Cucumber pickles are a favorite condiment for burgers and hot dogs, but they're not the only briny vegetable worth pulling out of a jar.
Pickled peppers also can add a tangy crunch to those barbecue favorites, and they're just as easy to make as refrigerator dill or bread and butter pickles. All that's required is some vinegar, a bit of sugar or honey and a colorful mix of hot and sweet peppers to create some heat.
I sliced the peppers into thin spears, scraping out the seeds and veins with the tip of a knife. (You might want to wear gloves, as chili peppers can burn and sting the skin and God help you if you touch your eyes after handling them!) You also could chop them into small chunks if you prefer a spoonable relish.
The recipe is easily adaptable to whatever peppers you have on hand or find at the farmers market — my mix included several jalapenos, a couple of serranos and a habanero along with sweet bell peppers. Yowza!
BURGERS WITH SPICY-SWEET PICKLED PEPPERS
Makes: 4 burgers
1/2 pound assorted hot chili peppers
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1 or 2 shallots, thinly sliced
2 or 3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 cup apple cider or white wine vinegar
1 cup water
2 tablespoons honey or sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Pinch of red pepper flakes
2 pounds freshly ground beef (80/20 blend)
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
4 slices pepper jack cheese
4 burger buns, toasted
Prepare peppers: Carefully stem and seed the peppers, then slice into 1/4-inch rounds, chunks or thin slices. Place in a glass jar. You also can chop them into small pieces if you prefer a pepper relish. Add shallots and garlic.
Bring vinegar to a boil with water, honey, salt and pepper flakes. Pour the boiling vinegar over the pepper mixture and cover with the jar lid. You may have to use a butter knife or spoon to gently push down the peppers so they all fit and to remove any air pockets.
Allow peppers to cool to room temperature and store in the refrigerator until you're ready to eat them (give them at least 4 hours to start absorbing the vinegar).
When ready to prepare burgers, preheat grill to medium-high.
Divide ground meat into four even 1/2-pound portions. Form into four 4-inch-wide patties, pressing a slight depression in center of each with your thumb or a spoon. Season liberally with kosher salt, black pepper and other spices, if desired. (I used a little Cajun spice.)
Lightly brush the grill grates with oil, then grill the patties, indentation-side up, until marked on the bottom, about 5 minutes. Flip and cook until marked and slightly firm, about 3 more minutes for medium doneness.
Top each burger with a slice cheese during the last minute of cooking; cover the grill to melt.
Place burgers on toasted buns and top with a heap of pickled peppers. Serve immediately.