Pickling Sport peppers--recipe anyone?

September 10, 2005

Does anyone have a recipe for pickling Sport peppers or suggestions for a recipe that might fill the bill? Sport peppers are small cayenne-type hot peppers that when pickled green are an essential ingredient of the Chicago-style hot dog. DH is from Chicago and since I can't reliably buy these pickled peppers, I grew some plants for him. (They're extremely prolific, by the way. I have one plant that has hundreds of peppers on it, and it's just getting going.)

Any suggestions for recipes to use? The already-prepared ones seems to use white vinegar and I don't detect other seasonings. They're pickled whole with the stems intact, and the skins are also intact (though it's possible each pepper may have a tiny slit to admit the pickling solution). Thanks!


Comments (38)

  • maineapples

    Hope this helps.

    Pickled Sport Peppers

    2 lb sport or serrano peppers
    6 cups vinegar
    2 cups water

    Place the peppers into a large pot. Add the vinegar and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 5 minutes.

    Ladle peppers into sterile jars, and fill to the top with the liquid, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Tap jars on the counter to remove air bubbles. Place two piece lids on the jars.

    Place jars in the rack of a large pot, and fill with enough water to cover the jars completely. Bring to a boil, and boil for 10 to 15 minutes.

  • Bloomfielder

    Shelly, I've never done sport peppers, but I have generally found two things.. do put a small slit in each pepper to absorb liquid and minimize float. Also, either do a lime pre soak or use Pickle Crisp otherwise you may be very dissapointed in the end product. Good luck!

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  • bitterwort

    Thanks very much, Nick and Bloomfielder! I'll give this a try.


  • victrola

    Don't pickled peppers usually also have salt, and sometimes sugar and garlic? I'm no expert. I made one batch of pp's last year (lemon drop peppers) and was disappointed. I think I used vinegar, salt, and garlic, and it was missing something. The hot pepper forum might have suggestions, too.

  • ksrogers

    Pepperoncini, or robustini peppers. When eaten raw, they have very little heat. Typically found in salad bars and are sold in jars in most supermarkets. I grow them here and have both strains, with the latter being a bit larger in diameter and a shorter length. I use only white vinegar and pickling salt as a brine. Because they don't hold up very well to a long heat process, I used a vacuum process instead. First, they are trimmed of the long stems, then are pierced with a skewer in two places. Placed in a large air tight vessle with a hot vinegar salt brine and are put under a vacuum. The vacuum makes the hot vinegar start to boil as well as forcing out the air and pushing in the brine. This vacuum remains on them for about 10-15 minutes. The container is vented and opened and drained of the leftover brine. Jars are carefully packed with the peppers and are not firmly packed inside like a cuke would be. The brine is brought to a boil and each jar is filled half full with the brine. I use a Foodsaver adaptor cover that attaches directly on the tops of Ball canning jars (either regular or large mouth). This helps to pull out any more air and pushes in the brine. The jars are filled nearly to the top with more brine and then a vacuum is drawn on them again. Remove the vacuum cap and place a regular domed lid on the jars. The Foodsaver cap is placed back on the jar and another vacuum is pulled on each. Once the vacuum is released, the lid is forced onto the jars and its dome is concave, with a vacuum that has been created. This vacuum process does NOT use a Foodsaver appliance, instead, I have adapted a regular vacuum pump to do the job and it has some traps at the inlet that help to keep any liquids from entering the pump. Since starting this process back in June, I have been able to make many jars of these enjoyable peppers and none have become as soft as if I used the regular canning methods. Even though Foodsaver does not recommend their appliance for vacuum processing foods, I do find that if I use a stronger vacuum pump, that the process has been very reliable. I have also been doing this with sweet cherry peppers. If I were to can these in the normal manner, not only are the contents very mushy, but the liquid level inside the jars is dropped down well below the required amount due to the contents absorbing the brine more slowly. For my sweet cherry peppers, I try to use wrll ripened red cherry peppers, and the sweetness comes from adding some Splenda to the brine. I don't add any spices or garlic to the jars.

