Category: rosemary

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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Scenes from the garden, 2013.

My grandpa's 60+ year old rose.

Typically, I update about my little container “Victory garden” a few times during the summer. But because I’ve been so busy this year, I really had to pare down. I didn’t grow anything other than the usual herbs; a few of mine come back every year (chives, oregano, mint) and I bought a few more, like dill, tarragon, rosemary, etc. You all saw my garlic already. So I was going to stick to just herbs, my little garlic shoots & my flowers, but then I bought a cherry tomato plant at the last minute because it felt kinda naked without any veggies. But I swear, I’m stopping at that!  I have way too much going on this summer to have a massive garden.

Anyway, I was inspired by my visit to the Queens County Farm Museum & I thought I’d share some photos with you of my garden, & what I’m growing this year. Even if it’s not a lot of stuff, it’s still beautiful, because nature is always beautiful & interesting. That rose pictured above is from a plant that’s over 60 years old. It was one of the first ones my grandpa planted when he moved out to Long Island from the Bronx, and it’s still the most beautiful rose I have.

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A time to plant, a time to sow.

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Yes, I know, you’re all in “fall-mode” already. Me too. It’s hard not to be when Halloween has infiltrated every store & every blog (or Pinterest page) is pushing pumpkin desserts! And I’ve got those coming for you, too. But first there’s still some wrapping up to do when it comes to summer. Namely the garden.

Every year at this time, I start to dry my herbs. They continue growing until mid to late October, usually, unless it gets very cold at night very quickly. As do the peppers, sometimes. But the herbs usually get so large midway through the summer, that I end up cutting them back in late July and using most of them fresh (or freezing them). The rest I dry and add to my dried herb jars. Then I cut them back again in September. Drying fresh herbs is one of the easiest things to do, as is freezing them, and if you grow your own herbs I strongly suggest you do it! For cilantro, I suggest freezing it in olive oil. Basil is also good that way, as well as rosemary. You can freeze them in water, too, if you prefer. As far as drying them, there are, of course, quite a few different ways to do it… but this is what I do. I bought little jars from Ikea to store them in, but small Ball jars work too, as do cleaned out baby food jars. All you have to do is cut your herbs and give them a good shake outside to evict any unwanted tenants. Not cilantro, though, dried cilantro tastes nothing like fresh and it’s not really worth it. You’re better off freezing that. Anyhow, cut ‘em down and give ‘em a a shake or two… then give them a good rinse and let them dry overnight on a paper towel or clean dish towel. The next morning, tie the ends of each herb together to create a bunch, and tie with soft twine (or use a small rubber band). Place them in a brown paper lunch bag that you already labeled and “hang” them in it, gathering the top of the bag together around the bottom of the stems and tying it. Then hang the bags or place them in a cool, dry place for 2 weeks. After 2 weeks, you’ll have dried herbs (if not, let them hang another week, there shouldn’t be any moisture left in them). Take them out of the bags and gently tug, pull or scrape the leaves of the herbs off the stems with your fingers. You can crumble the basil, oregano & parsley at this point, if you wish. Place them in your jars and label. Or, if you have non-edible lavender, use it in a sachet. All done!

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Anyway… as you might have guessed, this is the last garden post of the season. Sad, yes. But each year it comes whether we like it or not. The good things far outweigh the bad: the fresh veggies that start to come in record numbers, the fresh herbs that grow like crazy, and the delicious meals, sauces & salsas that can come of them all.

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Except this year.

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This year I was lucky to get 8 Cajun Belle peppers, 4 SuperTasty Hybrid tomatoes and 1 Green Zebra tomato. That’s it. Of course, my herbs were huge and I got tons of use out of them all season, not to mention the pesto I’ll be making & freezing because my basil is taking over a small country. But my vegetables were not at all what they have been in the past. Why? I don’t know. The weather, maybe? I know the country is having the worst drought in two decades. But here in NY, it was a pretty wet summer (wetter than usual), but that flip-flopped from very very hot to very very wet almost constantly. The plants barely had time to dry out and recover from one storm by the time another one hit. Though really, I’m not sure. Maybe it was the crazy wind with all those severe thunderstorms (& tornadoes! WHAT?), maybe it was the really bad heat in between all that, maybe it was just me. My mind has been other places this summer, and I haven’t been as anal-retentive about keeping up with the gardening. I noticed some funky curly leaves on the tomatoes and I never even did anything about it. I haven’t weeded or used any fertilizer/plant food at all either. And maybe it was the fact that I chose heirloom tomatoes, not hardier disease-resistant ones this season. But regardless, no matter what the reason, that’s all I got so far. The “mystery plant” died sometime in mid-August, so I guess I’ll never know what it was (glad we weren’t taking bets!). Now my peppers & tomatoes will probably keep growing for a few more weeks, or at least until it gets too cold at night, but I doubt I’ll get much more out of them. Of course, if I end up with anything else, you’ll all read about it for sure. But basically, that was my bounty of 2012, and I was lucky to get it.

