Category: peppers

Bringin’ the summer heat with Ring Of Fire peach jam.

Peaches and "Ring of Fire" peppers.

Today’s recipe is a mishmosh of using up a little of what my garden has to offer and using the gorgeous seasonal stone fruits sent to me from the Washington State Fruit Commission (because I am a “Canbassador” for them). This is the time of year I start thinking about what needs to be cut back & dried before the end of summer starts to kick in, and what needs to be used fresh now. Plus I have more peppers than I can count! Add that to the massive amount of stunningly perfect peaches and nectarines I received, and you’ve got this.

And it burns, burns, burns, burns.. that ring of fire… that ring of fireYou all know Johnny Cash is one of my favorite artists of all time, right? You should. Him and June (and that whole era of music, really) are absolutely some of my favorites. I could watch Walk The Line a million times, as well as the documentary about their performance at Folsom, and basically love every song- save for the extreme preachy gospel stuff- that he/they have done.

Peaches & peppers.

So it stands to reason I’d grow a hot pepper named after one of his and June’s most popular songs (she wrote it, you know): the Ring Of Fire pepper.

And of course when I got those gorgeous yellow peaches, I was thinking of what to do with them. So I thought, hey, that peach & pepper salsa was a mighty big hit. Why not incorporate a hot pepper into some peach preserves? Sure it’s been done before- but I never did it. I decided to not wait until the peppers got red because of two reasons: 1) I didn’t want the peaches to get too soft while I waited and 2) then they’d be pretty freakin’ hot; about 20,000- 50,000 Scoville Heat Units. Here’s what they look like red:

Ring of Fire cayennes!

To put that heat in perspective, a habanero has about 100,000 – 300,000 SHU and a jalapeno has about between 2,500 – 10,000 SHU. So while this Cayenne variety isn’t crazy hot, when red it has a pretty good amount of heat. I used it while green, so it was still a little spicy and a bit hot- but not too bad. A pleasant heat. Just a little hotter than your average jalapeño.

Ring Of Fire peach + pepper jam. #Canbassador

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Quick pickled giardiniera-style veggies.

IT’S SPRING! Oh man. Spring, how I’ve waited for you. Can we be best friends? Okay, maybe not, but can I at least try to jar you up and save you? Forever and ever and ever?! *siiiiiiigh* I don’t know, maybe winter just felt too long this year, maybe I’m just in an overly romantic mood since I’m only married for about, oh, 10 days… whatever it is, it feels so good to have SPRING here. It’s been an unseasonably cold spring so far, but this week it’s supposed to be in the high 60°’s F. Exciting!

Spring means summer is coming. Summer means sunshine, longer days, and veggies. Fresh from the garden.

Mixed vegetable giardiniera for spring.

A lot of people hear the word “giardiniera” and cringe. In Italian families, it’s often taken for granted and force-fed to you. It’s also most commonly found crammed flavorlessly into mass-produced jars in an aisle in the supermarket. But it doesn’t have to be that way! We can take it back!

Not to get all Norma Rae, but for real. Giardinera can be a delicious and wonderful way to preserve and make use of any extra veggies you may have, or just ones you want to use to create a beautiful looking jar. Giardiniera means pickled vegetables, or pickled “garden” (giardino). It’s also known as “sottaceti”; or “under vinegar,” which basically leaves it open to a lot of interpretation. So you can use really any mixture of vegetables that strike your fancy. It doesn’t even have to resemble a traditional giardiniera!

Mixed vegetable giardiniera- or pickled veggies!

Is that not beautiful?

There is no reason it has to be flavorless, or boring, either. But I’ll get to that in a second.

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Pickled green tomatoes, Italian style.

The garden was crazy this year, thanks to our big ol’ raised garden bed. So when things started to get super cray cray, I decided that the best thing to do once I had a harvest of more than just two tomatoes at once, was make salsa & bruschetta.

Beautiful green tomatoes.

But of course, sometimes you just see those green tomatoes hanging out there… and you wanna pluck ’em off & use them, too. They’re so cute & small & round. And then there’s all that fresh basil & oregano that’s just waiting for you to keep picking it…

A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.

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Ail je ne sais quoi; or “garlic I don’t know what.”

French pickled garlic with herbes de provence.

Garlic. The most potent flavor packed into the teeniest package nature could possibly create.

It’s amazing isn’t it? The things you can do with garlic. The possibilities are endless. Roast it, sauté it, bake it, slice it, crush it, mince it, puree it, whatever it. Clearly, the only thing I can’t do with garlic is write a decent blog post about it. No, really. I have no idea what to write about this. True story.

