Monthly Archives: September 2014

A Spicy Pickle: Jalapeños!

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With harvest season well under way, a particular nursery rhyme goes through my head as I begin to fill my basket with a particular type of produce.  I will give you a hint using the words of Mother Goose:

“Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.

A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked.

If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,

Where’s the peck of pickled peppers that Peter Piper picked”?

Yes, we are harvesting some of our hot peppers.  Specifically jalapeños, which are my husband’s favorite when it is canning season.  In fact, he rolls up his sleeves, gets out the water bath canner, mason jars, and takes over canning duty for these little green beauties.

washing jalapeños

washing jalapeños

The recipe is based on the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving (their Hot Pepper recipe).  But darling husband made a few changes based on what he likes.  Without further ado, here is HIS recipe.

Pickled Jalapeño Peppers

  • 5 lbs. jalapeños
  • 10 C. white vinegar
  • 2 C. apple cider vinegar
  • 4 C. water
  • 6 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 10 large garlic cloves, whole  (or one large clove per pint jar used)

Wash peppers to remove any dirt or grit.  Remove stem end.  Slice jalapeños into 1/4″ rings and set aside.  In a large pan combine vinegars, water, and crushed garlic.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.  Discard the crushed garlic.  Pack the jalapeño rings into hot pint jars and place 1 large whole clove of garlic on top, leaving 1/2″ headspace.  Ladle the hot vinegar/water mixture into jars.  Remove air bubbles from jars.  Place lid and rim (2 piece caps) on each jar.  Process 10 minutes in a boiling water bath canner.  Remove jars from canner and wait for the ‘ping’.  This makes 10 pints.

hot pack jalapeños

hot pack jalapeños

These pickles are great on homemade nachos and have much more flavor than the store-bought variety.  They are also a great topper for burgers, hot dogs, brats, or even placed inside a grilled cheese sandwich.

No matter how you slice it, they are one spicy pickle!

 

 

You Can Recondition a Cast Iron Pan

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Not too long ago I did something terrible to a well-loved cast iron pan.  Believe it or not, I forgot to turn off the stove after I made a meal and the pan sat on the burner.  For hours!  Yes folks, it is time for another true confession.

While I would love to say that everything goes smoothly in my kitchen, that is not always the case.  (And I am sure that is true for many people).  One Saturday, I fried eggs in my cast iron skillet.  After removing the eggs from the skillet, instead of turning the burner off, I accidentally increased the temperature of the burner.  The skillet sat that way on the burner for hours!  Fortunately I was home and noticed an odd aroma coming from the kitchen.  There is was.  My beloved pan with a grayish residue on the stove.  A thin veil of smoke in the kitchen.  Crap!

patina burned off cast iron pan

patina burned off cast iron pan

After turning off the stove, I surveyed the damage.  It turns out that I actually managed to burn off most of ‘season’ I had managed to develop on the pan after years of use.  (You can actually see where the pan sat on the burner as the patina was burned off in a nearly complete circle).  But the good news is that the pan was not warped (and the stove was fine), so other than the seasoned finish, everything was okay.

To start the process, I got a woven metal pot ‘scrubber’.  With scrubber in hand, the skillet got a good scrubbing all over (which included some rust as my hubby washed the skillet and allowed it to air dry).  It is worth noting that the finish was burned off both the bottom of the skillet as well as top.  The lovely, sleek black finish was removed from more than 80% of that cast iron piece.

metal scrubber to remove rust

metal scrubber to remove rust

After removing the rust and wiping it off the skillet with a cloth, the next step was to apply an oil.  I chose to go with peanut oil and apply a thin layer to the skillet (top and bottom) with a cloth.  Just a thin layer of oil was applied and it was rubbed into the cast iron.  In case you are wondering, the oil will help keep rust from returning.  And besides keeping rust at bay, this created a slightly shiny black finish to the metal, but I knew that my work was not done.

peanut oil rubbed into cast iron

peanut oil rubbed into cast iron

The cast iron skillet was placed into an oven set at 350F.  After an hour, the oven was turned off and the pan was allowed to cool.  During this time, the oil works its way into cast iron (as the surface is not entirely smooth).

