Last weekend, as I not-quite-soberly meandered the streets of Gowanus on the Brooklyn Based Total Gowanus Immersion, I spied a sign: “Gowanus Yacht Club Chili Cook-Off, October 13th.” This sure sounded like my kind of event. Alas, as I searched the web for more details, they were not exactly forthcoming, and the week has passed, the day is here, and I will have to be attending the competition empty-handed.
Which is not to say I don’t have some pretty strong-held opinions about what makes for the best chili. First off, a variety of peppers. Whether powdered and ground or canned in adobo sauce, this is a surefire way to add some depth and complexity. Secondly, some beer, for a bit of a bread-y flavor. Finally, toppings. I won’t even get into the debate on beans or no beans, and what mixture of meats is best (though I have long had a feeling that if someone made me a chili with brisket I would absolutely melt). But an array of toppings in non-negotiable. Tortilla chips, sour cream, and cilantro are a few good basic toppings to get you started, but I also demand something with a bit of spice and crunch. In a pinch, I used to chop up some red onion, but these days I have been much more fortunate, as this past summer, I pickled some jalapeno peppers. These add a fantastic, mostly hot, but slightly sour crunch to chili, and I bet they would even be great chopped up and cooked in the chili. Now who is going to teach me how to make brisket so I can make my dream chili for next year’s Gowanus Yacht Club Chili Cook-Off?
Pickled Jalapeno Peppers
Adapted from Food in Jars
Makes about 3 pints
1 1/4 pound jalapeno peppers, tops removed and sliced in half lengthwise
6 cloves of garlic
2 1/2 cups white vinegar
2 1/2 cups filtered water
2 1/2 tablespoons coarse salt (such as kosher salt)
Prepare three pint jars. Place 2 cloves of garlic in each jar, and pack each tightly with jalapenos.
Combine the vinegar, water, and salt in a large saucepan over high heat. Stir occasionally, until the brine reaches a boil. When boiling, pour into jars, leaving about half an inch of headspace in each jar. Remove air bubbles, and screw on lids to fingertip tight.
Process in a boiling water bath for ten minutes. Wait five minutes, and remove. Let stand for 24 hours, check seals, and tighten lids.
If you are not preserving your pickled jalapenos, you can pour the brine over the jalapenos, and store in an air-tight container. These will last in the fridge for about two weeks.