Gardening is one of Bryan and my favorite shared hobbies. Which makes it seem odd that I’ve barely mentioned our garden this year! This season has been one of the craziest I can remember: The “April Showers” lasted well into June. Then it got hot. And dry. Then cold. And sometimes wet again. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to the weather each day. Our hostas got so confused, some of them bloomed twice! The inconsistency was terrible for most of our garden.
But, oh, the Jalapenos!
In 2014, we planted a couple of jalapeno plants, and a sweet and hot banana pepper (along with other veggies). They did okay, but couldn’t keep up with our consumption. We love stuffed jalapenos! Cut them in half length wise, remove the seeds and white membrane, stuff them with cream cheese, wrap them in half a slice of thin, cheap bacon, stick a toothpick through it to hold it all together and throw them on the grill (or in the oven) until the bacon is cooked to your liking. We did the same with the banana peppers, although we mainly grow those for a friend. Sometimes we varied it up, adding spices, chopped green onions, or shredded chicken to the cream cheese. Mmmm!!!
We ate a lot of jalapenos in 2014. And, since our garden couldn’t keep up, that means we bought a lot of jalapenos. So this year, we decided we needed to plant more! We planted 6 regular jalapeno plants, one Mucho Jalapeno, and one Nacho Jalapeno. FYI: We still have no idea what Mucho or Nacho Jalapenos are. They pretty much turned out just like the other jalapenos.
And, as luck would have it, 2015 was a great year for jalapenos for us! Maybe a little too great…
We started getting (and eating!) jalapenos very early in the year. At least once a week we were cooking up stuffed jalapenos. We had parties and made stuffed jalapenos. But no matter how many we ate, the jalapenos kept coming. We gave them away. We ate more. And more! But there are only so many jalapenos that the stomach can handle. Eventually it became clear: We’d planted WAY TOO MANY JALAPENOS!
We were running out of options. So, I took to the internet! What exactly does one do with what was quickly multiplying into hundred of jalapenos? I found an answer: Jalapeno Jelly!
Never heard of jalapeno jelly? Me neither! It sounded totally weird! But, I needed something to do with all the extra jalapenos. And the jelly could be canned, and used over the next year!
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t raised in a home where canning happened; My Mom was a modern woman, who rarely cooked things that didn’t come from a box. I was taught that canning was an exact and delicate science: One wrong move (or ingredient!) and you’d wind up killing your friends and family with botulism. The FDA exists for a reason! But, desperate times call for desperate measures. I couldn’t let our jalapenos go to waste!
In case you’re interested, I followed the recipe at Mel’s Kitchen Cafe for my jalapeno jelly. To the letter, because, you know, botulism!
So, what exactly do you use jalapeno jelly on? Well, pretty much anything! I started putting it on Triscuits with creamed cheese.
We also used it as a dipping sauce for grilled pork. We gave some away to friends. At first, they all thought we were crazy. But then they started trying it on a variety of things: Cheesecake. Chicken. Spoons. Seriously, it’s like crack!
Unfortunately, it only takes 10 jalapenos to make a batch. I had hundreds of jalapenos. Hundreds! There was no way we’d ever use that much jelly! I needed another idea.
Next I tried these pickled jalapenos from Leite’s Culanaria. They kind of have an Asian twist. I liked them, although, if I made them again, I’d probably remove some of the seeds: They were a little spicy for my taste! Unfortunately, they aren’t “shelf stable”, and eight peppers made a little over a pint and a half. Not a lot of help for my hundreds of jalapenos!
Then we tried Candied Jalapenos (AKA Cowboy Candy from Tasty Kitchen). The recipe used 3 pounds of jalapenos! And they could be canned! One batch made around 4 pints. But it took a while to know how they turned out: You’re supposed to wait 2 weeks to 1 month for them to “mellow” before opening.
And? They were pretty awesome! I gave a pint to my sister and her husband, which they (he) polished off in a week. Honestly, they were a little spicy for me. So last weekend I made a second batch, and removed the seeds and white membranes from half the peppers. I’m hoping that will make them about perfect!
The second time around I decided to process them in half pint jars. That way, we can give them away, and people will have an easier time eating them without worrying about them going bad. Have I mentioned my paranoia about killing people off?
But, even with a recipe that called for 3 pounds of jalapenos, we still had a lot left. How much? About four and a half pounds. Plus 3 pounds of banana peppers. As good as the Candied Jalapenos are, I can’t see us eating them all the time. Luckily, I had one option left: Plain, old-fashioned canning. I used the Ball Canning website to find a recipe that would work for both jalapenos and banana peppers.
So, I canned peppers. Lots, and lost of peppers. I processed the peppers in a variety of ways, and used everything from quarter pint to pint jars. Some of the jars we already had, but we did end up buying several sets. Which explains some of our grocery/household spending this Summer. And it went pretty okay! And, so far, nobody has died!
Of course, we still have peppers left; We’ll probably get 50 more jalapenos before the frost hits. Of course, the plants are still blooming, so who knows? Maybe I’ll have to do another round of canning before the season ends?
Anybody want a jar of peppers?
- Cindy W.