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But it was still worth it. Each tomato or pepper is one more tomato or pepper I didn’t have to buy.

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I cut those last three peppers off before they matured, because I wanted to use a variety of peppery heat in a dish I was making. The green tomato took forever to finish growing, it wasn’t done until last week. And the SuperTasty’s? Ugh. They were a struggle all season. Like I said, I could probably take some of the blame, if not most- I wasn’t 100% invested this year. But the weather was downright bizarre, so I’m just going to use that as my excuse. In all my years of having a veggie/herb garden, this is the first year my bounty was pathetic, so I guess I should be thankful. And the best part? Using fresh tomato slices from my own plant, and fresh oregano to make a fantastic light hot weather dinner: a tomato feta open-face sandwich, using one of my SuperTasty hybrid tomatoes & both kinds of fresh oregano.

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I feel almost silly for writing up the recipe for this, it’s so easy, but epicurious.com did too, so I’m in good company. This is a good way to enjoy the fruits of your garden on a really hot, sticky late summer night. Or a slightly warm early fall evening.

TOMATO-FETA OPEN FACE SANDWICH (from epicurious.com)

Ingredients:

  • Thick slices of white bread (Pullman loaf is ideal)
  • Olive oil (good quality oil meant for eating)
  • Tomato slices
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Slabs or crumbles of feta
  • Fresh oregano

Directions:

  1. Lightly toast thick slices of white bread, then drizzle with olive oil.
  2. Add tomato slices, salt and freshly ground black pepper, slabs of feta, fresh oregano, and more oil.
  3. Eat!

I bet this sandwich would look delightful with different colored heirloom tomatoes, and it would probably be amazing with blue cheese or Gorgonzola crumbles too. Noms.

Playing in the dirt.

I thought I’d do a quick little update on the garden while things were a bit slow around here due to today’s excessive heat & sunshine that’ll blind you.

(Alright, I’m lying. It’s not that slow around here, nor is it that hot – it’s around 91° F, which compared to our 101° temps last week is nothing. I just wanted to do a garden update. Whatever.)

And so I’ll begin this written portion of the program by saying that while every other woman in the country (seemingly) is squealing in excitement for the final film installment of The Twilight Saga and/or reading Fifty Shades of Grey, I’ve been gardening, cooking, baking, canning, beaching, grilling, strolling, sunbathing, and generally enjoying the outdoors. Not that there’s anything wrong with the aforementioned activities. I’m just saying. Summer goes by quickly, folks. Enjoy it while it’s here! The winter is loooong.

But right now, it’s pretty much hotter than hell most days. That sun I photographed above beats down relentlessly (when it’s not pouring rain & thundering, oh the joys of high humidity!) on everything making the sidewalk so hot I could fry my peppers outdoors. This poor little guy was one of the (probably many) casualties of the heat. I call him The Jesus Lizard, because a few weeks prior, I found a lizard laying in quite the same position, and assumed him dead. Yet when I went to brush him off the walkway into the flowerbed (I don’t know why, my version of a lizard burial I suppose) he flipped over and scooted away. This time… however… he was 100% definitely dead. I have a sneaking suspicion that this is that very same lizard. So of course, what else would I call him but the Jesus Lizard? Somewhere, many other lizards are awaiting his second coming. Until then, rest in peace little dude.

The heat is no joke. This is why they tell you to check on the elderly & young’ns and make sure your pets have plenty of cold fresh water. Anyway… let’s get back to something pleasant: my container garden! Prepare for lots of photos.

Cajun Belle pepper

Green Zebra heirloom tomato

SuperTasty Hybrid tomato

Herbs; dill, cilantro, rosemary

Oregano

Variegated oregano

Mint

Rosemary

Lavender (not edible)

Basil

The “Mystery Plant”

So yeah. That’s pretty much that.

