Friday, August 20, 2010


It does seem like awhile since I've sat in the warm glow of the little netbook here... I was out of town, which for me usually translates to "at the farm". My Parents' place about 3 hours west of here is just about as perfect as a respite can be, a gracefully aging (and continually improving) farmhouse with plenty of acreage for a city bred Boy-O to cut his country chops.

Western Wisconsin has had a very rainy summer, so much rain that most of the carefully groomed gardens in the area have been overtaken with weeds, if not been totally destroyed by flooding. Some garden crops in some gardens didn't take, but fortunately for everyone, there are plenty of people willing to swap, share or sell. August in the country is a continual reminder of the bounty of harvest time - and it starts to feel impossible that fresh veg will again be out of reach before we know it.

My Parents planted 8 jalapeno plants, and had a scarce handful of fruit as their yield. I didn't really know that I would be in for 2 days of jalapeno processing, but when you happen to ask, sometimes your dreams can come true. Many of the family farms in the Amish community have taken to opening self-serve and on-your-honor farm stands. Tuesday morning, before heading back to the city, my Mom and I went to one on one of my favorite ridges - Irish Ridge - intent on getting another super sweet watermelon from such a stand. When you have an exceptional melon, you tend to remember where you got it! That is certainly the way of the Amish farm stand. We asked about the pesticide situation, and found that that while not "organic", they didn't spray any of their melons or peppers - and then by accident my Mom asked if they had jalapenos.

Most of the Amish community is just plain amazing to me. Ideology aside, I am impressed and continually aghast at the sheer amount of work they are able to do in a growing season. They have large families, and they can up enough fruit, veg, and meat to last an entire year. Summer's work is usually never an excuse to talk to a neighbor, however, and the slow, quiet way of life seems like something I could get used to real easy. The Amish are unaffected by such trendy ideas as "eating local" and "organic and sustainable" agriculture. Most of them practice these gospels by necessity, and a greater amount of them than I realized are against chemical pesticides and fertilizers.

One peck of sliced peppers: 8 lbs of heat!

When asked how many peppers I needed for canning, I just knew I wanted "a LOT". "Well, how many peck do you want?" An Amish woman asked me, and showed me a box that was the equivalent of one peck. I "erred on the side of gluttony", and said 2 boxes - having no real idea the weight on a peck. She sent a family member out to the garden to pick them as we waited on the side of the road, noting the quiet, the horses, the children scampering who also have a work-minded purpose to their days. My two pecks of jalapenos ended up being 16 lbs of peppers, and here is what I did with them:

Just as I was about to pull out of the driveway, we were talking about slicing that mountain of peppers. My Mom ran back in to get her V-Slicer to lend me. Made of blue carbon steel, the blade is stationary - a dangerous piece of kitchen equipment that she has used ever since I can remember. On scanning the packaging, I love to notice the way that advertising has changed over the years. I can not think of a recent example that would feature a working woman's hands, and the hands of a woman that show a wedding ring, no less. There are a few water spots on the box, but I assure you that the original image does not show the mitts of a 20-something parts model... those spots are hard earned.

The V-slicer did fairly quick work of slicing the peppers, and thanks to their handy stems, I didn't worry too much about the lack of a safety guard. I shielded my hands with non-latex food prep gloves, hoping to avoid the burn of capzasin, but a couple of knocks against the blade and the sterility was breached: jalapeno juice stinging my digits for the rest of the evening, it's warfare reminding me every time I forgot and rubbed my eyes.

The candied jalapenos I made last year were quite a bit different. The process as well as the proportions were different than the recipe I used this year. I used a different recipe primarily because I couldn't find the one from last year, and it turned out to be a good thing. The jars filled more full, and the texture is more akin to the ones I've had commercially from the West Allis Cheese and Sausage Shop. Don't let the canning stop you from making them: if you don't feel like canning, simply fill the jars and keep them in the fridge. They should stay fresh and well preserved for at least a couple of months, probably longer. My yield for a double recipe (6 lbs of peppers) was 7 pints.

Candied Jalapenos (adapted from Foodie with Family, via Tasty Kitchen)
  • 3 pounds firm, fresh jalapeno peppers, washed and sliced about 1/8 inch thick
  • 2 cups cider vinegar
  • 6 cups white granulated sugar

In a large pot, bring cider vinegar and white sugar to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the pepper slices and simmer for exactly 4 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the peppers, loading into clean, sterile canning jars to within 1/4 inch of the upper rim of the jar.

Turn up the heat under the pot with the syrup and bring it to a full rolling boil. Boil hard for 6 minutes.

Using a ladle, pour the boiling syrup into the jars over the jalapeno slices. Insert a chopstick (or a small icing spatula) to the bottom of the jar two or three times to release any trapped pockets of air. Adjust the level of the syrup if necessary. Wipe the rims of the jars with a clean, damp cloth and top with new lids and rings to finger-tip tightness.

