New World ingredients, most notably in this brilliant example with jalapeño peppers and any vegetables available from a bumper crop (either from one’s backyard or the market).
Escabeche Style Pickled Jalapeños –
Jalapeños en Escabeche
Ingredients (approx. yield: 6 cups)
1 lb (454 g) jalapeño peppers
1 white onion
4 cloves garlic
½ head cauliflower (or other vegetables available: button mushrooms, zucchini, etc.)
¾ cup water
½ cup white wine vinegar (or apple cider; plain white vinegar will do if nothing else is available)
1 tbsp salt, or more, to taste
2 tbsp olive oil (or any other vegetable oil)
4 bay leaves (or 1 tbsp dry oregano)
½ tsp black peppercorns
Traditional Mexican recipes use either whole peppers, or rajas – strips; the neat strips are my personal favourite, because they may be scooped directly into sandwiches and stews without having to deal with seeds and stems. I sliced the stem off first, then cut each pepper in half, lengthwise. The seeds were removed with the tip of the knife, and the cleaned halves were sliced again lengthwise into four or six strips, depending on the size of the pepper:
I peeled the onion, and cut it into eight wedges; then I peeled the garlic cloves, and set them aside; the carrots were washed, peeled and sliced into thin coins (1/8 inch, 3-4 mm); I divided the cauliflower (my husband’s favourite) and saved one half for other use, then cut the other half into small florets, which I washed and drained. All the ingredients were ready to start the escabeche:
In a small pan, I mixed the water, vinegar and salt, stirring over low-medium heat until the salt dissolved, and then I kept it simmering at low heat. Meanwhile, in a large pot, I sautéed the onion and garlic in the oil over medium heat, until the onion turned translucent (photo below, left); I incorporated the rest of the vegetables, coating with the oil, and mixing with the aromatics (right):
After a couple of minutes, I added the peppercorns and bay leaves (note: oregano and other herbs are often used instead of, or in addition to, the bay leaves, but I prefer to avoid the resulting particles in the brine, and sometimes grainy texture on the veggies.) I followed by adding the reserved hot pickling liquid:
I like my vegetables on the crunchy side, so I let them cook at low heat for just five minutes, then removed from the heat and covered the pot, allowing the mix to rest for about ten minutes. I transferred the solids to clean and dry Mason jars using a slotted spoon, then poured the liquid over to fill, leaving about ½ inch (12.5 mm) spacing from the rim. I closed the jars, and let them reach room temperature, undisturbed. For this batch, I got 6 cups of this delicious mixed vegetable escabeche:
I took the cooled bottles to the fridge, which were to be left untouched for at least twelve hours. The next day, I had the last of my backyard Swiss chard begging to be harvested and eaten (well, that was probably me wanting to eat it). I made an omelette with the chard, some cheese and chopped onions, and my husband and I enjoyed the first of the escabeche on tortas (Mexican sandwiches):
The pickled vegetables looked vibrant on top of the eggs, while their tangy brine was being absorbed by the omelette; extra veggies on the side rounded up the perfect lunch.
As the escabeche aged in the fridge, the vegetables absorbed more spiciness from the peppers, and everything matured into an even bigger blast of flavours and textures; my only complaint is the strange disappearance of most of the cauliflower florets …
I am bringing my recipe to Thursday Favourite Things #410 with Bev @ Eclectic Red Barn, Marilyn @ Marilyn’s Treats, Pam @ An Artful Mom, Katherine @ Katherine’s Corner, Amber @ Follow the Yellow Brick Home, Theresa @ Shoestring Elegance and Linda @ Crafts a la Mode.