Monday, August 8, 2011

Mucho Nacho

I think I may have been a bit overambitious with the jalapenos this year.

I’m not much of a gardener. The great outdoors don’t really fit into my definition of an ideal day in any meaningful way and the idea of voluntarily spending hot sunny afternoons digging in the dirt when there are books to be read and iced tea to be consumed is just one of those mysteries I would really prefer not to explore. That and I have no idea what constitutes a weed and what doesn’t. It all looks like an undifferentiated carpet of green to me, and whenever I am tasked with weeding invariably something that should have stayed firmly rooted in the earth ends up wilting forlornly off to one side.

But Kim loves to garden. She is, in fact, seriously considering cashing in our life savings in order to buy the neighbor’s foreclosed house, in large part because doing so will enable her to garden close to home rather than out at the Community Garden, tucked between the highway and the jail.

It’s one of those things we just agree to disagree about.

So in order to entice me to be part of the gardening experience, Kim always lets me plant some hot peppers. This year I went big into jalapenos, because they are tasty and easy to grow and I have at least a 50-50 chance of figuring out when they are ripe enough to pick and not so ripe that I have to mulch them. They are a forgiving pepper that way.

And a prolific one, it turns out. Especially since we ended up with about a dozen jalapeno plants, each of which is capable of supplying the jalapeno needs of a small Mexican province. You know those canvas supermarket bags they sell now in order to get you to stop using the plastic or paper ones? I filled one of those about halfway last week with jalapenos.

I gave away about 2.5 pounds of them to a friend who volunteered to take some off my hands, and that left me with a shade over 5 pounds of jalapenos to figure out what to do with.

Just think! In 40-60 days, I get to do this all over again!

Last year I made nacho slices – pickled jalapeno slices that I actually managed to can without burning down the house. They’re good but a bit on the hot side even for me, which means that I don’t go through them very quickly. I still have a further year’s supply of them down in the basement.

So this year I’m making my own jalapeno hot sauce. On Saturday I hauled the food processor outside (I have been forever banned from processing hot peppers in any form inside the house now that the paint has stopped peeling from the last time I tried it) and ground up my 5lbs of jalapenos and a pile of salt into a paste. Today I hauled out the paste and added 10 cups of white vinegar. Now it’s sitting down in the basement fermenting until the weekend when I will once again try to preserve things without burning down the house or peeling the paint.

Assuming the whole thing doesn’t just erupt in a green spray of spicy lava in the interim.

If you don’t hear from me after Saturday, please send a rescue squad and a bag of tortilla chips.


KimK said...

I'll help you can jalapeno sauce if you help me can tomatoes! (If they ever ripen!)


Tom said...

Howdy, podner! Texas Tom here (by way of Boston). Now I loves me some picante sauce, medium by choice, and I realize that the people at Pace need jalapenos in some form or other to mix in with their sauce, but the idea of free-range jalops, and herding and killing and skinning them yourself just puts me right off my feed. I've heard of some pretty radical vegans who don't think anything of callously gutting and skinning them poor little veggies, but us sensitive omnivorous types prefer not to think about what we know has to happen to get us our daily roughage ration. I prefer to think that God just provides us our chilis in a natural canned or bottled state, ready to provide the right spice to salsa, or burritos, or even a rightous taco salad. After all, spice is the variety of life!

But the fact that you extreme Northernites seem to be able to handle wild jalapeno chopping, slicing, and dicing just naturally shames me. So I'm moved to ask. I understand the puree and the salt, but the sugar? Are you planning to ferment some jalops? Hoo-ee-boy! How come nobody ever had that thought before? I mean, jalapeno liquor, that's kingly, that is! How did you far Northers come up with such an exciting idea, and how the heck did you keep it secret from us more natural jalapeno-eating, hard-liquor-drinking Southron types?

Would it be possible for you to set down y'all's receipe for fermented boracho jalapenos? Much obliged.

David said...

Howdy, Tom!

We hard-boiled Northern types just enjoy listening to the screams of the veggies as an accompaniment to our meals - it warms our shriveled little hearts on those cold winter nights.

Although in this case, all I did was wash them, chop off the ends (oooh, just had some unwanted imagery there ... moving right along) and throw them into the food processor.

