Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Final harvest. I think.

There's still some green parsley out there, which I may or may not cut and dry. If not, then yesterday's project was, indeed, the final harvest of 2011.

Half of the total yield.
And more than a year's supply.
I bought a six-pack of jalapeno pepper plants in the spring. One plant would have been plenty, but they were available in six-packs for, oh, a couple bucks, probably way less than that. I stuck them in the garden and watched them grow. And grow. And produce dozens of peppers per plant. More peppers than I can use and more peppers than I could give away.

I let them go from dark green to chili-pepper red, picking the nicest ones and leaving the remaining plants in the ground. I'll get rid of them next spring. That's the kind of fall gardener I am: If I can't deal with it right away, it'll be there next year. Kind of like dust bunnies under the bed.

So these peppers have been sitting in a basket on my porch for a couple months, not rotting but not drying, either. Yesterday I decided to move the process along and make my own crushed red pepper. I predict it will be much hotter than your typical supermarket variety.

Stop me if you've heard this one before: Be sure to wear rubber gloves when handling hot peppers. Also? To reduce the heat, discard the seeds. The flesh of the pepper will be strong enough to add all the heat you need. Unless you have a cast-iron stomach.

Did I wear rubber gloves when I started this project yesterday morning? No, I did not. Which meant, had you been my sous chef, you'd have found me scrubbing my hands, nails and face with a brush before I was finished. You have no idea how many times you touch your face, especially when you're handling jalapenos. (I guess if you'd been my sous chef, you would have been scrubbing your face. But you probably would have been smart enough to wear rubber gloves.)

Stemmed, split, into the oven.
I first cut the stems off, then sliced each one in half, keeping the seeds because all the crushed red pepper I've ever seen has seeds in it. I then placed them on a rack on a cookie sheet that went into a low oven (150°) mid-morning. I saved one pepper to add to a bean-and-sausage stew I was making for dinner. I discarded the seeds and diced half of it very finely. The stew was, um, plenty hot with just half a small diced seeded pepper.

Half a day later.
I began to rethink my keep-the-seeds plan. Oh, well. Too late.

The peppers continued to dry overnight on the counter and this morning I put the food processor to work again. It took a couple minutes to crush them to the desired size. In fact, some of the pieces are still a little large. But look at how pretty this is! Crushed red pepper from the store isn't this vibrant or richly colored. I'm making barbecued beef (I added smoked paprika, crushed red pepper and about a teaspoon of horseradish to the sauce ingredients) for dinner tonight; I'll let you know how it tastes.

What would I do without a food processor?
I need to add a condiment shelf to the freezer. Or maybe a small box. It seems like the freezer would be the best place to store this, given that some pieces of the final product are still a little flexible. I wouldn't want to grab a jar of crushed rotten red pepper this winter when I want to make chili.

In addition to the crushed red pepper and horseradish, I keep ginger and sun-dried tomatoes in the freezer. And probably other stuff I've forgotten about.

Like dust bunnies.


Anna said...

i never even thought of trying to make my own chili peppers. very cool.

Shauna said...

You were already my gardening hero but this is just off the charts! How cool :)