Place jars in a simmering hot water bath canner with water to cover the jars by 2-inches. When it reaches a full rolling boil, boil 10 minutes for half-pints (8 oz) or 15 minutes for pints (16 oz). When timer goes off, transfer the jars to a cooling rack. Leave them to cool, without moving, for 24 hours.

I think that adding the sliced peppers to the boiling brine made for a much better end result. My peppers were very big, and due to the aforementioned rain, were nearly splitting their skins. They were, however, super firm and super hot, so they should mellow out into perfectly wonderful candied jalapenos. The Pioneer Woman recommends saving the leftover brine for use in potato salad or marinating a roast (sparingly, I think, since it was wicked hot), and I did can up one pint and one half pint. I figured I could always use a little spicy hot kick in the depths of winter... I used the 15 minute time recommend to can both the pint and half pint at the same time.

Math savvy readers will note that since I made a double recipe, I still had 2 lbs of sliced peppers to contend with. As the evening wore into late night territory, I used them to make another of my favorite things: escabeche. A favorite Rick Bayless recipe of mine uses fresh ingredients to approximate what I added to my jars - I figured a few pints of these would make quick tacos sometime in the future... mixed with other ingredients or even just beans and rice. I used my Mom's recipe for the brine, which is easily doubled, tripled, quadrupled, etc. The amounts listed gave me exactly 4 pints with no leftover veg, and just a smidge of leftover brine.

Escabeche (Canned)

for the Veg:
  • 2 lbs. fresh jalapenos, sliced about 1/8 inch thick
  • 2 carrots, sliced about 1/8 inch thick
  • 2 onions, sliced about 1/8 inch thick
  • 4 t. Mexican oregano
  • 4 cloves of garlic, each sliced in half
for the Brine: (proportions for 4 pints, this is a triple recipe of my Mom's brine)
  • 3/4 c. olive oil
  • 3/4 c. water
  • 3 c. white vinegar
  • 1 T. (3 t.) canning salt
Pack sterile jars with veg, putting 1 t. of Mexican oregano and 1 clove of garlic in each. Make sure to get a variety of vegetables in each jar.

Bring brine to a full rolling boil. Fill jars to within 1/4 inch of top. Wipe rims, and seal with new lids and rings to finger-tip tightness. Process in boiling hot water bath for 10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. (Remember not to start the timer until the water comes back to a rolling boil.) Do not disturb for 24 hours.

I left the other 8 lbs of jalapenos until yesterday to process, and did another 6 pounds into candied jalapenos. Yes, I now have 14 jars of candied jalapenos - on top of the Mexican Pickled Veg and now the Escabeche. Guess I got my spicy fix taken care of!

I probably had *just* a few more peppers than I actually needed, and may have started to cause myself unnecessary stress in how to prepare them. But when the work is complete, and I see them all on the counter, ready for the journey to the basement shelves, it feels so good and satisfying that all of that melts away into oblivion. Granted, I would probably need to eat peppers every single day for the next year to get to the end of my stash alone, but now I have plenty for sharing, and even for perhaps a CakeWalk Giveaway sometime in the near future!

I have a lowly 2 pounds of jalapenos left on my counter, whole ones that are beautifully unblemished from overgrowth. Monica just shared a family giardinera recipe with me, that I'm hoping maybe to make, but I need a few days of rest from those hot beauties. I hope they will still be ready to use early next week. And, hopefully Monica will be up for a canning party so she can keep most of the jars. Otherwise, the Comet will have to contend with RCakeWalk for The Buttafuoco!


  1. I am swooning over those peppers -- all of them! We love escabeche and have made large batches before (though I really ought to can some)... and I'm very much looking forward to making some of those candied jalapenos!

    BTW, Peef has taken to using the leftover sweet jalapeno brine in bloody marys and the practice has improved his recipe hundred-fold!

  2. I so need to do this! I feel like I am going to miss the bounty if I don't get to the markets or farmer stands soon. Thanks for the inspiration and beautiful story!

  3. That is a thing of beauty! I am totally impressed with the quantity. I can't help but have those gluttonous feelings as well. And, I turn into a baby when I rub my eyes after pepper slicing. What a trooper!

  4. wow, that is a lot of jalepenos, enough to scare a girl like me who is afraid of heat! i did a similar amount of tomatoes last weekend and i was completely worn out after! and that was with help!!
    i love the v-slicer box!

  5. Can you tell me why they are called "candied jalapenos?"

    Thank you,

  6. Cathy,
    They are called candied since their canning juice is mostly sugar, and "gelatinizes" if you will the jalapeno pepper. The peppers are still hot, but they are very sweet, thus candied! They are probably my most favorite home-canned thing!

  7. Just found your blog, had to comment at the Feemster! I just got one for slicing things uniformly for dehydrating since most mandolins wouldn't give me a thick enough apple slice :) It's working out great this summer for pickles, too. A cut-resistant glove from Amazon certainly helps, too, frankly I'm scared silly of pickling a nice slice of thumb every time I take it out of its box.

  8. Loving these, putting them on just about everything!


Communication is a good thing, most of the time...