Usually I just blabber so much I have to stop myself before I write a novel, but for this post- nothin’. Its not that I have something against garlic- I don’t, I love garlic. But I just really have no idea what to say. So with that in mind… I’ll just make up a story. Pretend you’re at your summer house in Provence. Yeah, that Provence (in France). It’s a warm summer day & you’re hosting an outdoor dinner party this evening.

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Ch-ch-ch-chili oil.

Okay, guys. This is another one of those “not really a recipe” recipes. Meaning it’s more like a how-to, not so much a full on recipe, just like that tarragon vinegar I made.

Homemade chili oil how-to.

Yep. Chili oil. An incredibly versatile condiment used for both cooking & as a “garnish” if you will.

Chili oil (also called hot chili oil or hot oil) is a condiment made from vegetable oil that has been infused with chili peppers. It is commonly used in Chinese cuisine, East and Southeast Asia and elsewhere. Particularly popular in Sichuan cuisine, it is used as an ingredient in cooked dishes as well as a condiment. It is sometimes used as a dip for meat and dim sum. It is also employed in the Korean Chinese noodle soup dish jjamppong.

Chili oil is typically red in color. It is made from vegetable oil, often soybean oil or sesame oil, although olive oil or other oils may be used. Other spices may be included such as Sichuan peppergarlic, or paprika. The spices are soaked in oil. Commercial preparations may include other kinds of oil, water, dried garlic, soy sauce, and sugar. Recipes targeted to Western cooks also suggest other popular oils such as rapeseedgrapeseed or peanut, and any dried or fresh chili peppers. The solids typically settle to the bottom of the container in which it is stored. When using chili oil, the cook or diner may choose how much of the solids to use; sometimes only the oil is used, without any solids.

Chili oil is commercially available in glass jars, although it may also be made from scratch at home.[1] It is usually available by request at Chinese restaurants.

-Wikipedia

You can use any dried pepper you like, from Habanero (WHOA!) to chipotle to Ancho to Thai chili pepper (WHOA again!). Depending on the pepper you use, your flavor will differ or range from spicy to mild & smoky to hot & fiery. And of course, that depends on your taste. But choose wisely- if you’re not a fan of hot stuff, don’t use a super hot pepper. The internet is a great resource for Scoville scale measurements & also to find out what peppers taste like what.

Ever since my debacle last year with searching for chipotles, I’ve since learned to never be without dried chilies. When I find them, I buy them. I haven’t in a while because it just so happens I have a full stash. But I have noticed that this year, dried peppers are much more common, so you shouldn’t have a problem finding any. If you grow your own peppers, you can dehydrate them yourself to use in flavoring oil or other recipes. I keep my stash in a quart jar, hidden in a cool, dark, dry place so they stay dry.

Dried chilies for homemade chili oil.

The oil you use will also depend on you. What will you be using the oil for? Olive oil is good if you’re using it as a garnish. Vegetable oil, corn oil or peanut oil are best if you plan on cooking with it. Sesame oil is not suitable for high heat, so it’s best used if you’re planning on sprinkling the oil on top of already cooked food (stir fry, maybe? Or fried rice?). Coconut oil can be used over relatively high heat, and has little flavor, so it might be a decent choice as well. Whole Foods Market has a good rundown of oils on their website, you might wanna take a peek.

All I did to make this oil was:

  1. First, I found a bottle to use. I bought this little bottle at Michael’s for like $1.20, but you can find ones like it just about anywhere, or you can use a jar.
  2. Then I heated a 1/4 cup of oil over low heat. I used corn oil myself. Once it was hot but (not scaldingly so), I added a whole dried chili & 1 tablespoon dried red pepper flakes, and then I let the chile get hot. I did NOT let it cook! I just heated it enough to release the oils & flavor.
  3. I removed it from heat & let it cool to room temperature. Then, using tongs, I put the whole chili in the bottle. I poured the chili oil over it, then poured more fresh oil in to fill the bottle, and then I let it sit in a cool, dark place for one week before using. The longer it sits, the hotter/more flavorful it gets.

Obviously, you can add more chilies if you’re using a larger container. And you’d use more oil, as well. Experimentation is the name of the game!

How to make an easy chili oil.

Bell pepper salad & warm(er) weather!