The interesting thing is that “Mystery Plant” there. Whatever it is, it’s a plant from last year that I thought was just dead wood. However, I failed to remove it from the pot at the end of the season in October, and the tag that told me what it was went missing over the winter. So I was surprised to see that there was green life coming from the dead-looking brown stalk a month ago, and I decided to leave it and see what came of it. It’s gotten bigger, with more green growing, but I’m not 100% sure what it is. It’s possible it’s my Habanero plant, or it could be a Bell pepper. It’s definitely not a tomato, and I doubt it’s an eggplant. But I guess we’ll see, right?! Whatever it is, it’s a pleasant surprise, and a testament to life and nature. It’s so true what my grandma used to say: where there’s life- there’s hope! Except for Jesus Lizard, that is.

I did have one little casualty. A Cajun Belle fell off the vine prematurely. It was so cute, and so perfectly formed… but so tiny! So I tossed it into the grass for the local bunnies or my friendly raccoon family to nibble on.

My mint is struggling to come back full force, which kinda sucks- I have a feeling by the time it’s huge the season will be over and it’ll be time for me to cut it down and dry it. It’s turning brown slightly on the edges. Blah. I’ll update again once more things start to come around. Basil? For a while it wasn’t doing too well- it seemed to be shrinking. But now it’s better. My cilantro took a nose dive, though. My tomatoes are taking an extra long time, trying my patience, for sure. I lost two buds (one from each) in a bad thunderstorm that lasted over 12+ hours and it took forever for the other teeny buds to catch up. Ugh. Hurry up tomatoes!

At least I hope they get here before Breaking Dawn pt. 2.

Kidding.

Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?

My name is a derivative of Mary, did you know that? It’s an old English form of the name. Fancier than Mary, but still the same name & the meaning (of the original Hebrew root name, Miryam, that is) ranges from bitter/bitterness, salty to rebellion, obstinacy. I’d like to think I’m not bitter, but salty… yes. I can be a bit salty at times. And rebellious? Totally. I’ll even admit to obstinate.

That doesn’t really have anything to do with gardening. Does explain the title of this post, though. And it explains partially why my grandmother used to call me ‘Rosie the Riveter.’ I grow my own veggies & herbs in the spring/summer, bake, cook, can my own pickles/jams/jellies/sauces/etc. I can sew. I am the modern Rosie the Riveter, I guess. I can fix anything, I can paint, I can repair almost anything or install almost anything. I think it’s important to be independent. Women who are the “damsels in distress” make me want to vomit. There’s a balance though. Yes, I like doors held open for me and I like things done for me. Yes, I like to be protected and feel safe. Yes, it’s nice when a man shovels the snow for me, carries the groceries or offers to climb the ladder to fix XYZ, etc. Of course I like that. But do I need a man (or another human for that matter) to help me do things? Not most of the time. I can handle pretty much anything you throw at me. And I think that there are a lot of women who agree with me, but there are also a lot who don’t, surprisingly. They need a man to change a lightbulb or hang a picture. It’s ridiculous. Get up off your ass and learn to do something. I just hate whiny little wussy women who don’t know how to do anything. I remember when I was 17 I had to tell my then boyfriend which was the transmission fluid in his car and which was the oil. And I didn’t even own a car myself at the time- nor did I drive!

Anyway. I digress. I definitely scaled back the garden this year. I’ve got the same amount of herbs that I usually do, but I only got two tomatoes and one pepper. I didn’t grow from seed, I bought baby plants instead to lighten my load, so to speak. And also because I missed the seed-planting boat. But like I mentioned last time, I wasn’t sure how much time I’d have to invest in it this year, so I did want to scale back. But half the herbs were already growing (chives, both oregano, mint & parsley) so honestly, how scaled back could it be? Not only that, but my freakin’ chives could’ve taken over a small country… let alone my oregano. I mistakenly didn’t prune them back last fall so this year they were ridiculous. Scale back? Right. In for a penny, in for a pound, so I bought a few veggie plants and called it a day.

And no. I don’t care if you think that it’s cheating that I didn’t grow them from seeds. I’ve got so much else going on, and I do this for fun. I can’t be Wonder Woman. Well, not all the time. So save your preaching & crap for a blogger who cares & who buys into it. I’m not sustaining my entire family to get through the summer. I’m just doing this because I enjoy it.

