Picked Peppers blog
More than a year ago, I agreed to help Michael Symon with his cookbook.  He'd been asking for a while and I'd always wanted to but various other projects, his and mine, got in the way. Last fall time opened up for me and with Michael's growing presence on television, his opening new restaurants in Cleveland and beyond, the time was ripe.

I wanted to do this book for three simple reasons: Michael really, really, really wanted to do a book, and I wanted him have this wish. Second, I loved hanging out with him and his wife Liz, and simply being at his restaurants (Powder, more marrow please!), and a book would mean plenty of enforced hanging out time, cooking and talking about food and cooking.  Third, I loved his food.  It was dynamic and interesting and unusually simple.  Michael has a genius not only for big flavors, but for simplicity.  Or as one of his cooks put it, "Michael does great do-at-home food."

I've often talked about my dislike of cookbooks, particularly chef cookbooks.  Ironic that I seem to have written several of them myself, but there it is.  What I always ask myself before entering a project is why do we need another cookbook?  My answer here was because I want to know and explore this very accessible form of cooking.  Michael gives a range of restaurant preparations from pig's ears to beef cheek pierogies (a staple at his restaurant Lola), but also plenty of family style meals, such as grilled lamb chops and roasted chicken (which is made special and fantastic with a killer salsa verde).MS @ Loita blog

The book, Michael Symon's Live To Cook, won't be out till next fall, but Amazon has put the book up for presale now, and last week, after Donna stole my fresh batch of Michael's pickled chilli peppers when the Cleveland sun made a rare appearance, I had to do a preview post.

I'll write more about the book when it comes out but for now, please make these addictive pickled chilli peppers.  First, they're beautiful and inspiring to look at.  And second they enliven everything from stews to braised short ribs to sauteed pork loin or to sharpen meats sliced for sandwiches.  Tossed with some parsley leaves, they make an incredible garnish for grilled steak.  They're great to have on hand and keep for ages in the fridge.  But they're really a lesson in how a little bit of intense contrasting color and flavor utterly transforms a dish, makes it vault from pretty good to out-of-this-world, can't-stop-thinking-about-it must-have-it-now food.

Michael Symon's Pickled Chillis

Choose a colorful variety of chillis, fresno, jalapeno, banana, tomato, serrano—the thick fleshed peppers work best.  The method is very simple, simply fill a jar with peppers, bring the pickling liquid to a simmer and pour it hot over the peppers.  You can use them once they're cooled but they're best after they've been sitting in the pickle for a few weeks.  They'll keep for a long time–how long, I don't know because I always use them up for I can find out.

Pickling Liquid

sherry vinegar



2 bay leaves

2 tablespoons coriander

1 teaspoon cumin

4 sprigs of marjoram

3 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons black peppercorns

1 to 2  pounds chillis (or enough to fill whatever vessel you're using)

Place chillis in a jar and cover them with water. Pour off the water into a measuring cup. Note the volume, pour off half the water and replace it with vinegar. Add 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 tablespoons salt for every three cups of liquid.

Combine your liquid and remaining spices in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, then let cool slightly. Pour the pickling liquid over the peppers, screw the lid on and refrigerate. To use, slice into rings, chop or mince depending how you want to use them.

UPDATE 4/3: Kate in NW e-mailed the following, which I'm happily sharing here.  Great idea Kate!

I just HAD to write you about this… 😉
I made those pickled peppers you wrote about and you were right – they didn't last long! Being of Scottish ancestry, I just couldn't bring myself to throw away the brine, so I boiled up a dozen eggs, peeled them and plunked them in there for a week (refrigerated) while we were on vacation. THEY ARE SO GOOD!!!! Perfect for a picnic lunch – if summer ever comes. And now I won't feel guilty about throwing away the brine, having re-used it to such great effect! Thanks again for another great recipe/technique.


51 Wonderful responses to “Michael Symon’s Pickled Chillis”

  • mary

    more attractive than a lava lamp and far more versatile in purpose.

  • Cameron S.

    What a great picture. Will have to make this soon, I always have many types of peppers on hand commonly stocked at my home.

  • Phil

    Perhaps Donna’s finest picture yet. Well done. And thanks for Michael’s recipe. I’ll definitely make these once my peppers start growing this Spring/Summer.

  • joelfinkle

    It ought to be obvious, but to avoid people ending up with muddy pickling liquid, perhaps the ingredients list should say

    2 Tablespoons coriander seed (whole)
    1 Teaspoon cumin seed (whole)

  • Kim

    This photo and last year’s photo of tomato aspic are seared in my brain. When is Donna going to publish her coffee table book of food porn? I will be first in line to purchase it.

