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There is a little pho place right around the corner that I just love. They have condiments on the tables including what appear to be just fresh sliced jalapenos in vinegar. They don't seem to be cooked nor do they seem to have been given any time to "pickle". The proprietor's English goes south every time I try to ask about their recipes, so I've been on my own for this one. I've tried distilled vinegar and rice vinegar. I've tried adding sugar, salt and a combination of both. I've tried diluting the vinegar with water. I've tried adding the jalapenos to hot vinegar. So far, they have never been "right". Even though my peppers are perfectly fresh, the ones at the restaurant seem somehow crisper and less aggressively hot, even though the seeds and ribs are intact. I suspect that there is a "secret ingredient" that I'm missing, but I can't for the life of me figure out what it could be. Can anyone help?

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Are you sure they're really jalapeño peppers and not, say, Fresno or wax peppers? I can't help thinking that maybe their peppers just aren't as hot, and they're crisper because they haven't been pickled as long. –  Aaronut Nov 2 '13 at 16:23
    
Pretty sure. The slices are thick enough that you can visualize the whole. Mezzetta makes delicious pickled jalapenos that they call "tamed", but in that case it's just a hybrid. I've considered that possibility, but I can't imagine where they'd get such a specialized ingredient in Anchorage. –  Jolenealaska Nov 2 '13 at 17:19
    
Have you tried salting then brining? Sometimes an overnight salt rub before brining makes veggies stay a lot more crisp in the brine (and might change the flavor a bit too). –  sourd'oh Nov 2 '13 at 20:10
    
@Jolenealaska : maybe they're growing their own? In some areas, that's the only way you can get specialty ingredients. If they've got a double greenhouse, they might be able to have a long growing season even in Alaska. (I assume ... I've only been there in the summer) –  Joe Nov 2 '13 at 20:15
    
@sourd'oh That's an interesting thought, I'll give it a shot. –  Jolenealaska Nov 2 '13 at 20:38
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2 Answers 2

If they are less hot than jalepeno peppers and more crispy then they probably aren't jalapeno peppers, or at least not standard ones. There are hundreds of pepper varieties and many look very similar but have different heat properties, and different textures. Or they could be jalepenos but grown in cooler conditions or different soil from your typical southwestern-sourced pepper.

They probably aren't pickled, but marinaded instead. You won't get much softening of the flesh that way.

As for where they could get such a specialized ingredient a google search turns up 3 asian supermarkets in Anchorage, I'd hit them and see what peppers you can find. Pick up some sweet soy sauce or kecap manis while you're at it, it's a very useful ingredient.

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That's a good point about the growing temperature -- some folks have found that stressing the plants get them hotter (not watering them, introducing insects, etc.) Local jalapeños might be milder than imported. –  Joe Nov 2 '13 at 20:19
    
They know me at the local Asian groceries. I'm not finding an answer there, but locally grown might be a clue. –  Jolenealaska Nov 2 '13 at 21:10
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Through experimentation, I got the answer. The answer is rice vinegar, a little sugar, a little salt (not so much salt and sugar as to make the vinegar seem like "seasoned rice vinegar" as for sushi, just a pinch of each) and time. After two days in the fridge the sliced fresh jalapenos mellow a bit, but they seem even a little crunchier than when they were first sliced. To me they are superior in every way to any jarred jalapenos I've ever had. After four days, they seem more like "pickled" jalapenos and start to lose some of the crunch that makes them so nice. I suspect that they might use a different vinegar, but the slightly seasoned rice vinegar works just fine.

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