Pickled Red Onions with Habañero Chili

Pickled Red Onions with Habañero Chili | Culinary Compost Recipes
This is a classic recipe from Texas. The habañero adds a substantial kick but may be omitted if desired. Serve as a garnish on tacos, or pork carnitas. Will keep for two weeks in your fridge. If you like, you can also throw a couple of sliced radishes in for some extra color. Please note that you must refrigerate after pickling or it will spoil. This recipe will fill one Mason pint jar. You can double or triple the ingredients and place in a quart jar instead.




1 cup apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup water
1/2 tsp. table salt
1/2 tsp. white granulated sugar
3/4 red onion, sliced
1 tsp. whole black peppercorns
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 fresh habañero pepper, stemmed


In a non-reactive saucepan, heat the vinegar, water, salt and sugar until boiling. Reduce heat and simmer for two minutes. Loosely pack the rest of the ingredients in a pint mason jar. Pour the brine mixture over the onions until they are just covered. Seal with a canning lid and ring. Allow to cool on your counter for thirty minutes. Refrigerate and serve the next day.

Makes one pint.

Culinary Compost Boycotts Penzeys Spices

Hello fellow foodies. After reading recent commentary from Bill Penzey, the author of Culinary Compost is officially withdrawing all references to Penzeys Spices on this food blog. While I’ve always known that Bill overtly inserts his political opinion in monthly mailings to his customer base, (which, in its own right is wrong on so many levels,) I can no longer stand by and let this man spew his rhetoric of hate to conservatives, and to people who support and voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 Presidential election, by labeling them “racist.”

I am not a racist. I never have been. And I resent being called one.

This is extreme-left socialism, and this kind of bigotry has no place in America.  Make no mistake — my observation is not one of Conservatives vs. Liberals. It is simply a stance of the author not supporting an individual who wants to further divide this country through hate by means of his product.

Shown below are a few articles and a link to Penzey’s official Facebook page:








You be the judge.  Last time I checked, America was still a free country. And my readers, of course, are still allowed to shop where they want and exercise their right to free speech, which I will always respect. However, pitting people against each other in the guise of “Love” is a ruse by Bill Penzey, who’s only concern is making as much money as he can over a very contentious election.  Funny thing is, he’s pissed off a lot of his customers, and I, for one, will not be coming back.

Invariably, comments by Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke say it best:
“This typical hate-filled white elitist lefty doesn’t live around black people or have stores in black neighborhoods.”

Bill Penzey can be reached at bill@penzeys.com



In the interest of an open discussion, leave your thoughts below – none will be censured.
—Mike from Culinary Compost

Bill Penzey's Socialist Sea Salt

Penzey’s Spices announces new product.

Pickled Habañero Peppers, Escabeche

Pickled Habañero Peppers, Escabeche

Here’s a quick recipe for making the most out of late-harvest garden habañero peppers. Pickle in pint jars and then store them in your fridge for up to three months. Of course, as an alternative, you can always bag and freeze them.

Please note that these are not sterilized by hot-canning in boiling water. You MUST refrigerate them or they will spoil. Let them sit a few days in the fridge before using for maximum flavor. This recipe will also work well with fresh jalapeños or other hot chilis. Enjoy!



12-14 sliced habañero peppers with seeds, washed and stemmed.
2 large cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tbs. whole tri-color peppercorns
1 large bay leaf – crushed
2 tbs. table salt
2 tbs. white sugar
1 cup filtered water
1 cup apple cider vinegar

1 sterilized Mason pint jar with lid and screw-down ring



Wash the Mason jar, lid and screw-down ring in hot, soapy water. Set aside. Wash, stem and slice the habañero peppers. Set aside.

In a medium heavy stock pot, bring the apple cider vinegar and water to a boil and add the rest of the ingredients. Simmer for five minutes. Remove from heat.

Layer the peppers and brine in the pint Mason jar, ensuring that all of the spices are added. (The brine will amount to a tad more than one pint.)  Pack tightly and fill with brine to 1/4″ from rim.  Seal with the canning lid and screw-down ring.  Wipe down with a damp rag and let sit on your counter to cool for one hour before refrigerating.  AGAIN – this recipe must be refrigerated to avoid spoiling.

Makes 1 pint.

Garlic Dill Pickles

Classic garlic dill pickles in vintage canning jars that are over 70 years old.

Classic garlic dill pickles in vintage canning jars that are over 70 years old.

This is a classic recipe from my aunt. I haven’t canned in 15 years and decided to take it up again. It’s a fair amount of work but a lot of fun. If you, like I, don’t have room for a cucumber patch in your garden, support your local farmer’s market. The selection I purchased this year was quite good despite very cold and wet growing conditions in June.

My aunt’s recipe was labeled as “kosher pickles” but this is a misnomer. True Jewish kosher-style deli pickles are not brined in vinegar and are always fermented and then chilled for several weeks. They are never hot-canned.

After sealing, be sure to leave them untouched in a cool, dark storage area for at least two months before opening so the flavors have time to set.  They will keep for at least one to two years if the seal is undamaged. Once opened, store in your fridge for up to six months.

These make fantastic gifts and my hot pepper pints are a welcome treat in the middle of winter.  Enjoy!



