The Second Day of Christmas

On the second day of Christmas I began plans for next year…

Peppers are a poppin’–to spread some holiday cheer.

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Although I have claimed this year was the year of the skunk because of Bell’s chance encounter with one early last fall, I could also claim that this year was the year of the pepper. After harvesting more than 1,000 peppers from the garden starting in July, and not picking the last until early November, I’d have to say my pepper crop was a success.

Last spring I planted approximately 35 szegedi, white cloud, and Romanian bell pepper plants, 6 yellow and green bells, and two jalapenos. At least 95% of the peppers I harvested came from the Romanian and szegedi, which was my hope. I canned nearly all of those. The other types were for eating and just a little freezing.

In 2014 I harvested more than 200 jalapeno’s just from two plants and never thought I need to plant them again. Now, however, I can’t wait to plant at least 10 jalapeno’s this spring so I can prepare and freeze the absolute best jalapeno poppers I’ve ever tasted.

For years we have enjoyed the occasional treat of store-bought frozen poppers. I didn’t buy them very often because we try to stay away from processed food as much as possible. The thought of making them myself, however, seemed unrealistic. All I imagined was dropping a cheese filled pepper half, dipped in bread crumbs into my deep fryer and ending up with a pile of goo burning at the bottom.

Experience is a wonderful thing. With all the cooking and experimenting I’ve been doing these past couple of years, I finally felt confident enough to give making my own poppers a try. With experience comes “tricks of the trade” and to make perfect poppers, there is definitely a trick!

I bought a small container of jalapeno peppers, made sure I had enough time to complete the project because doing this right was not going to be short and sweet, and then set to work. The results…perfectly fried poppers pulled from the deep fryer. For the recipe and step-by-step instructions, visit Simply Grateful Cooking Homemade Jalapeno Poppers.

After I was sure that the process and recipe were right, I gave some thought as to how I was going to utilize this recipe next summer. I decided to try freezing a few of the poppers two different ways to see how they would hold up.

First I froze one before I cooked it. The only glitch in doing this I could see was whether or not it would cook through before it browned too much. No problem. It took between 3 and 4 minutes to turn golden brown and the cheese was melted and hot.

The next test was to freeze a deep fried popper and then reheat it. Reheating could be done in two ways: microwave or oven. Both methods worked fine. The microwaved popper heated up faster, but was not as crispy as the oven heated popper, but either way worked great. I microwaved the frozen popper for 1 minute and then 25 second intervals until it was hot and baked the frozen poppers in a 350 oven for 10-12 minutes.

Success! So come this summer I have a new project and a plan. I’m going to plant at least 10 jalapeno pepper plants and hope to harvest 100’s of peppers. I’ll clean, fill, bread, fry, and freeze at least half of them, and then clean, fill, bread, and freeze uncooked the rest. This way I’ll have poppers the kids and Hubby can reheat whenever they want, and I’ll have fresh ones to deep fry next year for holiday entertaining.

What a great way to spend the second day of Christmas – in the kitchen, making something everyone loves, and getting a jump start on my garden plans for the coming spring, and for this I am – Simply Grateful.

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Recipe Catch-Up #2 – Raspberry Jalapeno Spread

When I saw this recipe for a jam combining raspberry with jalapeno peppers, I was intrigued. Thinking back to the Jalapeno Jelly I made last year I wondered if this would be something we would actually eat. Although the jalapeno jelly was good, the uses were limited to a few appetizer recipes or possibly on a bagel with cream cheese.

Being an extreme canner, I had to try it, even if it was only this once.

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Raspberry Jalapeno Spread

4 Cups Strained Raspberry Juice

1 Large Jalapeno Pepper

2 Cups Sugar

1/4 Cup Lemon Juice

5 Tbsp. Clear Jel mixed with an equal amount of water

  • Mince the jalapeno pepper and depending on how spicy you want the jam, remove or add the seeds. The seeds will make it spicier.
  • Combine the raspberry juice jalapeno pepper, sugar and lemon juice in stock pot. Bring to near boil.
  • Add Clear Jel slurry and bring to boil for one minute or until thickened.
  • Remove from heat and ladle into hot jars. Wipe rims, adjust lids, and process in water bath for 10 minutes.

Yield: 7 – 8 oz. Jars

I began tasting this while the spread was cooking and at first the jalapeno taste was not noticeable. I saved a small portion in a bowl while processing the remaining and as it cooled the flavor of the jalapeno began to come through.

Using one jalapeno with no seeds gave it a slight pepper flavor with very little spice. If I were to make this again I would add a few seeds to the spread.

