For some reason, we find ‘Bulgarian Carrot’ peppers (Capsicum annuum) to be hotter, or at least harder to eat, than habanero peppers (C. chinense). Maybe it’s because we grow our own peppers, and our conditions lend themselves to crazy hot ‘Bulgarian Carrot’ peppers and reasonable habaneros. Maybe it’s because the heat comes on so bracingly strong before you even know you’ve taken a bite. In this relish, the eggplant tempers the pepper and gives you a chance to catch your breath between bites.
• 1 eggplant (about 3/4 pound)
• 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
• 14 to 16 (or 8 ounces) ‘Bulgarian Carrot’ peppers
• 1 cup packed basil leaves
• 5 cloves garlic
1. Dice the eggplant into 1/4-inch cubes and place in a bowl. Toss the eggplant with 1 tablespoon of the salt, making sure all the eggplant is coated. Cover and set aside for 2 hours.
2. Remove the seeds and dice the peppers. This relish is better with consistently sized pepper pieces, so hand dicing is better than a food processor. However, you can use a food processor to pulse the basil leaves, garlic, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt until consistent and moist. The mixture doesn’t need to be a fine paste. Combine the diced peppers with the basil mixture in a medium bowl, mix well, cover, and set aside until the eggplant is ready.
3. After 2 hours, drain the eggplant cubes by squeezing them in a clean dish towel or pressing them in a colander. Mix the eggplant into the pepper mixture.
4. Pack the mixture into a jar, pressing out any air pockets as you go. Press a zip-lock bag against the surface of the ferment, fill the bag with water, and zip it closed.
5. Place the jar in a corner of the kitchen to ferment. If you see air pockets, remove the bag, press the ferment back down with a clean utensil, rinse the bag, and replace.
6. Allow to ferment for 5 to 10 days. You’ll know the relish is ready when the flavors have mingled and it smells pleasantly acidic. The colors of this ferment blend and mute together.
7. Screw on the jar lid and store in the refrigerator, where this ferment will keep for 6 to 8 months.
Learn more about lacto-fermenting in How to Ferment Hot Peppers.
Bio: Kirsten K. Shockey and co-author Christopher Shockey live on a 40-acre homestead in Oregon, where they’ve created more than 40 versions of cultured vegetables and krauts and have focused their efforts on teaching the art of fermentation. Excerpted with permission from Fiery Ferments (Storey Publishing, 2017).