Tuesday, April 12, 2016

J for Jalapenos, Candied Jalapenos that is..

From Dyes to Peppers, I'm all over the garden this week.
Spring pepper Plants in our Garden
Peppers have gained a huge amount of popularity lately, they aren't just for poppers and nachos anymore.  As far as flavors go the hotter the better and they have been being added to things you wouldn't expect.

Jalapenos fall into what I would consider a middle category, younger peppers can be mild and as they age they become hotter. So if you are looking for the pepper flavor you can generally gage the heat by the age of the pepper. Young peppers are generally uniformly green and smooth, as they age you will see striations on the pepper and them fully ripe or hotter Jalapenos will be red or orange. The heat falls  within a wide range on the Scoville Chart, from 1,000 to 20,000. The majority of the heat in the pepper is found with in the seeds and interior membrane that holds the seeds, These membranes and seeds can be removed to lower the overall heat level of the pepper.

Many varieties of peppers are now available in nurseries and the big box stores but starting your own peppers from seeds can be very rewarding. Seed catalogues are offer more and more varieties with more and more heat each year, so there is something for everyone's palate. Stating Jalapenos is just like starting any other pepper. You'll need a good starting soil and someplace warm. Warmer climates such as South Florida can direct sow peppers but the rest of us aren't as lucky. Pepper seeds are ones that need to be started very early, as early as 10 weeks before the last frost in order to have the plant ready for the normal transplanting season. Som varierities can take 4 to 6 weeks to germinate and others take only a couple, but they all need a very warm area, generally above 70 degrees. You'll want to hold off on transplanting until the night time temps are staying above 50 degrees and the soil has warmed at least 2 inches down. Peppers are slow growers and need the heat to grow properly.

Plant them at least a foot  a part, once they have established themselves expect that they can grow from 2 to 4 feet tall but have a compact spread. They are fairly drought tolerant, and enjoy heat and humidity. They can also be planted in containers due to the compact size. One plant can produce many pounds of peppers that can vary in heat due to when they are picked.

Last year we had bouts of dry and wet but ended up with a huge amount of peppers that lasted well into November because of the very mild fall we experienced.  So since we had such a glut of peppers we went looking for a good way to extend the life of the peppers. We pickled quite a few for sandwiches and other recipes but we had a friend who recommended a pickling them in a vinegar and sugar syrup. These retain their heat but with a slightly sweet offset. We've heard it called Cowboy Candy, we call them Candied Jalapenos and have seen them used in various forms. At our house they are often eaten right out of the jar or with cream cheese and crackers similar to how pepper jelly is eaten around the holidays in our neck of the woods. I'll share our recipe and hopefully it's something you might try later this year when the peppers are on. It is a water bath canning recipe.

You'll Need;

  • 3 lbs of firm Jalapenos 
  • 2 cups of Cider Vinegar
  • 6 cups of Sugar ( I know it sounds like a ton but it's best not to skimp on it)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Celery Seed
  • 3 Teaspoons Granulated Garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon Turmeric
  • 1 Teaspoon of Red Pepper Flakes
  • 8 1/2 pint (or 4 Pint) Canning Jars and lids 
These peppers can be very hot so it's best to work with gloves while you are cutting and trimming.
Trim the ends of the peppers off and slice into 1/4 of an inch rounds. Then set them aside
In a large pot bring the Vinegar, Sugar, Celery Seeds, Garlic,Turmeric and red pepper flakes to a boil.
Reduce heat and let the mixture simmer for 5 minutes. Then add your peppers to the simmering pot, let it continue to simmer for 4 minutes then bring it up to a boil. 

While it's boiling process your clean jars and lids in hot water. Once the peppers have simmered, some will look more wilted than others and that's okay. Transfer them to the heated jars with a slotted spoon, leaving a 1/4 inch headspace. Bring the liquid back up to Boiling and boil for another 6 minutes. Now transfer the hot liquid carefully to the jars to just cover the peppers. Run a knife along the inside of the jars so any trapped air bubbles can be released. 

Wipe the rims of the jars and place your lids finger tight. Place jars in your canner with at least 2 inches of water over the jars and boil for 10 minutes for 1/2 pints and 15 minutes for pints. Remove from canner and place hot jars on a towel to set overnight. Once they have cooled you'll still want to hold off on popping the jars open for a treat. They need another 2 to 4 weeks to fully come into flavor. It's hard but the wait is well worth it. This recipe can be doubled and trust me when I tell you that you'll be glad you did.

Thanks for following along on my A to Z Journey, Wednesday's letter is K and I'll be exploring ideas for that strange vegetable Kohlrabi, you know you'll want to hear about that!

See you in the Garden!