So, the tally this year is:

  1. Green Zebra Heirloom tomato
  2. Cajun Belle pepper
  3. SuperTasty Hybrid tomato
  4. Rosemary
  5. Chives
  6. Variegated oregano
  7. Oregano
  8. Mint (small, but still trying to come back!)
  9. Italian parsley
  10. Sweet basil
  11. Lavender
  12. Cilantro
  13. Dill

I wanted to grow an heirloom tomato for a while, so I went with the Green Zebra because it was different. The other tomato? Well I got it because I wanted a regular old red tomato as well. The pepper is supposedly sweet but hot, which has a nice sound. After the Habanero’s last year, I needed a break from the super hot peppers. I ended up with 800 Hab’s and I had no idea what to do with them all! I might break down & buy another small vegetable at the nursery before the season is over, because I’m crazy like that. I’m like the crazy cat lady but with plants. Remember my half-dead blueberry bush from last year? It died, by the way. Didn’t make it through the winter. But I can’t help myself, I go into a nursery and I see all those little plants looking all lonely…

At any rate, here’s some photos from when I first planted & cleaned up my little container garden. The two tomatoes first (Green Zebra left and Super Tasty right), then the pepper (close up) then the herbs- the first photo of those two has the two different types of oregano/cilantro/dill/rosemary and the Cajun pepper (while it was still just flowering), the last photo has the basil and lavender. Things have changed since then, so scroll on down and see!

I’m slightly concerned that I’ve read the Green Zebra tomato isn’t very disease resistant & also that aphids seem to love it. I hate to think that it’ll die or be a waste, but even if I get one or two tomatoes from it I’ll be appeased. Aphids love my roses too, for some strange reason more so my Intrigue & Queen Elizabeth, but so far this year I haven’t seen any. Here’s hoping they stay away! Yeah. I know. I’m dreaming.

As the last thing for this post, here are some of my flowers so far. They’re absolutely beautiful; clockwise from top left… Pansy, Rose, Dianthus and Petunia.

Got an excess of pickled items? Well then read on…

I’m guessing that around this time of year most people who like to preserve foods or “can” end up with a plethora (or a bunch) of jars of pickled & preserved goodness. Now if your family is anything like mine, you end up with quite a few open jars in your fridge any given time. Everyone wants to taste everything at once!

“Ohh what are those? Pickled carrots?! I need to try them…”
“Mmm those habanero pickles look good, I think I’ll try one!”
“Holy crap- you made dilly beans?! I haven’t had one of those in years… lemme get one…”
“Wow lemon marmalade. Is it good? Can I try some?”

And then all the jars sit in the fridge getting picked at here and there, taking up space. Except for the regular cucumber pickles; the pickles go like hotcakes. I can barely keep a jar for longer than a week or two tops. So after the successful potato salad I made with dilly beans, I brainstormed this macaroni salad to incorporate and use up some of the pickled goodies sitting open in my fridge. I had some pickled carrots, dilly beans, peppers in oil & regular dill pickles, so that’s what I used. Of course, you can definitely substitute plain slivered carrots, chopped fresh Bell peppers and some chopped fresh green beans too… but it’ll be a totally different taste & flavor profile.

Keep in mind also that pretty much anything could be added: pickled zucchini, cauliflower, etc. Whatever you have open & whatever tickles your pickle (pun intended). Just chop it up & toss it on in there. You can adapt it to suit you in any way, including removing the mustard or removing the red wine vinegar & using all white, etc. Also, you can adjust the ratio of vinegar to mayonnaise as you like it.

Everyone loved it. LOVED IT. It was requested for lunch quite a bit that week.

The pickled carrots come from Molly Wizenberg‘s book, A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table. I mentioned that lately I’d been reading through it again a few posts back, well I also saw the pickled carrots while re-reading it & became intrigued. They took no time to make, seeing as how they were really a form of “refigerator pickles” & were a welcome addition to not only this salad, but my refrigerator. I subbed fresh sprigs of rosemary for the thyme because my mother has an allergy to thyme, so I try to avoid using it in anything she’ll be eating. Now I understand that if you already have an excess of pickled vegetables, you might not want to add to it by making pickled carrots. And I really do understand. But in case you’re intrigued like I was, or you’d like to make them for your salad, I’m including Molly’s exact recipe. Mine differs slightly; I used rosemary instead of thyme, omitted the peppercorns & mustard seed but added freshly ground black pepper, and didn’t add the red pepper flakes either. But that’s something you can figure out for yourself. Same goes for the amount, I made one pint jar by adjusting the ingredients to accommodate it, which is certainly something you can do. If you used a variety of different colored heirloom carrots, it’d make an even more beautiful jar. Next time, that’s what I’ll do.

