What Went Wrong with My Pickled Peppers?

I can’t imagine an Italian sub sandwich without pickled banana peppers. And they are a must on an antipasto salad or relish tray. But when your pickled peppers don’t turn out quite like you imagined, it’s time to play detective. Keep reading to find out what happened to Michelle’s pickled peppers.

If you love your spicy peppers like I do, and you care about the ingredients that you put in your body, then you know how hard it is to find pickled peppers at the store that are actually good for you. Even the so-called “all-natural” brands always seem to have either some sort of almost-fluorescent food coloring or strange preservative. In the end, I actually gave up on my search for pickled peppers and couldn’t bring myself to eat those that I found at the store—no matter how badly I wanted them.

Then one day I thought to myself, “Hey, you can just make them yourself. You have already made all sorts of other fermented foods, why not peppers?” And so I decided that at the next farmers’ market I would buy a bunch of banana peppers and try my hand at it. But wait until you hear my story!

What Went Wrong with My Pickled Peppers?

The day of the market came and I went up to the vendor that had the peppers—he had only one basket of peppers left. He was willing to give them to me for only a few bucks because they were his last ones. I was delighted! I promptly rushed home, gathered up all of my supplies, and got to work.

Whenever I make something for the first time, I don’t do anything fancy, so I just made plain-and-simple fermented banana peppers with nothing else. I washed my peppers and sliced them up into pieces and soon had a jar full of the all-to-familiar banana pepper rings. I filled it up to the top with 2% salt solution, put on the Fermentools fermentation lid for Mason jar, and set the jar to ferment for a couple days.

Two days quickly passed (as they always seem to do here on the homestead), and I anxiously opened the jar to try my first home-made fermented peppers. I popped a few into my mouth and… um… how do I describe the experience? The texture was totally off – mushy as opposed to crunchy; the taste was wrong – there was an almost smoky flavor in the background, and the smell was nothing that made my mouth water—but thankfully not that awful spoiled smell. After a couple more days, it even developed a strange brown color in the top of the liquid. All of my senses gave witness to the fact that I had failed this round of fermenting.

Only Use the Freshest of Ingredients

What went wrong with my pickled peppers!?!? Did I somehow lose my ability to ferment things? Well, no, that process is way too well designed. Looking back, it is quite easy to see what was wrong. First, I have to admit that I did notice that the peppers I got were obviously not the freshest in the world—they were slightly soft and wrinkly like peppers get when they are past their prime—but my excitement caused me to buy them anyway. And when I went to slice them up, some that were in the bottom of the basket were unusable which further confirmed my suspicions that these peppers were of dubious quality. Finally, even a few of the ones I ended up using were…questionable (they had seeds that had already turned black).

So what did I learn from this whole thing, and what bit of wisdom can I pass onto you? Buy and use only the freshest veggies you can when you ferment things. If the veggies are past their prime, they will give you a product that is often times far from the amazing product fermentation usually furnishes.


For some great fermented vegetable recipes, give these a try:


Andrew and Michelle are the new owners of a 12-acre homestead in rural America. They are just embarking on this journey that is far removed from their city-life upbringing, so they realize that they have a lot to learn in order to succeed in this new place.Come along with them and read more about what they learn as they make this transition at their blog Simple Life Homestead.

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