The weather here is finally getting warmer. FINALLY. Last year at this time, it was already warm. As a matter of fact, my herbs began growing in March of last year when we had a streak of 70° degree weather. I think it even hit 80° a few times. And by mid-April, my chives were huge. So huge, in fact, I was using chives on every dish… and I had chive blossoms everywhere: I was making egg salad with them & chive blossom vinegar with them, and I had jars of them on my counters like they were flowers until late June. This year? They’re tiny little green shoots still, no sign of blooms. So I’ve been waiting patiently for things to get a bit warmer, or at least for the snow & sleet to finally stop… and the fact that it’s been in the 50’s lately (except for a few days) and relatively nice out, save for some rain & very cold nights, makes me really happy. And tomorrow it’s going to be around 66°!

Hey, it’s the little things. Like the weather getting warmer, or the flavor of a bright red pepper that means summer is coming.

(This photo is from last summer)

And at least in 50°-60° weather you can start to garden, or go for long walks and get some fresh air. And- even though it might be too cold to eat outdoors- you can maybe cook outdoors! Which is where today’s recipe comes in. It’s a fresh & easy side dish (or burger topping, or salad topping, or hell- even a hot dog topping) that takes no time at all to make. It’s great on sandwiches or with sandwiches.

When choosing your peppers, choose ones that feel heavy for their size. Avoid ones with wrinkles, cracks or blemishes; pick ones with taut, firm skin.

TANGY FOUR-COLOR BELL PEPPER SALAD

Makes about 3 pints

Ingredients:

  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 large green bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 large orange bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 large yellow bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 2/3 cup white-wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 teaspoons fresh basil (or 2 teaspoons dried)
  • 4 teaspoons fresh oregano (or 2 teaspoons dried)

Directions:

  1. Place peppers and tomatoes in a large glass jar with lid, or mix them together in a large mixing bowl. Shake or stir to combine; set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, combine olive oil, vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper, basil, and oregano, whisking well. If using a jar to mix, pour mixture over peppers, then close lid and shake well to coat. If using a bowl, scoop the pepper mix into the jar(s) and then pour the liquid over them, equally if using more than one jar. Add more vinegar & oil in equal parts if desired (to fill jars with more liquid, if needed). The liquid should be at least halfway up the jar.
  3. Serve slaw from jar if desired, immediately, or store covered in the refrigerator. Salad is best when made a day before serving, so all the flavors can meld together.


The dressing itself is awesome, and once the peppers are gone I recommend keeping it to use as a salad dressing. The peppers impart their flavor into it after sitting in it for a while, so it makes a great peppery Italian-like salad dressing.

I served it a little over 24 hours after making it alongside & on top of big ol’ fresh green salads that included romaine, iceberg, red cabbage, carrots and baby arugula.

But like I said- it’s excellent with just about anything. Here are some other serving ideas:

  • Just like that open-face tomato & feta sandwich I made last year with my garden fixin’s, this is a great dish to make on a really hot day. And, also like that sandwich, it’d be fantastic eaten just as it is as a light summer picnic meal, maybe with a little feta crumbled on top.
  • This would be really good with the Southern pickled shrimp I posted last year, too, maybe on a bed of greens. (Those pickled shrimp aren’t what you think, by the way. They’re like ceviche de camarones- just shrimp in an herby seasoned olive oil/lemon juice mixture. No vinegar. Don’t be afraid!)
  • Speaking of greens, like I said above, it’s awesome on top of a regular ol’ lettuce salad, too. The peppers are perfect additions to any salad, and the vinagrette that’s already in the jar is an amazing salad dressing in and of itself.
  • Oh, wait- here’s another GENIUS idea: mix it with some cold pasta & fresh grated parmesan as a pasta salad- with or without a 1/4 cup of mayo.
  • As a hamburger topping. The tang of the vinegary peppers with a thick, juicy burger is perfect!
  • Alternatively, this would be delicious as the filling of a wrap. Maybe with some grilled chicken, or shrimp, or even with avocado, sliced portobello mushrooms or black beans if you’re a vegetarian.

Mmm. Oh man- now I’m getting hungry.

And it takes literally, like, five minutes to pull together. Store it in pint jars in the fridge for a quick fix- just pull one out an hour or so before you want to use it to let the oil come back to it’s normal consistency and you’re good to go. I actually made one quart jar (above) and a pint jar… I mean, if you really want to, make 6 half-pint jars. It doesn’t matter. Whatever.

For an even more colorful salad, you can use small different colored heirloom tomatoes such as Black Cherry, Blondkopfchen, Snow White, Hartman’s Yellow Gooseberry or Sun Gold. And if you can find a purple Bell pepper, or a chocolate Bell pepper, then add them too! Last but not least: you can also add a head of cabbage, thinly sliced, to this. Then it would become a kind of “slaw” I suppose… but boy would that give it some heft. Not to mention make a massive portion! You can also add a chopped red onion to it, or celery. Experiment! Try adding cilantro instead of basil & oregano for a different flavor. Use rice vinegar instead of white wine vinegar & sesame oil instead of olive oil for an Asian spin. Shake things up.