By the way, this is in the gluten-free category for the pickled carrots, not the macaroni salad, although you could definitely use gluten-free pasta. Same goes for whole wheat pasta or any kind you’d prefer. I like the tri-color because it adds to the prettiness, but that’s just a purely aesthetic reason.

They look gorgeous in the jar.

SPICY PICKLED CARROTS WITH GARLIC & THYME (from A Homemade Life)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar, plus more off topping jars
  • 2 cups water, plus more for topping jars
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 6 (5-to 6-inch) sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 5 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 ½ teaspoons black peppercorns, cracked
  • 1 ½ teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • Heaping 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • Heaping 2 tablespoons mustard seeds
  • 1 ½ pounds small (finger sized) carrots, or standard or baby sized carrots cut into sticks about ½” inch wide and 3 inches long

Directions:

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine 1 ½ cups apple cider vinegar, water, sugar, garlic, thyme, black peppercorns, red pepper flakes, salt & mustard seeds. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to a simmer & cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, and let cool for 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining ½ cup vinegar.
  2. Put the carrots in a large, heatproof bowl, and pour the warm brine over them. Cool to room temperature. While they cool, wash 2 quart-sized canning jars and their lids in warm, soapy water.
  3. When the carrots & brine are cooled, distribute the carrots evenly among the jars, arranging them snugly. (Hands & fingers work best for this; tongs make a mess). Using a ladle, ladle the brine evenly among the jars. The carrots should be covered completely. If not, add a mixture of 2 parts vinegar and 1 part water to cover.
  4. Seal firmly & refrigerate for at least 3 days, or preferably a week. Carrots are dense & take time to absorb the brine. Carrots will last indefinitely (in theory) but try to eat them within a month or two (unless you give them a 10-minute waterbath, then they’ll probably last longer*).
* That’s my 2 cents.

PICKLED & PRESERVED MULTICOLOR MACARONI SALAD

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound tri-color pasta, cooked
  • 1 ½ cups mayonnaise
  • 5 teaspoons spicy brown mustard
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 4 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup slivered pickled carrots (or regular baby carrots)
  • ¼ cup chopped dilly beans
  • 4 or 5 sweet Bell peppers in oil, chopped
  • 1 pickle spear, cut into ¼” pieces
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 3 hardboiled eggs, sliced then quartered
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Mix shallot and vinegars together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  2. Combine the mustard, mayonnaise, salt, pepper and paprika thoroughly in another medium bowl. In a third and larger bowl, add the cooked pasta and mayonnaise mixture together. Mix completely.
  3. Add the vinegar mixture and pickled vegetables and again mix thoroughly. Finally, add the eggs and gently toss.
  4. Place in refrigerator until chilled. Add more mayonnaise or vinegar right before serving if too dry.

Yeah. That’s one colorful, bright & happy macaroni salad. How could you not smile while eating that?

Holy Habaneros!

WOW. It’s September!? Where did the time go?

I never imagined back in February when I first read Molly Wizenberg’s book, A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table, that in just a few months I’d relate to it so deeply. Literally, about 5 months after finishing it, my life was turned into a chapter from the book. Of course, in the book, Molly chronicles the loss of her father, and I lost my grandmother. But to me it doesn’t matter. When you lose someone who is such a big part of your life, then you can’t possibly be bothered with labels or monikers or anything. It transcends a word like ‘mother’ or ‘father’ and becomes an emotion. A piece of you. A part of your life that’s so much more than just an ambiguous noun or description such as “grandmother.”

So it wasn’t long ago when I spotted the book on my shelf & , remembering what it was about, opened it up again. I started re-reading it, in sporadic blips, a little bit each day. Laughing along with her at some parts, and tearing up (okay, fine- even crying a little bit) with her at others. I wanted to high five her when she wrote:

When your father dies, especially if he is older, people like to say things such as, “He was lucky. He lived a long, full life.” It’s hard to know what to say to that. What often comes to mind is, “Yes, you’re right. He was seventy-three, so I guess it was his time. But did you know him? Did you see how he was? He bought wine futures seven months before he died. He saw patients the afternoon he was diagnosed. He wasn’t finished.

