Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Pepper Surplus

I'm just going to go on the record now and say that my garden was mostly a disappointment this year. I don't know exactly what happened. Granted, my peas, my raspberries, green beans, tomatillos, and some of my early spinach and lettuce weren't too shabby, but the rest was . . . well . . . crappy.  My pumpkins didn't nearly produce like they did last year (just two measly pumpkins!), my strawberries were hit and miss, and I only got a handful of carrots. Worst of all, my tomatoes weren't nearly as awesome as they were last year.  I wait all year for the homegrown tomatoes and, although I got some, my harvest wasn't nearly what I've been used to.  Last year was awesome, this year was...meh. What did I do wrong? Did I lose my touch? It's all causing a lot of introspection and soul-searching, as you can imagine.

However, my mom's garden (surprise, surprise) was amazing and productive, as always (though her pumpkins bombed, too, this year. We used the same packet of seeds -- we're blaming that for the poor crop).  And more than anything else, my mom got a HUGE harvest of peppers, ranging from mild ones to the spicy jalapeños.  Mom's been trying to use them all up, but we finally decided that we needed to can them. So, I thought I'd share a couple of the things we did with Mom's pepper surplus.

Surplus Solution #1 -- Salsa
No doubt you probably guessed that I made salsa from the first picture. Making salsa is always messy, but so, so worth it. Garden tomatoes and peppers in the winter months? Heaven. I seem to use a different recipe for salsa every year. This year, since we had so many peppers, we used a recipe that called for a fairly high pepper to tomato ratio. It's called "Zesty Salsa" and it's definitely zesty. Yum!

Zesty Salsa from The Ball Blue Book of Preserving
10 cups chopped, seeded, peeled, cored tomatoes (about six pounds)
5 cups chopped and seeded long green peppers, (about two pounds) {My mom's were red and yellow ones - both mild varieties. Worked very well and made it really colorful.}
5 cups of chopped onions (about 1 1/2 pounds)
2 1/2 cups of chopped and seeded hot peppers (about 1 pound)
3 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons cilantro (I added more. Loooove cilantro.)
1 1/4 cup of cider vinegar
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce -- optional (We skipped it.)

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepot. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Ladle hot salsa into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Adjust lids and bands. Process 15 minutes in boiling-water or steam canner (Don't forget to adjust the time, according to your altitude). 

Now, the recipe I followed says that the yield is 6 pints. Both times I've done it, I've gotten 8 pints. Go figure. Maybe it'll be different for you.  We kept eating this salsa as it cooked over the stove -- it's really, really good.

Surplus Solution #2 - Jalapeño Jelly
After all that salsa, my mom still had a bunch of jalapeños left, so she wanted to make jalapeño jelly. I've never even tasted jalapeño jelly, let alone made it, so it was definitely a new endeavor. My mom didn't have time to make it, so I took it upon myself to make it solo since she'd shared all of her garden's bounty with me for the salsa (enter the crappy garden-induced depression).  Even though it was my first time, making this jelly was a cinch.

One note worth mentioning -- see those rubber gloves in the background? You should definitely wear gloves when you cut up hot peppers like jalapeños. Take it from someone who didn't wear them one time, who thought she had washed her hands thoroughly, and who, later that night, removed her contacts with those same hands. Yeowch!

Jalapeño Jelly from The Ball Blue Book of Preserving {again!}
3/4 pound of jalapeño peppers (This is a kind of confusing measurement. The recipe that came with the pectin, that had all the same ingredients and amounts, called for 12 peppers. That seems about what I used. Once I removed the stems, seeded them, and cut them into strips, it measured about 2 1/2 cups) 
2 cups of cider vinegar
6 cups of sugar (Mmmm....healthy.)
2 pouches liquid pectin
Green food coloring (optional)

Wash peppers. Remove stems and seeds (I also cut them into strips. Not necessary, but it made for easier measuring.). Purée peppers and one cup of the vinegar in a food processor or blender. In a large saucepot, combine the purée, the remaining cup of vinegar, and the sugar.  Bring to a boil; boil for 10 minutes, stirring constantly (clears the sinuses, for sure!). Stir in the liquid pectin. Return to a rolling boil (as in, a boil that can't be stirred down) and boil hard for a minute, still stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam, if necessary. Stir in a few drops of food coloring. (Note: As much as I try to avoid artificial coloring, there are some cases where I give in. This is one. If you don't add the coloring, the jelly looks like a brownish-green swamp sludge. I only added about five drops. This made it nicely, not neon, green.)

Ladle hot jelly into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Adjust lids and bands. Process 10 minutes in a boiling-water or steam canner. Again, don't forget to adjust your processing time according to your altitude.  The recipe says that the yield is about five half-pints. That's exactly what I got.

So how do you use jalapeño jelly? My mom puts it in a bowl with some cream cheese and serves it as a dip with crackers or sliced bell peppers. I also found this recipe for cheese coins with jalapeño jelly on Martha Stewart's site. If you have any ideas, I'd love to hear them.

Guess what. After all of that, after the salsa and the jelly....we still have extra! We're considering pickling them (again, a totally new endeavor).  I'll let you know how it plays out.

1 comment:

thegirlwiththeplan said...

We love Jalepeno Jelly. We serve over a bar of cream cheese and devour it with wheat thins.

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