  • Linda_Lou

    You really need to process in a BWB to be sure they are safe to keep on the shelf.
    The Pickle Crisp is a good way to help keep them firm. I would stick with Nick's recipe.

  • bitterwort

    Thanks, all! Linda Lou, Nick's recipe was very close to a generic pickled hot pepper recipe that you had posted elsewhere. The main difference was that your recipe cold-packed the peppers and processed (BWB) the jars 5 minutes longer (instead of the 5 minute heating in the pickling liquid). So I did half-pint and pint jars raw-packed for 15 minutes BWB using the recommended vinegar/water solution. I may try the Pickle Crisp for the next harvest.


  • nancymiles54

    Hey Nick,

    Is that white vinegar or cider vinegar for those sport peppers?

  • maineapples

    White vinegar

  • ksrogers

    I do not use any water in my recipe, only white distallied vinegar and salt. Its as safe as it can be with all that acid. In fact, the vacuum process will fill each pepper with the same vinegar brine, and you can't get that from any home processing technique, no matter how long they are processed. If I were ot can using a regular heat process, even with calcium chloride Pickle Crisp, I would still get a totally mushy pepper. With my new method, they still see heat of boiling brine, and then a qhile removal of air. What this does is makes the brine actually boil again due to the lower atmospheric pressure. I filled a quart jar with just boiling brine, and pulled a vacuum on it with just a lid. It sat there for nearly 10 minutes and was bubbling continously until it cooled down some. Something kind of like a reverse pressure cooker would do.

  • Betz11

    Hi Shelly, I just found this thread and thought I'd ask a question. Where do you buy seed for the sport pepper. I never heard of it until recently, and would really like to try it.

    Thanks, Betty

  • ksrogers

    There are a few. Cross Country Nurseries has about 300 kinds of peppers. Tomato Growers and Totally Tomatoes also seel a lot of seeds for peppers. Thats were I get my Pepperoncini.

  • bitterwort

    Betty, I got my seeds from Tomato Growers Supply. They're a very reliable company with a good selection of peppers and eggplants and a great selection of tomatoes.

    I wish you lived closer, Betty, because I started a bunch of Sport peppers (and others kinds) and I still have a few extra, with no place to go. I was amazed at how productive they were, and I highly recommend them. I posted the link below--page down until you find them and then click the photo to see it enlarged. Enjoy!

    Here is a link that might be useful: Sport peppers at TGS

  • dilbert

    "I can't reliably buy these pickled peppers"

    Look for La Preferida brand in the Mexican section of your grocery store or buy online here:

    I have found this to be the ONLY inexpensive brand that matches the type found on Chicago style hotdogs.

    Incidentally, the labelled ingredients are just sport peppers, water, salt, and sodium benzoate, so keep the recipe simple.

  • dilbert

    "Incidentally, the labelled ingredients are just sport peppers, water, salt, and sodium benzoate, so keep the recipe simple"


    Incidentally, the labelled ingredients are just sport peppers, water, salt, vinegar and sodium benzoate, so keep the recipe simple.

  • ksrogers

    I am now picking many of my pepperoncini peppers. They are just starting to come in. I pickle them in a vinegar salt brine and because they are so delicate and thin skinned, I use a vacuum process instead of a heat process. Heating these in the brine will make them turn to mush in just a few minutes. Mine turn out crisp and last for nearly a year before they go soft. I plan to also add a bit of the calcium chloride to help keep them crisp. Without the vinegar pickling, they have a very mild heat.

  • ristau5741

    since the recipie is so generic, I suppose any type of small hot pepper would pickle this way? I'm looking to pickle and can hot cherry types.

  • ksrogers

    Yes, thats OK as they work well with just plain vinegar and salt. I used to grow the sweet cherry peppers and these got a dash of sugar or Splenda in the brine. I'm just now canning my harvest of the green pepperoncini which is slow coming. I did add the Pickle Crisp to this latest batch.