Needless to say, you get that even more when it’s a grandparent, not to mention one who’s over 90. I mean, I have friends who lost parents who were 30+ years younger than that, so I realize she did indeed live a very long life. And yes, she was lucky to have been healthy. And sure, I’m aware of the cycle of life & that this is the ultimate result of everyone’s life. But in reality, those who knew my grandmother knew she was not ready to go. She had no intentions of dying. She was not sick. She wasn’t tired of living. She had a lot to live for. She wasn’t one of these old ladies or men who said “God please take me now.” Nuh uh. Not her. She was present in the here & now. She watched Lady Gaga on American Idol (& loved it). She read about Beyoncé in the July issue of W magazine. Every fashion magazine I subscribe to, I’d pass on to her when I was finished & she’d read them. Speaking of, she read books, magazines & the newspaper every day. She was planning outfits she was going to wear in the winter & fall. She was polishing the lock on her Louis Vuitton bag a few days before she died, because God forbid she went out somewhere & someone thought she looked like “a rag bag.” She wasn’t finished. She was probably just as angry that she had to leave us as we were. What happened to her was a random, unfair, terrible thing that could happen to anyone, at any time, at any age; a fast moving intracerebral brain hemorrhage. It was not related to her health, or lifestyle, or medicine, or anything else. It was not expected. And the fact that she was 93 & “lived a long life” means nothing to me & is of no comfort in terms of her being taken from me so quickly. I took care of her, spent my entire life with her, was with her practically since I was born. I made sure she took pills when she started to forget, took her to the doctor and made sure she was happy & comfortable & had the best quality of life a 93-year-old could possibly have. She was my godmother, my grandmother, my friend, my biggest supporter (other than my parents, of course), my ally, my defender, and the list goes on. The loss of her presence in my life goes beyond losing a grandparent.

I’d been keeping busy, my hands & my mind working overtime in the kitchen. Pickles, jams, jellies, sauces, salsas, canned peppers, the list goes on. I was a lunatic for making things. I couldn’t stop. Slowly, things got a little better. I slowed down a little. With the coming of the fall, baking started again, and I finally got into the groove of cooking normal sized dinners. I allowed myself to relax. I’m trying to let myself be excited about Halloween, my favorite holiday, since all the stores are full of the decorations & candy already. But really, the sadness remains. It’s going to be a year of firsts for me, and each one is going to be rough. I let myself be sad, and I let myself have a good cry, but I’m really trying to be positive & enjoy life like she did. However, I still can’t sit down for a few minutes with nothing to do, unless it’s to write an e-mail or a blog post, or watch a TV show or movie, or sew, or read something I’m really into… because if my brain isn’t working it starts to slowly go there. And there is the place I don’t want it to go. So instead of that… I make things like Habanero jelly. Not that I’m avoiding my grief, but I’m trying to avoid the melancholy that accompanies remembering she’s not here. I’d rather think of her in happy times & not be so sad. It’s difficult- and it hasn’t even been two months.

So yes. Clearly, this post is about my crazy need to create things & those super-hot little fiery orange peppers that were hangin’ around in my garden this year- Habaneros. Habanero’s are pretty prolific, so of course I ended up with a lot of them. I wound up making three different recipes to use up all those little balls of fire I harvested. While none of the following three recipes are from Molly’s book, they’re all equally excellent. And easy.

The habanero chilli (play /ˌhɑːbəˈnɛər/; Spanish: [aβaˈneɾo]; Capsicum chinense) is one of the more intensely piquant species of chili peppers of the Capsicum genus. It is sometimes misspelled (and mispronounced) habañero—the diacritical mark being added as a hyperforeignism.[1][2] Unripe habaneros are green, and they color as they mature. Common colors are orange and red, but white, brown, and pink are also seen. Typically a ripe habanero is 2–6 centimetres (0.8–2.4 in) long. Habanero chili peppers are rated 100,000–350,000 on the Scoville scale.[3]

The exact origins of the pepper are unknown, but some speculate that it originated in South America and migrated north to Mexico and the Caribbean via Colombia; an intact fruit of a small domesticated Habanero was found in Pre-ceramic levels in Guitarrero Cave in the Peruvian highlands and was dated to 6500 B.C.[4] Upon its discovery by Spaniards, it was rapidly disseminated to other adequate climate areas of the world, to the point that 18th-century taxonomists mistook China for its place of origin and called it “Capsicum chinense”—the Chinese pepper.[5][6][7]

The Habanero is often mistakenly referred to as the hottest pepper in the world; that honor currently belongs to the “Butch T” cultivar of Trinidad Scorpion.