1 quart 5% vinegar
3 quarts filtered water
1/2 cup canning salt
1 tsp. Alum (Pickle Crisp may be substituted; measure and use according to directions)

30-40 small pickling cucumbers, about 3-5″ in length, dark green, firm and bumpy
1-2 heads fresh dill per jar
2 whole large garlic cloves, peeled and crushed, per jar
1/4 cup sliced white onion, per jar
1/2 tsp. whole peppercorns, per jar
1/2 tsp. dry coriander or celery seed, per jar
1/2 tsp. dry mustard seed, per jar
1 large dry bay leaf, crumbled, per jar
1 fresh wild grape leaf, per jar (the tannins in the leaf act as a natural crisping agent)
1 trimmed garden habañero pepper, per jar (optional)


1 large canning kettle, with wire rack insert
Glass canning pint or quart jars with new lids and rings
Magnetic lid/ring lifter (used to remove from boiling water bath)
Canning tongs (used to remove hot pint or quart jars from canning kettle)
Small vegetable scrubber brush
Sharp paring knife



The brine measurements indicated above will made about 5 quarts of pickles, depending on volume packed in each jar.

Prepare your ingredients and brine solution prior to final assembly so you have everything ready and at hand.

Wash the glass jars, rings and new lids in hot soapy water. Rinse thoroughly.

In a medium sauce pan, bring a quart of water to a rolling boil and then reduce to a simmer. Add the jar rings and lids. Sterilize for two minutes. Turn off heat.

In a large, non-reactive 6-quart soup pot, add 1 quart of 5% distilled vinegar and 3 quarts of filtered water. Bring to a rolling boil and add the canning salt and alum. Stir well and simmer for five minutes, stirring occasionally, until the salt is dissolved. Remove from heat and set aside.

Wash and scrub the cucumbers in cold water. Trim 1/8″ off of each end. Slice, chunk, or leave whole based on your preference.

Add the grape leaf, onion, crushed garlic, and dill to each jar. Add the dry spices. Pack the cukes tightly in the jar until filled up to the neck of the opening, leaving about 1″ headroom. Stuff any voids with more onion. Top off with dill. Wipe the jar rim with a clean damp cloth.  Fill carefully with brine 1/2″ to the rim. Gently tap jar to ensure any air pockets are removed. Center jar lid and screw down ring until only finger-tight, taking care to ensure that nothing blocks the contact point of the jar rim and lid.

Process in hot water bath according to directions (10 minutes rolling boil for pints; 15 minutes for quarts.) Water bath should reach the very top of the jar neck. Remove immediately with jar tongs and set aside on a towel until cool; about 8-12 hours. After ten minutes or so, the lid should pop down, forming a vacuum seal. When fully cool, inspect lids and ensure there is no play in the center of the lid.  If the lid pops or moves when pushed it is NOT sealed. Refrigerate any unsealed jars for future use. They will keep for up to six months chilled.


Helpful Tips:

15 minute boil for quart jars; 10 minutes for pints, per directions.

Cut the tips off of each cucumber to avoid softening. There is an enzyme in the blossom end of the cucumber that must be removed by trimming. You only need to trim 1/8″.

Use small, bumpy cukes for best flavor. Avoid larger ones with yellowing – they are overripe.

Ensure air pockets are removed from jars before sealing with lids by tapping the jar lightly on the counter.

Lids must be sterilized in boiling water for at least two minutes. Do not touch the contact seal on lids after sterilization. Use a magnetic lifter wand to handle lids and jar rings when removing from hot water.

Coriander seed, bay leaves (crumbled), mustard seed, dill seed and peppercorns may be added as a home prepared pickling spice.  DO NOT USE commercially prepared pickling spice as it may contain cinnamon or cloves. True “Kosher-style” pickles do not have these two spices.

Use only pickling salt! Do not use regular table salt or kosher salt. Measure carefully according to directions based on volume.

Kirby cukes are traditionally used for pickling.

If you notice a dark, cloudy discoloration in the brine, or your pickles have an odd smell on opening, DO NOT USE.  Dispose of the contents without tasting. Food poisoning isn’t worth the risk.

Lids may only be used ONCE. Rings may be used every season, provided they are not rusty. Inspect glass jars for chips or cracks and discard if necessary. Glass jars may also be reused indefinitely.

NEVER set a hot glass jar that was just processed in boiling water on a cold counter. It will crack or explode. Always place on a thick dish towel or oven hot pad and allow to fully cool before handling.

Have fun and don’t burn yourself!

Wild grape leaves growing on a fence line. The natural tannins in the leaves assure crisp pickles.

A wild grape vine growing on a fence line.
The natural tannins in the leaves assure crisp pickles.

Sliced Sweet Lunch Pickles

This is an old recipe found in my grandmother’s recipe box.


20 medium-sized cucumbers, cut 1/2″ thick

Pre-Brine Solution:
5 cups water
3 cups cider vinegar
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. alum


2 tbs. minced onion, per jar

Brine Solution:
2 qt. cider vinegar
1 pint water
3 cups sugar
2 tsp. celery seed
2 tsp. mustard seed
2 tsp. turmeric



Mix pre-brine ingredients thoroughly, bring to a boil, add the cucumbers, then remove from heat and let stand for 30 minutes.

Drain, then pack cucumbers into sterile jars. Add the minced onion to each jar and fill with brine to the rim. Hot seal.


Sliced Sweet Pickles

This is an old recipe found in my grandmother’s recipe box.


1 peck fresh cucumbers
4 onions, sliced
6 green peppers, sliced
2.5 lb. bag brown sugar
3 pints cider vinegar
2 tbs. celery seed
3 tbs. mustard seed
1 tbs. turmeric


Scrub, rinse and slice cukes. Place in salted water overnight. Drain off salt water from cucumbers and place in kettle. Do not rinse. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer. Cook until cucumber slices are just translucent. Immediately spoon into sterilized canning jars and hot seal.


Whole Cucumber Sweet Pickles

This is an old recipe found in my grandmother’s recipe box.


Small cucumbers
Dill Weed


Pack sterilized quart jars with small cucumbers and dill. Add to each jar:
1 tbs. salt
3 tbs. sugar

Fill each jar to the top with boiling vinegar. Hot seal.