Literally. I mean, shake the jar to mix it up.

Get your extinguishers ready.

Because today… we’re talkin’ about Molotov cocktail pickles. Yeah.

(I made these a while back [in August] and I’m just getting around to posting them now. I know, I’m horrible.)

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If that name doesn’t scare you, then keep reading. If it does then look no further than the above picture, and back away from the computer slowly. When you regain your composure, go look at some cupcakes.

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Okay now that the ‘fraidy cats are gone, let’s get down to business.

Late August around my house is pickle time. The last of the pretty local cucumbers are rolling in and there are tons of ideas floating around my brain for new kinds of pickles. I’m not really the type to make 600 jars of regular ol’ dill pickles, you see. But there are cucumbers that need pickling. Before September is in full swing is when I make pickles after pickles after pickles… and they never seem to be enough. A few pints here, a quart here & a quart there may seem like a lot to you- but you don’t understand. I have a family of pickle-monsters here. No matter how much I make, there’s always requests for more. Because people around here are crazy for pickles.

But maybe you’re crazy for pickles too. Or maybe, just maybe, you read my Canning for Dummies post and decided you wanna start canning up a storm. And… maybe there’s a small chance you like hot peppers, or all things hot & spicy. If any one of those statements (or all three!) are valid for you, then keep on reading.

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I had the idea for these pickles a while back. Truth be told, I was looking for ideas on whiskey pickles (back when I was only in the planning stages of these) and I came up empty, which is why I had to make up my own recipe. What I did find, however, was a recipe floating around for vodka pickles. I bookmarked it more out of curiosity than anything else, and then forgot about it. I made the Bourbon pickles, they were a huge success, and that was that. Then I made those Hop Pickles (which Jay announced as “the best pickles [you] ever made!”), and those went fast. And then… one evening when me & Jay were having one of our many pickle conversations (…what?? Yeah, we really do that), he brought up the idea of Molotov cocktail pickles in a really off-the-cuff way. Immediately I thought of using the vodka in pickles that were made with hot peppers. Not crazy hot like Habanero’s or Jamaican hot peppers, but something like a Jalapeño or Serrano, or both. What I ended up doing was using two jalapeños; one red, one green, and one Cajun Belle pepper that I grew in my garden. That’s a lot of pepper in just two jars of pickles!

The Cajun Belle’s I ended up with this year were beyond beautiful.

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Such gorgeous color! I couldn’t help but take some glamour shots of it. It’s more like a Bell pepper in that it has a very mild heat & a fresh smell, not a spicy hot smell like other peppers with heat. But it packs a punch.

The Molotov cocktail, also known as the petrol bomb, gasoline bomb, Molotov bomb, fire bottle, fire bomb, or simply Molotov, is a generic name used for a variety of improvised incendiary weapons. Due to the relative ease of production, they are frequently used by non-professionally equipped fighters and others who cannot afford, manufacture, or obtain hand grenades. They are primarily intended to set targets ablaze rather than instantly destroy them. The name “Molotov cocktail” was coined[1] by the Finns during the Winter War. The name is an insulting reference (not a tribute) to Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov, who was responsible for the partition of Finland.[2]

A Molotov cocktail is a breakable glass bottle containing a flammable substance such as gasoline or a napalm-like mixture, with some motor oil added, and usually a source of ignition such as a burning cloth wick held in place by the bottle’s stopper. The wick is usually soaked in alcohol or kerosene, rather than gasoline.

In action, the wick is lit and the bottle hurled at a target such as a vehicle or fortification. When the bottle smashes on impact, the ensuing cloud of petrol droplets and vapour ignites, causing an immediate fireball followed by a raging fire as the remainder of the fuel is consumed. Another method is to place a reactive substance in with the gasoline, and treat the label or wrapper paper with another chemical; when the bottle ruptures, the two chemicals mix and ignite; this is safer to handle if done properly, and does not betray the thrower with a visible flame prior to the throw.

Other flammable liquids such as diesel fuel, methanol, turpentine and E85 have been used in place of or with gasoline. Thickening agents such as Styrofoam, baking soda, tar, strips of tyre tubing, sugar, blood, XPS foam, egg whites, motor oil, rubber cement, and dish soap have been added to help the burning liquid adhere to the target and create clouds of thick, choking smoke.[3]

Uh. Yeah. My pickles definitely don’t include blood, motor oil or Polystyrene. What they do, have, though… are hot peppers and vodka. They’re hot & boozy.

