feeling hot-hot-hot: harvesting the jalapeno peppers

When my jalapeno plants became so heavy with peppers that they keeled over, I knew it was time to harvest.  With

growing grace farm jalapenos ready for drying

only 3 leggy bushes, I ended up with close to 60 emerald green spicy treats.  After putting a few aside for my spicy pickled okra, I decided to dry the peppers to include in holiday homesteading gift bags.  I will admit, however, my curiosity was piqued-what else could I do with jalapenos?

Before I list my items, I’d like to impart some wisdom about working with spicy peppers.  Unfortunately, I learned that lesson twice–once, shame on you and twice, shame on me.  As a child, I decided to go out back and play in my Pop’s pepper plants and “cook” them for my stuffed animals.  Not knowing their capacity to burn, I tore them apart and created a beautiful cake with red and yellow “sprinkles.”  I then proceeded to wipe the Florida heat and sweat off my face, and ta-da, let the burn begin.  I remember stumbling inside and having my mom pick me up only to dunk me in a sink full of ice water.  Second time occurred while I was canning blackberry jalapeno jam on a hot July night 2 summers ago.  Again, wiping sweat off my face led to the sudden sensation of deja vu.  Argh!

To that end, here’s what I suggest–wear gloves, wash EVERYTHING with oil-cutting soap and vinegar, and never touch anything until you do.  Should you make that mistake, smear as much sour cream or yogurt on your face that will stay there.  It will pull the sting out.  Water only makes it burn more.  Just sayin’!

Another quick tip–the seeds contain more heat than the pepper themselves.  Want some flavor without the heat?  Scrape out the seeds OR infuse the pepper by soaking it in your soup, jam, oil, tequila for a bit then remove.

So here goes–a list of goodies to prep.  Should you need recipes, there are thousands online.  Clearly, there are some jalapeno lovers out there.

1. Cornbread and grits–any Southerner who loves bar-b-q has inevitably had jalapeno cornbread or grits as a side dish.  Great way to add some zip.

2.  Pickled or canned–got a friend who loves spicy canned goods?  These maintain some great crispness while biting back.

3.  Soups/stews–needless to say, chili or black bean soup are ideal, but even a little in marinara sauce or chowder can create a whole new level of intensity

4.  Dips/hummus–combined with the cool sour cream or rich hummus, jalapenos help dips become the “new salsa.”

5.  And speaking of salsa–’nuff said!  (Except, I had a friend make a great salsa with plums instead of tomatoes, and it

jalapenomadness.com

was amazing!)

6.  Omelets/eggs–if you like a Southwestern feel in your breakfast meal, you gotta have some jalapeno.

7.  Fish/beef/chicken/pork–nothing says summer like a marinade with lime, jalapeno, olive oil, and salt.  Mmmmm!

8.  Cheese–I love a spicy cheese (jalapenos in cream cheese or goat cheese) with my blackberry jam on top–forget the cracker and spread on a sweet apple slice.  You’ll never desire another appetizer again.

9.  Fruit salad–when we have Mexican food for dinner, I love to make what I call a Mexican fruit salad (as a shout out to the Mexican fruit I ate at the Brownsville, TX flea market several summers ago).  In a bowl, combine cantaloupe, watermelon, pineapple, and honeydew melon.  Dice up a little jalapeno pepper and toss in.  Squeeze the juice of at least one fresh lime over the fruit.  Sprinkle some salt and powdered cayenne pepper, and voila!  Delicious on a hot summer night.

10.  Jams/Preserves/Jellies–I could go on and on and on here, but in short–any berry paired with a few jalapenos soaked in the pot takes on a smoky, spicy flavor that makes for amazing appetizers and delicious marinades/salad dressings.

11.  And last but not least, what’s not to love about a jalapeno adult beverages?!  Soak a couple of peppers for at least 4

dreampretty. blogspot.com

hours in a bottle of tequila or vodka then use to make margaritas, martinis, etc. Instead of a lime, use a large jalapeno slice on the edge of the cup or floating on top of the drink.

As for drying jalapenos, I prefer using my dehydrator, but you can also air dry or use your oven on a low temperature.  Just like sundried tomatoes, you can throw them in your winter recipes, and they will rehydrate.  Just remember that they will be spicy so start small then gradually up the amount you add.

I will admit, however, after listing all of the choices above, I am starting to rethink drying all that I harvested!

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