Colombia and parts of the United States including Texas, Idaho, and California. While Mexico is the largest consumer of this spicy ingredient, its flavor and aroma have become increasingly popular all over the world.

Habaneros are an integral part of Yucatecan food. Habanero chilies accompany most dishes in Yucatán, either in solid or purée/salsa form.

The Scotch bonnet is often compared to the habanero since they are two varieties of the same species but have different pod types. Both the Scotch bonnet and the habanero have the characteristic thin, waxy flesh. They have a similar heat level and flavor. Although both varieties average around the same level of heat, the actual degree of “heat” varies greatly from one fruit to another with genetics, growing methods, climate, and plant stress.

The habanero’s heat, its fruity, citrus-like flavor, and its floral aroma have made it a popular ingredient in hot sauces and spicy foods. Habaneros are sometime placed in tequila or mezcal bottles, particularly in Mexico, for a period ranging from several days to several weeks, to make a spiced version of the drink.

- Wikipedia

Okay so now let’s get down to brass tacks. I LOVE hot sauce. Tapatio, Cholula, Tabasco, Frank’s Red Hot; you name it, I love it. I put it on french fries, chicken fingers, sometimes burgers or corn on the cob or even pizza. I make hot chicken subs with it (coating fried chicken cutlets with plenty of hot sauce, then putting them on toasted hoagie rolls, covering them with mozzarella & broiling them for a few minutes… yum). I love Buffalo wings. I love salsa or barbecue sauce with a little kick. I like Cajun spicy shrimp & chicken. I’m definitely one of those people who likes some heat, unlike Jay who is hot sauce phobic. He won’t admit it, but he really doesn’t like things that are too hot (except for me- HAHA… kidding) or spicy. He has a more sensitive palate to it I guess, because things that I find somewhat mild he finds pretty hot. He likes mild Buffalo wings or hot sauce, nothing too crazy. Whereas I’m willing to try just about anything with a kick and most of the time I’ll love it. So sadly, I’m the only one around here who really likes the hotter side of things.

The first harvest of 4 Hab’s… the next week gave me 6 more!

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When I bought my Habanero pepper plant, which was totally on a whim, I brought it home & planted it and then thought, “What am I going to do with this thing!?” It’s not really the kind of pepper most people want to happen upon in their salsa. Habanero’s rate as one of hottest peppers on the Scoville scale at a whopping 100,000–350,000! Just to put that in perspective, a Jalapeno is about 2,500 – 8,000. Habanero’s are pretty intense. There are only 5 things hotter on the Scoville, one of them being 100% pure capsaicin (the element that makes peppers hot) and another is law enforcement grade pepper spray. Think about that for a second. Yeah. Exactly.

Funny thing is, they’re unassuming little things. Small, cute little orange peppers that all but beg you to try them. Even a little backyard creature around here was fooled- one was bitten off the plant and then tossed aside right near it with one teeny little bite mark. I feel bad for that poor rabbit or squirrel. I hope they had some sour cream or whole milk laying around to soothe the burn!

So basically, I was at a loss as to what to do with my Habanero’s. And as they grew & grew, I started to think more about them, and when I realized I’d get way more than one or two this season, I started to really think. There are tons of hot sauce recipes out there, and they’re all awesome sounding. Especially one by Rick Bayless. But I wanted more than just a hot sauce recipe that would make 8 jars of super hot sauce that only I would eat. Plus, isn’t that what everyone would do with hab’s? So cliched. But then… then I found out about this Habanero jelly from the meaning of pie. Habanero jelly, made with sugar. Hot & sweet? Sounds good to me. Not too much crazy mouth-burning heat? Sounds even better, as I can give it as gifts. I quartered this recipe and used quilted 8 oz. jelly jars, which gave me a total of two jars (or 16 ounces). Don’t ask about the math or how that worked out like that. It just did.

Upside down jars..

Right side up jars!