  • keely_newgardener

    A neighbor has given me some Sport Pepper plants, and since they grow so abundantly, I'd like to try pickling them as well. The problem is, I lived in Chicago most of my life, and the only canning experience I have, was canning Strawberry preserves one year, when my children were small, many years ago. We went on an adventure to the country, picked Strawberries on a farm, brought them home and spent the next week canning them. We used some boxed stuff for fruit preserves, and followed the instructions.

    Anyway... I have read all the related replies to pickling sport peppers, but I am not familiar with a lot of the terms. So I was wondering if someone out there could explain to me, step by step, how to pickle the peppers so they are still crisp. (exactly what to buy, and an explination of any jargin. What type of jars to buy, as well as any special tools, pots, etc.) I would be very greatful!
    Thank you!

  • ksrogers

    Sorry, they will turn out mushy with most any 'common' home canning process. All the home canning processes involve heat, and if heat is exposed to these thin fleshed peppers, they will quickly turn to mush. I cannot even begin to explain in detail about how I can them, as it would require a special vacuum pump, special adaptors to fit the canning jars with the lids in place, and a way to keep the liquids from getting sucked into the pump. Not to mention a vacuum tight container suitable for holding the peppers while they get exposed to straight vinegar and salt brines in large quantities. Suffice to say, just chop them up and make a relish out of them, freeze them, or if they have enough meat left, you can roast them to remove the skins. I sucessfully can many quarts of the pepperoncini peppers, and have a process that is not easily duplicated by the home canner.. Sorry. I went through about 30 gallons of vinegar this year canning mine.

  • sandysoilsouth

    Pickled Robustini (Pepperoncini) Peppers

    This recipe requires no special equipment and the peppers have a texture and taste identical to the type found on salad bars. The vinegar-to-water ratio is high so they should be safe processed in a boiling water bath.

    Pints 6
    Peppers (pods, medium) 60
    Vinegar (cups) 6
    Water (cups) 1.5
    Sugar (tbsp) 1.5
    Pickling Salt (tsp) 3
    Pickle Crisp (tsp) 4.5

    1. Sterilize jars and lid rings by washing, drying and placing in oven at 250° F for 10 minutes.
    2. Prepare flat lids by simmering in hot water for about 10 minutes to soften.
    3. Combine vinegar, water, sugar, and salt in saucepan and heat to simmer.
    4. Prepare peppers to absorb liquid by cutting slash completely thru pods.
    5. Place peppers in simmering liquid and press down to fill them with juice.
    6. After peppers become slightly limp, remove from liquid and place in jars.
    7. Add 3/4 teaspoon Ball Pickle Crisp to top of each jar.
    8. Fill jars with the liquid mix to within 1/2 inch of top.
    9. Use plastic spatula to remove air bubbles and install lids and rings on jars.

    1. Process in boiling water bath for 15 minutes.
    2. Remove, let cool and store.

    Note: Let peppers age for at least one week before serving.

  • ksrogers

    Been there, done that and they were mush! Instead, I use full strength vinegar and salt only, and don't use any heat at all. I have a vacuum system that pulls a vacuum on the jars and seals them in the same operation. Next time, I will be adding some Pickle Crisp just to see if it makes storage last longer.

  • sandysoilsouth

    Pickle Crisp does the job of keeping the peppers from becoming mushy. Be sure to use Pickle Crisp and do not substitute food grade lime for this. Pickle crisp is calcium chloride and this will not reduce the acidity as will food grade lime, which is calcium hydroxide.

  • ksrogers

    Actually its the heat of the canning and processing that will make the thin peppers get mushy. The Pickle Crisp will only help to reduce the breakdown by the vinegar after a storage time. Lime is NEVER added to any pickle. Its used only as a presoak mixed with water and then once the vegetables have been soaked overnight, its rinsed off thoroughly and completely before the pickling process.

