Beef chili with home-pickled jalapenos

We pickled our own peppers! Our summer CSA comes to an end today, and it blessed us with many, many more peppers than B and I have ever eaten in a 25-week stretch. We got poblanos, jalapenos, red chili peppers and habaneros. It’s been fun and admittedly challenging to find a use for all the peppers, since a little goes a long way with such potency.

About a month ago, we picked up a bag of jalapenos and decided it was time to try our hand at pickling them so that we’d be able to use them this fall and beyond. I haven’t written about them until now because I wanted to make sure they tasted good before doing so!

I made a beef chili this week and decided it was time to open one of the two jars we canned last month, and the jalapenos are lovely!

It’s one of the easiest things to do, too:

Just put on some latex gloves before you start slicing your peppers (or risk some serious skin burns!), and then make sure you boil your mason jars to sanitize them before getting started. Then just pack the peppers in the jar as tightly as you can, and top with the brine. The basic brine is made by heating 1 cup of white vinegar, 1 cup of water and 1 tbsp. salt, but you can get fancy by adding flavorings and using different vinegars. You can also put other vegetables in with the peppers, including carrots and cauliflower (such as in Italian giardiniera). You pour the brine to the top, cover the jar tightly and then submerge the jar in boiling water for 10 minutes to seal it. Let it sit for at least two weeks and up to a year before digging in!

Now for the beef chili that these jalapenos topped. There’s a secret ingredient that added so much depth to this chili. It’s chocolate! Unsweetened cocoa powder to be precise. So it’s not sweet like a chocolate bar, but more like the earthy depth of chocolate that is used in Mexican mole. The dish came out delicious and I highly recommend it for cool fall nights.

Recipe after the jump.

This beef chili is a one-pot meal. Choose a heavy-bottomed pan, such as a Dutch oven. Bring it to medium-high heat before getting started.

Start by sauteeing, in 2 tbsp. grapeseed or vegetable oil, 1 large, coarsely chopped onion and 1 lb. ground beef. Break up the beef with a wooden spoon as it cooks so that you have small chunks. Once the meat starts to brown and the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes, add 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 cup of diced poblano peppers and 1 cup of diced sweet potatoes. (I had regular potatoes on hand and used those, but I think sweet potatoes are the way to go to enhance the flavor of the chili.)

Cook for 5 more minutes to let the potatoes crisp and caramelize slightly, then add your spice mix: 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper or 1 tsp. Mexican chili powder, 1 tsp. cumin powder, 1 tbsp. paprika, 1/2 tbsp. dry oregano, 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes, 1 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder and 1 tsp. agave syrup. Stir and cook until you can smell the spices heating up, and then add 3 tbsp. white vinegar, 1 cup tomato sauce and 1 cup low-sodium broth. (I used vegetable broth, but beef or chicken would be fine, too.)

Cover and let the chili simmer for at least 45 minutes on low heat. The spices and ingredients should combine into a flavorful chili gravy. Check the salt and add some if you need it, but broth tends to be plenty salty on its own. Finally, add 1 cup drained kidney beans and 1 cup fresh or frozen corn. Stir and let the chili sit over the hot stove until you’re ready to serve.

Top your chili however you like. I used finely diced onion, cilantro, sliced avocado and those home-pickled jalapenos. Cheddar cheese and sour cream are also an option. Yum!

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