This process was repeated three more times.  Now while you make think that is overkill, it is necessary to help create the beautiful patina of a well-loved and well-used cast iron pan.  This black finish indicates that the pan has been ‘seasoned’ and it ready to use.

after first pass baking in oven

after first pass baking in oven

So while my beloved cast iron skillet still isn’t back to its original state, it is on its way.  After each use, I will clean it, apply more oil, and ‘bake’ it in an oven.  With time it will regain its original glory.  So folks, don’t worry if you have accidentally removed the patina from your cast iron.  You have not ruined the piece.  With a little time and effort, you can restore your cast iron.  Take it from me and my true confession.

Clove Currant: An Heirloom Fruiting Shrub

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harvesting-currants-cr-pmThere is an heirloom fruiting shrub that seems to be, as the saying goes, “Always the bridesmaid, never the bride”.   It is never the one that people clamor for at the nursery, but plays a supporting role to raspberries and even gooseberries.  If only people would stop searching for the most popular shrubs… this quiet beauty could become the star in their own backyard.

Ribes odoratum is commonly known as clove currant.  This is a deciduous shrub (loses its leaves in the fall) that reaches a height of 4′ – 6′ and a similar width.  It can be grown in partial shade to full sun (but fruits better in full sun) and prefers well-drained soil, but will tolerate clay conditions.  This tough shrub is also drought tolerant.  It makes a nice border planting but can also naturalize.

Curious about where it can be grown? Here is great news; this plant does well in USDA hardiness zones 3b – 8b.  This range spans from the southern United States to southern Canada… and even extending north along the Canadian western provinces.

harvesting currents

harvesting currants

Visually, this is an attractive plant.    For starters, it gets our attention in spring with a profusion of lemon-yellow flowers.  If you are standing near the plant or a breeze wafts by, you are treated to a delicious clove aroma.  This spiciness is wonderful and truly unique in the world of fruiting shrubs.   Personally, this is planted just off the edge of my patio purely for the fragrance.  In the fall, the leaves range from yellow to burgundy.

Clove currant is prone to suckering.  However this can be solved through pruning or you can dig up the sucker (leaving the roots attached) and then plant it elsewhere in your garden to create another plant.

As the season progresses, the flowers fade and are replaced by small green fruit and a very blue-green foliage.  As the fruit grows, the arched branches begin to sag under the weight of the fruit.  (Did I mention that is a prolific producer)?  By mid-summer, the fruit begin to darken in color and when August rolls around, the fruit are nearly black in color with just hints of deep purple.  Worth noting is that the fruit ripens unevenly.  This means that there will several pickings before all fruit has been harvested over the course of several weeks.  Ripe fruit will be black in color and have a very sweet flavor.  (Forget what you know about other currants… this does not have a musky taste).  To harvest, simply pluck fruit from the branch.  NOTE: there will most likely be a small piece of stem at the top of the fruit.

ripe currants

ripe currants

 

Since the ripe fruit is sweet, it can be enjoyed eaten fresh.  Though in our household, we prefer to enjoy it in different applications.  Yes, it makes a wonderful jelly, sauce, or even pie, fruit leather, but hands down… it makes a lovely wine.  The fruit can also be dehydrated and then used in homemade granola, trail mix, or even ‘energy’ bars.

For us, it is one of our favorite fruiting shrubs.  And for anyone who has ever harvested from a fruiting shrub, there is a nice perk… it is thornless!  This is a great change of pace from raspberries and gooseberries which means that you don’t have to don a long-sleeved shirt or gloves for harvesting.

If you are in the market for a fruiting shrub, look no further than clove currant.  It is an attractive shrub with yellow flowers that emit a heady, clove aroma.  It is a prolific producer of black, sweet fruit that can be enjoyed fresh or turned into a variety of items.  This is one shrub that will always be in our garden and deserves a spot in yours.