All labeled & ready to go…

HABANERO JELLY (courtesy of the meaning of pie)

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup habanero pepper, seeds and stems removed (please wear gloves while doing this!)*
  • 1 apple, peeled and cut up**
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 5 cups sugar
  • 1-½ packets Certo liquid pectin (6 oz.)
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

Directions:

  1. In a large pot of simmering water, sterilize six 8 oz. jars. Leave the jars in the water until you are ready to use them. You will need tongs or other long grabbing device to remove them from the hot water.
  2. Place the habanero peppers and apple in a food processor. Add the vinegar and process until fine.
  3. In a heavy, non-aluminum saucepan, combine the processed peppers and apples, water and sugar. Bring to a boil and cook for one minute (it takes about 15 minutes to get it to simmering and an additional minute to get it to boiling on my stove). Take abundant care at this stage. You need to be present to adjust your stove as the syrup bubbles. It can quickly boil over which is not only exceptionally dangerous, but very messy.
  4. Meanwhile, pour boiling water over the lids and screw bands in a small bowl. Leave them in the hot water until you are ready to use them.
  5. After the syrup has boiled for one minute, remove it from heat and stir in the pectin. Then, return to heat and boil one minute longer.
  6. Remove the mixture from heat and let it sit for 5 minutes. Using a wooden spatula or other tool, skim off any foam or white film that accumulates on top. Use a light hand when doing this, as a large proportion of the peppers tries to get stuck in the foam. Removing too much of the pepper bits will reduce the heat of the jelly. Stir in chopped rosemary.
  7. Ladle the jelly into sterilized jars. Wipe the rims of the jars and dry the lids and screw bands. Seal the jars. Place sealed jars upside down on a towel. Leave them inverted for approximately 20 minutes and then turn them upright. To distribute the peppers and rosemary equally, turn the jars occasionally until the jelly sets.
*I quartered the recipe, so I used about 2 habaneros, the full recipe would need 8-9.
**With the apple, I literally peeled it, cored it, halved & then halved it again and used one quarter of it.
 
 
 
 

The coolest thing was that the peppers & the rosemary both came from my own garden (yes, the photo up there is my hab plant, and those perfect little habanero’s are actually mine!). What a feeling of accomplishment that is.

After making that jelly, I brainstormed another. I ended up with 6 more hab’s not long after and I needed to use them up. I decided to make something even sweeter, a little tangy-er, a little more like a salsa/jelly hybrid. I decided after doing some research to use pineapple. Pineapple & habanero is a fantastic combination. Of course, the pineapple did not come from my garden, it came from Dole. I’m not giving that recipe because it needs a little work & a little tweaking. It was delicious, but needs something else. But if you’re a habanero fan who likes to make jellies, you can probably figure out how to make it without my instructions. Anyway I still had a habanero (actually two) left over, so I made some hot pickle chips, except I didn’t make them into chips, just halves. What can I say? I had to. I had to make pickles. One jar I cut off the ends, the other I left them on. I’m curious to see the difference in texture, since I’ve always read that the blossom ends left on make a mushy pickle. Hmm. We shall see!

Marc’s spicy pickle chips recipe can be found here!

One little phrase of valuable advice: when cutting hot peppers, wear gloves. Thick gloves. Do not cut hot peppers without gloves on. And if you’re really sensitive, wear goggles. No shit. I also recommend you have unflavored vodka nearby just in case you get any pepper on your body. Alcohol dissolves the capsaicin (so do fats, like high-fat sour cream & whole milk, which you could also use). Regular hand soap will not help you. Trust me on this one. If you do happen to get it on your hands or arms, soak ‘em in vodka or milk for a while, rinse, repeat, and then wash them. You shouldn’t smell the pepper smell or sense a ‘burning’ anymore. Also, thoroughly clean your blender/food processor. The last thing you want is to make a smoothie or grind up some almonds & get a nasty surprise.

I haven’t tried the rosemary Habanero jelly yet, but supposedly spread on a Triscuit with cream cheese, it’s divine. My mother tells me the pineapple-habanero one is terrific with tortilla chips; surprisingly sweet as well as hot.

As far as the pickles.. well… They’re really hot (and aren’t mushy, either). Tears came to my dads eyes. So unless you really love hot stuff, it might be a bit much. Maybe use half a hab in each jar? The sugar really balances the other two of these recipes out, so give them a shot with all those Habanero’s you probably have ready to go in your garden! I promise, you won’t need to drink a half-gallon of milk afterwards.