I’ve been eating this spread on toast and find it a unique change from my other spreads. I’m glad I tried this and now have something a little different to share with family and friends, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

A Day Peppered With Peppers

I am absolutely stunned at how many peppers my four little plants are producing.  This morning I harvested 46 jalapeno and 11 green chili peppers and the plants are still full of flowers and peppers.

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I will probably be able to harvest at least that many more jalapeno and double that amount of green chili in the next week.  From what I’ve been reading though, this is only the beginning.  Apparently peppers like a cooler temperature so they should be producing well into September and possibly up to the first frost.  That’s an awful lot of peppers.

I had thought about planting more plants next year, but I think two of each of these kind is more than enough.  I am, however, going to plant many bell varieties as well as some Szeghetis.

Before jumping into canning my peppers this morning, I had to make a run up to the market to pick up a few things for my father’s birthday celebration tomorrow.  Of course I couldn’t let a trip to the market go by without stopping at the clearance rack and lo and behold they had four bags of red bell peppers, two bags of green peppers, and one bag of yellow bell peppers.  It worked out to be about a quarter per pepper and they were beautiful.  I couldn’t pass them up.

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What to do with that many bell peppers?  Well I’m sure there are lots of things that can be done with them, but I needed some for the freezer as my stock was getting low.  I love having them in the freezer for sauces as well as many dinners that I make.  They fry up wonderfully in stir fry, cook up faster for a goulash style stuffed pepper, and the flavor is intense in my spaghetti sauce.

The first step is to cut the peppers, removing all the seeds, and wash them.

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Then I let them dry on the counter for about an hour so there is no water on them.

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Finally I pack them into freezer bags and toss them in the freezer.

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On reading how to freeze peppers, originally I was flash freezing the peppers on cookie sheets and then transferring them to the bags.  I found this an unnecessary step if I just made sure they were dry before putting in the bags — plus I never have enough space in the freezer to put a cookie sheet full of peppers.

As I was cleaning the peppers, I decided this would be a good time to start collecting seeds for next years garden.  I saved four centers from each type of pepper, removed all the seeds and set them out in the sun to dry a bit before bagging them up until spring.

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Once the peppers were clean and drying, I set to work on the jalapenos.  The first batch I picked from the garden I used for Jalapeno Pepper Jelly.  The next few I froze because there weren’t enough to can.  This batch was going to be pickled.  Pickled jalapenos are perfect for using in my salsa recipe.  I canned some earlier in the year when I found a couple quarts on the clearance rack.  They turned out great except that I canned them in pints which turned out to be too large a jar for one recipe of salsa.  This time I used 1/2 pints so there won’t be any leftovers.  They do keep in the fridge up to six months once opened, but I usually forget I have an open bottle and end up opening another.  Then I have two open bottles until I make salsa again.  By then, of course, I’ve forgotten about the two open jars, so I open a third.  Do you see how this can get completely out of hand?  So, 1/2 pint jars it is!

Pickled Jalapeno Peppers

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  • 1/2 Cup Water
  • 1 1/2 Cups Vinegar
  • 1 tsp. Kosher Salt
  • 1 Clove of Garlic for each jar
  • Jalapeno Peppers (the 46 + 8 I had in the freezer made 11 1/2 pints – I tripled the above ingredients)

Combine water, vinegar, and salt in stainless steel pan.  Bring to boil.  Heat jars and lids.

Slice the jalapeno peppers, being sure to use gloves otherwise your hands will burn like the dickens.

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Add one clove of garlic to each jar.  Pack jars tightly with pepper rings, leaving 1/2″ head space.  Ladle hot brine over peppers leaving 1/4″ head space.  Remove air bubbles.  Clean rims and screw on lids.  Process in hot water bath 15 minutes.

This is one of the quickest recipes for canning that I make.  Of course the FIRE! incident did interrupt me a bit while I was filling the jars, but it all worked out in the end.

After the jalapeno were pickled, I set to work on the green chilis.  This is a lot more labor intense and had I not found two bags of cubanellas on the clearance rack, I probably would have just frozen the ones I harvested from the garden.  Instead I fired up the grill and set to work.

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If you’re interested in making canned green  chili peppers, I did a post on these here:

Canning Green Chili Peppers

The 11 green chilis I harvested along with the two bags I bought only yielded four 1/2 pint jars.  A lot of work for so little reward, but they will be wonderful in salsa, chicken enchiladas, and many other meals throughout the winter (or at least four meals).

It was a busy day.  Now I just need to figure out what else to do with the jalapeno peppers that will be harvested for the next month or so.  I’m out of ideas but I’m sure the internet will prevail, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.