  • three rivers food

    I like the ode to poreserved foods just before planting season begins. The foreshadowing is fantastic.

  • Jenna

    I’ve recently discovered the joy of pickling vegetables, and will certainly give this a try.

    Do I need to be concerned with any of these peppers coming from the store with a wax coating on them? I’m not sure why that idea comes to mind, but just curious.

  • Ross

    Like… Mama Lil’s, but with a much higher ratio of awesome-by-volume. Those look mighty tasty. Only one question:

    My mother and grandmother, who taught me how to can, raised me to believe that pickled things absolutely must be boiled after canning to assure their safety — the concern, of course, being botulism. My recent research has indicated that pickles, due to their high acidity, are safe. Do you have an authoritative word on this?

    (It should be noted that this will not for a second keep me from going and making, and subsequently eating, these peppers. Hooray!)

  • mary

    maybe it’s because they’re being refrigerated as opposed to being put up in a cellar?

  • ruhlman

    yes, if they were to be stored at room temperature, you would want everything sterile and follow proper canning procedure. and yes, the high acidity and refrigeration would make it difficult for botulism bacteria to grow.

    and i don’t know about the wax coating. try not to buy those, though i doubt it’s harmful

  • luanda

    Wonderful photo and excellent prose as usual. Just wondering why you chose to use the unusual spelling of “chillis”. Not a single source listed that as a preferred spelling. It was usually the last option, if listed at all. Love your books and blog. Cannot wait till Symon’s book comes out in Nov., though it feels like it already.

  • Vivian

    Now that looks absolutely delicious! I have about about 9 different varieties of peppers that I just started from seed last week and I am chomping at the bit for the weather to warm up enough to start planting them. We pickled and canned a bunch of peppers last year and they made great gifts for many of our friends and neighbors.

  • Tags

    Like Jacques Pepin and Richard Olney before you, your books are more technique cookbooks than recipe cookbooks.

    Now if only you could give us a technique to reach into our screens and grab that jar of chilis. It’s not like I haven’t already tried.

  • Katie

    A note about the canning: the best way to avoid botulism issues is pressure canning. In this case, hot water canning would be sufficient because of the acidity. Similarly, jellies tend to be so high in sugar that pressure canning is not required. For other (non-pickled or jellied) items, pressure canning is best. Even tomatoes aren’t acidic enough. Also, typically canning salt is recommended to avoid cloudiness, as Kosher salt still has additives that can form a sediment. Here in NC, I’ve found canning salt in some “lower end” grocery stores (Food Lion), and in almost all grocery stores during canning season.

  • Luke

    For the salt, were you measuring using kosher salt or table salt? I usually use kosher salt for pickling and table salt for recipes. Just want to make sure it is not too salty.

  • Brad West

    Hi Michael,

    I am so totally stoked with this post, When I was growing up we canned all the time, fruits veggies, meat you name it i so bad want to get set up to do that again.

    Now you have a pic of Jerky I have to check out.

    You are giving me such a blast from the past.
    What a rush.

    Brad West ~ onomoney

  • Kate in the NW

    Any reason you can’t chop/slice the veggies before pickling (other than pure aesthetics?)

  • Sara

    Great photo!

    Every summer my mother, my sisters, and I make dill refrigerator pickles. We don’t sterilize the jars since we store the pickles in the fridge. They could last for a month or 2 but they usually don’t make more than a few weeks.

    I am looking forward to the new book.

  • Karin (Grew up in Cleveland and miss it in VA)

    Congrats to the both of you. Can’t wait to get my copy.

    I’m looking forward to giving this recipe at try. An interesting and flavorful variation. Almost too bad that now everyone will know how easy it really is to make something this good.

    Let me know if you’re doing a book signing in my region.

    It’s really wonderful what a little Cleveland sunshine can do!

  • ruhlman

    no reason you can’t slice before hand (could fit more peppers in the jar that way.

    always use kosher salt!

  • mary lynn

    There are a variety of acceptable spellings of chile. Chile is the spelling in Spanish. Chili is the “Americanized” spelling. The double “l” is also an acceptable spelling variation. mary lynn

  • Laura

    This reminds me…I’ve had something similar (pickled chile peppers chinese style from Beyond the Great Wall) sitting in my fridge for ages. It is high time to put them to use!

  • JoP in Omaha

    I’m really looking forward to Symon’s book. Thanks for the preview….those chillis look amazing.

