Chiles in Escabeche

Escabeche has a fascinating history. The word originally comes from the Persian al-sikbaj, literally meaning “vinegar food”. After mingling with the Spanish, it eventually became part of the Spanish and then Latin American cultures. Today’s escabeche is most commonly known as a fish or other meat dish marinated in something sour like vinegar or another acid.

Around these parts (southern California), escabeche is a simpler way to say “pickled vegetables in escabeche style”. It is typically found as a condiment at the salsa bars of most Mexican restaurants. Usually it is “quick pickled,” meaning vinegar and no fermentation. Well, we “naturally” had to do something about that!

Chiles in Escabeche
Prep time
Fermentation time
Yield: 2 quarts
  • 1 lb. (450g) fresh jalapeno chiles
  • 1 to 1½ lbs. (500g) cauliflower (about 1 medium head)
  • ¾ lb. carrots (about 4 medium-large carrots)
  • ¼ lb. (60g) white or yellow onion (about ½ of medium sized onion)
  • 5-6 cloves garlic
  • 3 tablespoons/ 45ml sea salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 quart filtered water
  • 4 sprigs fresh oregano (optional)
  1. Wear rubber or latex gloves when handling chiles!
  2. Cut the tops off and seeds and membranes out from the chiles. Cut the flesh into large slices (quarters) and add directly to a half-gallon (or larger) glass mason jar, crock or other fermenting vessel.
  3. Slice the onions into rings (about ¼ to ½" thick), then into halves (so they are semi-circular pieces). Add to jar.
  4. Slice the carrots on the bias, about ¼" thick. (Peeling is optional, but clean off any dirt) and add to jar.
  5. Slice (or break with your hands) the cauliflower into 1" pieces and add to jar.
  6. Peel the garlic and smash a few of the cloves. Keep them whole, add to jar.
  7. (If using) Pluck oregano leaves from stems and add to bowl/jar. Mix veggies together in jar.
  8. Make a 5% brine (by weight). If you don't have a kitchen scale, that's about 3 tablespoons (45ml) fine sea salt per 1 quart/liter of filtered water. Mix and dissolve salt in a large container (a pitcher works great).
  9. Pour brine into jar. Veggies should be submerged in the brine. Fill until only 1" of head space remains from the top of the jar.
  10. Cover container with a tea towel or clean dishcloth to keep dust and flies out, and secure with twist ties or a rubber band.
  11. Or, if using a fermentation airlock, apply it and secure lid.
  12. Set in a cool, dark place. Taste after 5 days. Let ferment as long as you like (up to 14 days). Move to refrigerator when you like the taste and texture.
  13. It will last for several months in the refrigerator.

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