Salt Brine Pickled Chilli (Fermented Chilli)

salt_chillippA big affection for chilli peppers combined with preserving addicition leads me every year to new experiments. Chillies rarely disappoint me and this previous summer’s discovery is no exception. Simply pickled in salted brine, these chillies developped complex flavours and an amazing aroma, proving a fantastic taste-enhancing ingredient in both Asian and Western meals.

Unlike vinegar-pickling, salted brine-pickling is probably the most international preserving method (maybe only drying beats it). Actually, when I saw, in a tv program about Sichuan food, a huge jar of salt-pickled homemade chillies, it reminded me of Polish salt-pickled cucumbers. Instead of looking for a Sichuanese recipe, I simply copied my cucumber pickling method, limiting however the seasoning to salt and garlic. The traditional Polish pickling brine consists of 3 g salt per 1 liter water. This ratio worked perfectly with chillies too. I am not sure if they are similar to pickled chillies used in Sichuan, but they taste so good, I no longer care.

In order to make sure I could “advertise” this recipe, I prepared these chillies last summer. After a week of fermenting process, I closed the jars, processed them in order to halt the fermentation and put into my pantry. They were already delicious after several weeks, but after three months my chillies developped an enticing, delicate aroma (especially compared to the harsher vinegared ones) and a very moderate acidity. They stayed crunchy and of course hot, but their strength was slightly reduced. They were also much more versatile than vinegared-pickled chillies and I believe they can be incorporated – whole or chopped – into different dishes. Since the only seasoning I used is garlic, these chillies go equally well with Western as well as Asian dishes. In short, I am doing a second batch this year and strongly encourage all my fellow chilli fans to give this preserve a try.

Here are some of my other successful experiments with chillies you might appreciate:

Vinegar-Pickled Chillies
Vinegar-Pickled Chillies
Hot Peach Sauce
Hot Peach Sauce
Hot Pepper Jelly
Hot Pepper Jelly
Green Tomato and Chilli Jelly
Green Tomato and Chilli Jelly
Pineapple and Chilli Jelly
Pineapple and Chilli Jelly
Hunan Salt-Pickled Chillies/Erös Pista
Hunan Salt-Pickled Chillies/Erös Pista
Mango and Chilli Sauce
Mango and Chilli Sauce
Yuzu Koshou 柚子こしょう
Yuzu Koshou 柚子こしょう
Raimu Koshou (Chilli and Lime Zest Paste)
Raimu Koshou (Chilli and Lime Zest Paste)

TIPS: You can use here any chilli variety you like. I have used red, rather medium hot chillies from Spain (the shop assistants had no clue about the variety). Remove the seeds if you don’t want to increase the hotness level.

Depending on your jar shape you can leave the chillies whole or cut them into pieces. Whole chillies will probably be even crunchier.

Remember to wear gloves while washing and handling chillies.

Salt brine pickling is ridiculously easy but since the process involves a “good” bacteria activity, the hygiene is crucial to avoid “bad” bacteria. Make sure the jars are absolutely clean, wash well the vegetables (also the garlic!) and remember that during the fermenting process all the chillies have to be thoroughly covered by the brine. Of course they will have the tendency to float, so use a cup or a saucer (also clean) or anything heavy and clean to maintain them under the brine.

I have no idea why but the best salt for pickling is supposed to be grey rock salt. I always use this type of salt for all my pickles. I’m sure any other type of salt will be ok, but if you have a choice, try grey rock salt.

If white ‘skin’ appears on the surface of the brine, throw them away. It means something goes wrong with fermentation (air access, products not clean enough, fermentation temperature too high, etc.).

Preparation: 30 minutes + four days up to one week + 15-20 minutes

1/2 kg chilli peppers

1 liter water

30 g salt

5-10 whole garlic cloves, peeled

Wash the garlic cloves and the chillies.

If you intend to pickle whole chillies, leave them as they are.

If you want smaller, ready-to-eat pieces, remove the stems and cut up the chillies into bite-sized pieces, removing as many seeds as possible (unless you want to increase the heat level).

Put the chillies and the garlic cloves into one or several clean jars.

Bring the water and salt brine to a boil.

When the brine is still warm, but no longer hot, pour over the chilli peppers, leaving about 2,5 – 3 cm (about 1 inch) empty at the top of the jar.

The chillies will have a tendency to float, so place a smaller teacup or cup into each jar (the size should be big enough to keep the chillies covered in the brine, but of course it shouldn’t drown). Make sure the brine doesn’t overflow once the teacup/cup or another object is placed to keep the chillies covered in brine.