There is no sugar in the recipe I'm using. I tried one that had sugar two years ago and it was fine, but not this time. I suppose it was the word "ferment" that made that confusing.

This is the recipe I'm using (for the first time, so I'll let you know how it turns out):

1 lb jalapenos, washed and dried.
3 Tbsp Kosher salt
2 cups white vinegar

[multiplied by 5, since I had 5lbs of jalapenos]

1. Cut off ends of peppers.
2. Put peppers into a food processor with the salt and grind into a paste.
3. Scrape paste into a glass or enamel pot/bowl, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and store in a cool, dark place for two days.
4. Whisk in vinegar. Reseal with plastic wrap and place back in cool, dark place for 5 days.
5. Strain through a fine mesh strainer or equivalent. Ladle into bottles and preserve like any other canned vegetable.

I just finished step 4. I'll keep you posted on how it turns out.

Tom said...

Very interesting All hyperbole aside, I appreciate the receipe, but still have some questions.

I swear that when I first read the post, I saw 5 lbs of sugar in there somewhere. I have gone back over the post, and , much to my surprise, I can't find hide nor hair of any mention of sugar. Hmmmph. I'm beginning to think you're just trying (successfully, I might add) to trick me into thinking my memory is, ahh, something. Any way.

Regardless of whether or not sugar was or wasn't originally included, the pure thought of making jalapeno liquor (or even liqueur) is mind-grabbing! I was surprised at how good jalapeno jelly was once I tried it. I'll bet them little chilis might do fairly well in the fermentation department. But I'm a 20-year-sober alcoholic, so you may discount my maunderings about substances in which I no longer partake.

So, to the concoction. I think I was fooled by you calling it "hot sauce". I translated that into "hot salsa" which is jalapenos mixed with such things as onions, tomatos, and other peppers (Bell or otherwise). Instead, I now have an idea you're talking a green Tabasco-ish kind of thing. I did not know something like that would require canning. You have opened my eyes, sir.

Cutting off the ends of the peppers. For some reason I had the front ends in mind, and I wondered why. Now I figure it's the back ends. Duh!

Salty paste. I guess that would be like brine-curing. For a couple of days. OK!

Vinegar. I think this is where I saw the sugar. Really, sugar. I'm not kidding! You're hiding it somewhere, aren't you?

Before I got the sauce figured out, I wondered why you'd want to strain it. I was thinking the paste would end up being the final product. I didn't have a clue what that final product would be used for, but there you go. I thought something like Vegamite, or Marmite. Spread on a piece of bread. Again, duh!

Now I see that the essence of briney jalapeno is leached out by the vinegar, and you have pure nectar of jalapeno left over. Jalapeno hot sauce.

So what the heck do you do with that stuff? No, never mind. I'm sure I can answer that question my self. What I really want to know is how long it will be good for, because it seems you'll have several years worth of hot sauce. Good luck using that stuff up. If it gets to be too much for you, you could always send a bottle my way.

So, thanks for the receipe, and the opportunity to get to know you better.

David said...

Well, congratulations on two decades sober! That’s an achievement worth some respect.

I like jalapeno jelly as well – some of that with some cream cheese on a good cracker, and that’s good stuff. I’ve never tried to make that, but maybe later this summer I will. I’ll certainly have enough jalapenos. The idea of jalapeno liqueur (or perhaps jalapeno-infused vodka) also has a certain, if somewhat niche, appeal. I’m not much of a drinker myself, but I’d be willing to give that a try. I wonder if anyone has published any recipes for it.

Now I’ve got a project. ;)

This is in fact a Tabasco-like sauce I’m aiming for. You don’t have to can hot sauce – the last batch I made was a refrigerator batch (and had sugar, now that I think about it) – but it lasts longer if you do. I have no idea how much I’m making, but my guess is that it will be a lot. I bought a flat of 4-oz jars, and I’m expecting to fill them up. I will probably consume it, too – I use hot sauce like most people use ketchup; it’s just a condiment to put on everything from hot dogs to nacho chips. But I tell you what – send me your address at the email on the side, and if it comes out at all palatable, I’ll send you a jar.

Tom said...

Thanks for the offer. E-mail sent.