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I’m sure you get the Molotov cocktail reference, right? Molotov… cocktail… hot peppers… vodka…? Get it?

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The concept is that with hot peppers, there’s a certain amount of capsaicin in them. The amount varies, and the Scoville scale is used to measure how much exactly there is (in numbered units), and therefore how hot they are. If you’re familiar with eating or cooking with a lot of hot peppers, you know that there are two major substances that can be used to diffuse the capsaicin, or cool the burn: fats & alcohols. So if you eat too much, a glass of beer or straight vodka (as will drinking a glass of whole milk or eating a heaping tablespoon of sour cream) will help kill that heat as the capsaicin is fat & alcohol soluble. Therefore, in a cocktail, or a pickle… if you’ve got some hot peppers, and you add a little alcohol, you’ll get the flavor & the heat but not the obnoxious heat that makes you wish you were dead. I added the Cajun Belle because it’s got some heat but it’s also sweeter, like a Bell pepper, so that also adds more flavor. You know, even jalapeño’s are too hot for a lot of people.

Here they are: right after adding the brine to the jars, pre-waterbath, then fully sealed & ready to rock-n-roll.

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I used fresh dill for these, a few of the flowering “head” parts, a little just plain ol’ fresh dill. As well as using a red jalapeño, green jalapeño, a Cajun Belle, some pickling spice, a clove of garlic, & a dash of freshly ground black pepper, just to up the peppery heat a little more. The red jalapeño’s are hot but sweet, so they aren’t overwhelming like a Habanero. And of course… vodka! If you’re not a vodka drinker or don’t have any in your house ever, then you can go and buy one or two of those little tiny bottles at the liquor store. And if you’re opposed to using alcohol completely, just omit the vodka and use vinegar.

MOLOTOV COCKTAIL PICKLES

Makes roughly 2 pints

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 Kirby cucumbers, sliced into spears (or chips, if you prefer)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup vodka (not flavored, unless you want to use hot pepper vodka, or split it half & half – half regular vodka and half hot pepper vodka)
  • 1 cup white vinegar, 5% acidity
  • 1/4 cup pickling salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pickling spice
  • a dash of freshly ground black pepper for each jar
  • 6 cloves garlic (sliced or crushed, however you prefer)
  • 1 red jalapeño, 1 green jalapeño and one Cajun Belle, thinly sliced & seeded (or Serrano or Habanero if you’re really adventurous)
  • 2-4 sprigs fresh dill/dill heads

Directions:

  1. Add the spices and the garlic to the jars, distributing them equally. Cut up cucumbers, pack loosely in the still-hot sterilized jars along with the peppers, distributing them equally as well.
  2. Bring liquids and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Pour hot liquid over cucumbers, leaving 1/2″-inch headspace. Place lids, screw bands to fingertip tight, and process jars for 10 minutes in a waterbath canner.
  3. Check for seal after 12 hours, if not sealed put them in the fridge and eat ’em now. If they are sealed, let these bad boys sit for a week or so to infuse all the flavors together.

And so… a week later…

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Like, WHOA. These came out pretty hot. Not like my habanero pickles from last year… smoke came out of people’s ears after a few bites of them. These aren’t like that. But still, they’re pretty hot, just a different kind of heat. However, the vodka does actually lessen the burn! They have a definite pickle taste, but also a very definite (and quite prominent) pepper flavor & heat. Honestly? They’re really hard to describe. They aren’t really for the casual pickle-lover; between the vodka & the peppers, it’s certainly a designer or novelty pickle. A pickle for the more adventurous among us.

After all, only the adventurous would eat a pickle dubbed a Molotov Cocktail pickle.

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The funny thing is, “canning season” as we know it is almost over. The fruits and veggies of the summer are almost finished, with tomatoes finishing up. Yes you can “can” all year. But the majority of can-able things are in season from spring to fall. During the winter, unless you live in a warm climate (aside from citrus: lemons/oranges/clementines/tangerines and of course pomegranates) there isn’t much to make that’s fresh. So right about now is the time when everyone who cans & jars up their food is pretty much done, and torn between pride when looking at everything they’ve put up and sadness because it’s over. For the most part. Which is why when I saw this photo I laughed… because it’s so true.

Credit: Union Square Greenmarket

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Molotov Cocktail pickles on Punk Domestics