  • sandysoilsouth

    When pickling peppers for non-refrigerator storage, you really should sterilize the contents by using a high vinegar content and processing in a boiling water bath. Pulling a vacuum does not raise the temperature of the contents. Water can be made to boil at room temperature as any air conditioning technician with a high-vacuum pump knows, and botulism grows fine in an oxygen free environment. Using pickle crisp and processing Robustini peppers in a BWB does not turn them to mush. I made several jars in two or more batches last season (2007) and am still having crisp peppers.

    Here's a link to expert advice on vacuum packing foods:

  • ksrogers

    Trust me, with 200 jars of mush, they do go soft. The pepperoncini are light green color and very thin as to their skins. Any heat, even if the peppers are packed in a jar and boiling liquid is poured over them, will quickly soften them. The ones in stores are definately crisper. I do NOT use any water, I use straight 5% distilled vinegar and no sugar added, only salt. The vacuum helps to fill each and every pepper with the pickling brine. Unless these were chopped or cut in halves, there is no way they can get filled with brine by just placing in a hot or boiling brine and pressing down on them, and hoping they pull the brine inside. Becuase my vacuum pump is MUCH more powerful compared to a whimpy FS machine version, I have been able to can these quite safely and without any need for heat, except on the lids just before they get their capping. To each his own. All I know is that it works for me and after a year of storage they do start to get mushy. I suppose I could use Picle Crisp, but my firt batch of almost 100 jars were made without it. I grew about 100 of these pepper plants and picked bushels of them every few days, cranking out about 10-12 quarts or 20 pints per batch. With full strength vinegar and nothing else added but salt, I have no concern about their safety, and no one can change my way of doing these.

  • vic01

    Have been following this discussion with interest and hope someone has a working method of canning pepperoncini for those of us who do NOT have vacuum processing equipment and buying it is not in the budget. We have many pepperoncini plants and definitely plan to can them, mush or not. Anyone who has successfully canned them?

  • ksrogers

    No such method avalable for home use. I admit its a daunting task, but after finding what I neded on the internet, I have been very happy with the results for over 3 years now. Its as if the were coming out of a store bought jar. Also, because I do not dilute the 5% vinegar they have, its a safe process as no air is left, and everything is 'maserated' with vinegar and salt acid. The pump is small, but efficient and if you have basic mechanical knowledge, and plumbing, and the need to learn, it can come easily. The Food Saver jar adapter is the key too, as its proven its value for pulling the final vacuums to each jar. I also use their big gallon plus round canisters for the initial penetration of the brine My 2 year old dried weed (done the same way) was so vacuum tight, it took a few minutes to get the Ball lid to break the vacuum. Almost had to use a church key! Recently I 'boiled' water that had a temp only at about 180 degrees. Once in vacuum it went nuts. For this pump, I use a small, dual piston diaphram pump, and they are connected in in tandem. Added a small vacuum gauge to the input and the moisture trap (threaded onto fittings), and that helps to keep the brines out of the pump. The pump type is important, no oil based, no vane based, or any other type will work as well. Its just for pulling air out, kind of like a big powerful vacuum cleaner, except a much smaller volume and size. Sometimes these pumps are used in refrigeration, but because they are slower and smaller volumes, a vane with oil pump is usually used for AC stuff, where oil is a help.
    BTW, got some of the parts on eBay, where else! If I recall, the banana peppers are long, thin, and yellow, and sliced into small rings?

  • jonbyler


    with your vacuum system, do you pull the vacuum just to get all the air out of the liquid and the interior of the peppers? I was wondering how you get the lid to pull down, since I can't see how without heat, or a glove-box how you could hold the vacuum while putting the regular lid on the jars. It looks like you are heating up the jars, just not to the regular high temperatures (212F +)? I am guessing that any heat above room or storage temperature would cause the lid to pull down when it cools.

    I have the goodies and skills to make something like you describe, but I want to make sure I am doing the right thing. I was going to put a little fitting on a regular lid so that I can attach it to the pump via a rubber/plastic hose. Do you have pictures anywhere of your setup in operation?



  • dangould

    maybe no pump is needed if you slice the pepper into 2 halves the long way.

  • mhargraves

    I posted this else where, and not sure if anyone wants to try this, but it works well for me. Several years ago I got a "dilly bean" recipe. I decided one year to see if this work for canning hot peppers.