Close the jars (not too hard, so that you can remove the lid easily).

Place the jars at room temperature, covered loosely with a lid (but don’t close them completely!).

During the fermenting process check every day if the fermenting brine doesn’t overflow.

If it does, remove some of the liquid.

After a week (or less; check after four days and if the water got “muddy” and the smell is pleasantly changed, you can stop the fermentation process), remove the teacups or cups.

If the level of the brine is very low, boil some more water with salt (the same ratio) and fill up the empty space in the jars  with cold brine leaving about 2 cm empty space at the top.

Put the clean lids on the jars and close them tightly.

If you want to keep the jars for a few weeks in the fridge (or maybe more, but I haven’t checked it), skip the following steps. If you want to keep them in the pantry for several months at least, process them as follows.

Place the cool jars into a big pan, bottom lined with an old kitchen towel folded in two (this will prevent the jars from breaking), cover up with hot – but not boiling- water to the level just below the lid. Bring to boil and keep on a very low heat, in simmering water, for around 20 minutes if the jars have a 500 ml capacity (about 2 cups). If you use smaller jars (half this size), process for 15 minutes.

Stick on self-adhesive labels, write the name of the pickle and don’t forget to mark the date.

Wait at least a couple of weeks before opening the jars. As do most pickles, this one improves with time.



24 Replies to “Salt Brine Pickled Chilli (Fermented Chilli)”

  1. I’m growing some cherry bomb chile peppers this year, and this will be a great recipe to try them with! Thank you Sissi! Can’t wait to bite into these.

    1. I hope you will like your chiles in a pickled version. I wish I grew my own chiles too.

  2. They all look pretty! I bet taste great too. How hot is it? I don’t know that I can take the heat but thanks for the information. Yap, I have to get a pair of gloves.

    1. Thank you, Nipponnin. It’s always difficult to answer if something is slightly hot, hot or very hot… because we all have very different heat resistance. I eat hot food practically every day, so I guess I support most chillies very well. If you don’t eat very hot food, choose slightly hot chillies to pickle. They become slightly milder during the fermenting process too.

  3. Sissi you know that I have a small problem with chillies, but this doesn’t hold me from admiring your pickling skills! Beautiful!

    1. Thank you so much, Katerina. I’m sure sweet peppers would be also good pickled this way.

  4. Hi Sissi, not withstanding the gorgeous colour of these chillies I’m more than intrigued by your persuasive words. Sadly my hubby is neither a pickle or a hot pickle fan, I would probably be the only one eating these. And while I have many friends who would love a gift of this, I’m still not confident of my pickling skills to give it as a gift. Now an excuse to visit Geneva in the hopes of a gift would be well worth the effort!
    Having said that, I may just give one jar a try.

    1. Thank you so much, Eva. Salt brine-pickling doesn’t require any skills really. Patience maybe… If you ever come once more to Switzerland, I will be more than happy to offer you as many of pickled chillie jars as you can carry.

  5. Well thank goodness for your preserving addiction because I learn so much from you! I’m still pickling veggies in leftover pickle/olive brine and did I tell you I made my first batch of pickled baby onions this spring!! So delicious (can’t believe I didn’t blog about it 😉 ) anyway, you are a huge inspiration for these experiments Sissi. Thank you for all the information here ~ I look forward to graduating to chilli! 🙂 This sounds delicious indeed.

    1. Thank you so much, Kelly. You did mention something about baby onions once… I am so jealous! I have never seen baby onions sold here (only in jars; producers must buy everything). This pickling method is very easy and now that I think, fermented chillies gain some health benefits too (brined cucumbers do, so I guess chillies too). Let me know if you pickle chillies one day.

  6. That is a beautiful bowl of red chilies. I guess even if you are not a chili eater, the vibrancy of the color will make you go for it. Well, of course I love chili peppers. They look amazing, Sissi. 🙂

  7. Sissi, just looking at the picture and imagine the sour and salty taste of this chilli peppers, my mouth is watering…looks great! And as you mention, perfect with any meal.
    Hope you are having a lovely week 😀

    1. Hi, Joyti. Thank you so much for the compliments. Preserving doesn’t really require much skills though. Just many jars and lids 😉

    1. Hi, Dedy. Thank you for the information. I had no idea it was popular in Indonesia (but I guess food is salt-fermented everywhere in the world…).

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