  • Allison

    I wonder if this would be good with those sweet mini-peppers.

  • luis

    On the one hand I am invested in Michael Simon. I thought he won “Iron Chef” by gutting it out and out thinking and outworking every other contestant.
    Love Simon. Big Flavor born to cook…guy.
    On the other hand… I have been burnt by too many cookbooks that end up in my round file.
    Also I love bacon but I am not necessarily looking for a bacon on everything cookbook.
    So definitelly there is room in my bookshelf for this book, and the catch is I need a good reason to purchase it. Michael and Bobby Flay are both cut from the same cloth. yet Bobby’s Mesa grill book is interesting but day to day… when I need to whip something up for the day in less than…. less…time.
    The heavy hitter books… just collect dust.
    There is a convergence happening between my homecook cuisine and the rest of it…..
    The issue becomes… “when is enough, enough!”
    That is messe up Dude!

  • Cannonball

    For Holiday 2009 Symon’s, Momofuku & the Keller ad hoc/casual project are pitch perfect answer to 2008’s Under Pressure, Alinea & The Fat Duck books. Any others expected?

  • Bob Perry

    I pickle cayenne peppers very simply in vinegar then use the peppers and vinegar in a viniagrette to marinate seafood, pork or chicken and reserve some as a sauce.

    Place in a blender:
    1 cup peppers & their vinegar
    1 T Kosher Salt
    1 t fresh ground black pepper
    2 T dijon mustard
    handful of fresh herbs, whatever you have
    Process and with blender running add:
    2 cups good quality olive oil

  • janie in NorCal

    My grandmother always picked peppers. She had been raised on a farm in upstate New York that was very primative. My grandfather used to love to eat the peppers with beer while watching hockey or wrestling after work. She keep alot of the jars out on the porch in the winter because it was so damn cold. They were not as beautiful as the ones in the picture but I don’t think they were enjoyed any less. Sure brings back those memories! BTW the other thing she kept out on the porch as apple jack – not sure I want to go into that story! Would love to know how to make that!

  • Charlotte

    Ooh — starting peppers from seed next weekend and I’ll definitely be cutting this recipe out for next fall. I have two or three pints in the pantry still … hmm. Dinner.

  • Bob Tompkins

    “I wanted to do this book for three simple reasons: Michael really, really, really wanted to do a book, and I wanted him have this wish.”

    Classic Ruhlman! The hand of God.

  • craig

    I had these peppers as a garnish at Roast and almost had to wrestle my plate back from the busboy. There were still shards of the little suckers on the plate, and I was not giving them up to the bin. They went great with the roast beast of the evening (piglet) and the beef cheek pieroges. I think I would buy the book just for the pieroges, and Donna’s porn.

  • Natalie Sztern

    A New Tongue Twister:
    Michael michael picked a peck of pickled peppers.
    Did Michael michael pick a peck of pickled peppers?
    If Michael michael Picked a peck of pickled peppers,
    Where’s the peck of pickled peppers Michael michael Piper picked?

    AWWWWW i mean chillis…

  • luis

    Hate to rehash old musings by Michael… but what if???…. I substitute Endive for Cabbage in Michaels original ” Peanut butter and cabbagge sandwich?”. Can’t wait… to experiment with flavor and fibre and peanut butter. Got to challenge Michaels recipe for a sensible lunch thing…and OHHHHHHH I do like the cabbage and peanut butter sammy….thank you Michael.

  • Egipt

    I will try. At the moment not. Children are running around. It isn’t possible to focus. I am sitting with the laptop on the cooker. Crazy day.

  • Chuck

    Michael is one of my favorite TV chefs. I really like his style and personality. I just love this jar of pickled peppers. Beautiful!

  • luis

    Bloggin of books…Michael I ran into Steven Raichlen tonite. He is Jetting to Germany to promote a book release there… What a neat friendly guy. He told me he lives here in Florida. I can’t wait to read Simon’s new book. These two guys have a lot in common I think.

  • trinket.

    WOW. What a fantastic picture. Donna is amazing. I wish there you had a gallery of all her photos.

  • Kasie

    What a beautiful photograph. Now I’m itching to head to the farmers market, pick a few beautiful peppers, and try this out myself! Sounds perfect for spring.

  • Yvonne, My Halal Kitchen

    It’s great to see a fellow Clevelander becoming successful. Next time I go home, I plan to lunch at Lola’s. Thanks for the post and the work you did with Chef Symon, Michael.