    I have not tried the type of pepper you are, but it has worked for lots of others I have canned.

    Pretty simple:

    50% Water,
    50% White Vinegar,
    1 tsp Salt per pint,
    1 large clove garlic, sliced into quarters,
    1 full head dill.

    Put Dill, Garlic, and Salt into bottom of the pint or quart jar. Poke a hole in the bottom and one in the top of each pepper to allow the liquid to easily get inside pepper.

    It's best if you boil the jars and lids and pack jars while hot.

    Pour the boiling hot water and vinegar into the packed jars of dill, garlic, peppers, and salt. Put lid and ring on jar, snug lid down not too tight, let cool slowly. Best if you slowly tip jar upside down and right side up to mix contents while cooling several times.

    They last at least 6 months and likely longer. They do not stay around my house very long as they usually get eaten before the 6 months pass.

  • ksrogers

    A 50% vinegar and water ratio is far too low!! for any kid of pickle. Yes, it MUST e kep under refrigeration at all times. Very dangerous to can! I use full strength white, distilled vinegar and pickling salt in most of minr as its far safer in the long run.

    For the final vacuum, its done with the Food Saver canning jar adapter device I linked to. This device has the vacuum hose fitting on top, a big soft rubber O ring that seals the adapter against the jars' glass bead (just below threads) on the outside of canning jars. There is an a open space inside, to accomodate the canning lid. FS makes two sizes, of these canning jar adapters, regular mouth and wide wouth. Because any air pumped out inside pushes up on the 'trapped' canning lid, it will allow any residual air to be pumped out. If I pull the vacuum hose fitting thats attached to the top of the adapter, it will suddenly pull in air. That initial 'slug' of air will immediatly push down on the lid forcing a seal. They are so tightly sealed, I have to use a blunt ended 'church key' to pop off the lid which is really stuck on the jars. ABSOLUTELY NO HEAT IS USED IN ANY PART OF MY VACUUM PROCESS.

    I use a dual rubber diaphram pump, and a moisture trap to prevent ny brine from getting into the pump. The FOod saver containers I prefer to use are the large round, smoked plastic containers that have a knob on shut off the vacuum. I keep my dried dill weed in a quart jar as well as sage, basil, and any other herb I want to keep longer. In the fridge, I also have grated parm cheese and its never molded yet.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Food Saver Jar dapter

  • jonbyler


    thanks for that link. makes sense once I read how it doesn't actually screw onto the jar, just uses the rubber seal. I'm going to have to see about getting one of those. pretty cool.


  • ksrogers

    There are TWO sizes one for regular mouth and one for the wide mouth jars. At the present time, Food Saver is out of these, but you may find it elsewhere.

  • earl

    Does anyone have any info on using potassium sorbate and Sodium Benzoate in picking peppers etc? I've found several India recipes calling for Sodium Benzoate to be used as a preservative.

  • ksrogers

    These additives are only added to lengthen the shelf life of commercial products. They should no be used to prevent bactera or any other home canning. Potsasiuk sorbate is also a form of ascorbic acid. Sodium Bensoate is difficult to find, and is also not recommened in home canning. The only safe method is to use a high vacuum commercial process, and then these two preservatives can only help to prevent color fading or mold after opening.

  • Farmer-Dave52

    I'm going to use your 'vavuum'method for my pepperoncini this year. 50 plants worth. I do haye a few questions.
    1) What make and model vacuum pump do you suggest?
    2) What is the optimal vacuum thatI should read on the
    vacuum gauge=inches?
    3) Do you think that a pressure cooker, with the vacuum
    connected to the valve in the lid would work, for the
    initial vacuum, before transferring to the canning jars?
    4) What kind of moisture/water trap do you suggest. I am
    thinking of adapting a small automotive, oil filter to
    absorb any moisture.
    ANY advice would be appreciated. I'd hate to mess-up an entire season.


  • gardendawgie

    Before buying a vacuum pump please consider this

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