I was pretty much an angelic child. I rarely ever got in trouble and had an immaculate record in school. When I got home from school I would do my chores (clean the bathroom, clean up the dog messes in the yard, check if any dishes need cleaning) and then immediately do my homework. All of this, mind you, without being asked. My parents, a therapist and a third grade teacher, pretty much had me trained.
Aside from that my manners were impeccable due to years cotillion and manners classes (which, yes, is an actual thing people subject their children to), and my mom stabbing me repeatedly in the arm with a fork at the dinner table whenever she saw my elbow even caress the tabletop. Secretly, I think she delighted when she pitchforked me in the funny bone.
I was, however, a rather picky eater. A very picky eater. Partially because when it came to food I was willful. No cauliflower, no creamed corn, no asparagus, no peaches, no strawberries, no spinach, no carrots, no peas, nothing unrecognizable, and no steamed vegetables at all. And they were always steamed, so I never got why my mom didn't just cut them up raw and save herself the trouble.
I also to this day refuse my mother's turkey soup. Something that still causes us both to hold a bit of resentment towards each other today. She believes her turkey soup is sweet mana from the gods. A delectable, hearty nostrum that heals all woes and reminder her of a loving childhood deep in the backwood, pre-yuppie development days of Ojai, California.
As a child I saw it as an annual undeserved punishment. It was a dark cloud that shadowed every Thanksgiving as I knew that no matter how amazing the turkey was that the next day I would face a bowl of murky turkey soup. I was pretty sure that my mother obviously had no taste whatsoever, and that for whatever reason she was fed up with her middle son and wished to put me out of my misery with this brew.
Every year it was a stand off. She would feed it to me and I would refuse. I'll commend the woman on her persistence. For a few years she resorted to bribery by offering my brother and me a quarter for every bone we found in the soup. Now, that's a lot of money for a six year old and tempting as it was I simply didn't have enough use for cash to make it worth the trial.
Eventually, we moved on through pleading, pleasantries, and eventually threats. Years later she simply said that I would sit there and not eat anything else until I ate my soup. I stubbornly sat there like a Buddhist statue willing my soup to burst into flames for the next eight hours. By midnight I was told to go to bed while mom poured the soup down the drain.
Victory. I was ravenous, but it was a victory.
I still won't eat her turkey soup. She simmers it for so long I could start and finish a Dostoyevsky novel before it was done. The result is that all ingredients are rendered into a uniform, overcooked sludge. She thinks this makes is develop a refined flavor and texture. It reminds me of sink backup. Que sera sera.
My other unbreakable food policy as a child was no spicy food. At all. My parents were perfectly fine with this one, probably because spicy foods actually do inflict pain and we recognize that people simply have varying degrees of heat tolerance.
My mom was not one of those people. She wipes her ass with copies of the Scoville scale and happily eats hot peppers raw. Lava rushes through her veins and I will watch her drown her food red in hot sauce or pile street tacos high with habanero salsas. She might let out an occasional puff of air to release the toxic fumes and take in oxygen, her capsaicinoid breath literally causing the eyes of anyone near her to tear up. She takes it all in stride without breaking a sweat.
When I was five I once cried from mild Taco Bell hot sauce. I imagine that had she not actually gone through labor she would wonder if I were even her child.
As I got older my tastes broadened extensively and my ability to eat spicy foods caught up with my mother. I can now eat pickled jalapenos right from the jar as I remember her doing every Thursday night when we would watch Murder, She Wrote. Angela Lansbury would wittingly solve every crime in her charmingly facetious way and the room would begin to reek of vinegar, chile peppers, and diet coke (mom's drug of choice). Every week she offered and every week I refused.
Now? Now I make them in bulk for myself.
How things change...
This recipe for pickled jalapenos is about as easy as it gets and is a good starter recipe for a beginning home preserver. I like to find jalapenos that are striated or even turned red from aging on the plant too long, as those promise a smoldering heat that will intensify even more with the garlic infused vinegar. These are ready to eat after 24 hours. We mix these jalapenos into salads, serve them on tacos or grilled flank steak, or present them along triple cream cheeses on a cheese plate.
P.S. Kitchen almost done. Minor details finally being addressed. At least we can cook in it, but the firdge is living in the middle of the kitchen and a cupboard panel is missing, etc.
Adapted from the ever adorable and sexy, Sean Timberlake
Yield: 3 pints
Remember: Sterilize everything or you get nasty pickles.
1 lb jalapeno peppers
2 cups white vinegar (5% acidity)
2 cups filtered water
4 tablespoons kosher salt
4 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1 tablespoon sugar
pickling spice to taste (optional)
Sterilized processed jars
1. Place water, vinegar, salt, garlic, peppercorns and sugar in a large nonreactive pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer.
2. Wearing some latex gloves, slice the jalapeños into 1/4 inch rings. Add the jalapeños to the brine and bring back to a boil.
3. Place a small pinch of pickling spice (if using) into sterilized jars. Ladle jalapeños and brine into jars, lid and screw, and process in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes. Let cool for 12 hours on a rack. Store in a cool, dark place for up to twelves months. If the jars do not seal, store in the fridge. Open jars should be eaten within a month of opening. Refrigerate after opening.