Every fall with the threat of frost looming I frantically try to use up the last of my pepper harvest. What were just tiny seedlings a few short months ago are now 4' tall shrubs with thick stalks and branches hanging low, heavy with their hot fruit. I have a habit of planting way more than I need and jalapeños are no exception.
I typically freeze them whole, which is super easy and quick. Last year I invested in a vacuum sealer so with a freezer still full of last fall's well-preserved harvest I decided to try something new. I left many of the pepper this year to ripen into a deep cherry red. They are not only beautiful, but I really enjoy the full flavor and heat of a ripe pepper. My first harvest I decided to dry and chop into red pepper flakes. You can string them up whole and let them dry over several weeks but our Wisconsin summer was very humid this year, so I cheated and went with a food dehydrator. After quickly rinsing and drying I sliced the peppers and laid them in the trays. Over a couple days, checking at least every eight hours, I dried the peppers till they snapped in half when bent. Then into a food processor they went and chopped until the right consistency. This actually makes more of a pepper powder than flake, but the taste is great and so is the heat. I use this on pizza, fried potatoes, and it's my secret ingredient in my chili.
With the last harvest of the fall I decided to make a jalapeño hot sauce. And hot it is. The longer the pepper stays on the plant, the hotter it is, especially if the summer was nice and hot. This hot sauce was simple to make (link to recipe), but mine turned out a nice bright red like I envision a hot sauce to be. I quadrupled the recipe and have ended up now with a lifetime supply. But I love going to my pantry and pulling out homemade, homegrown ingredients. I may be overrun, but these hot beauties will not be going to waste.
Next to be picked, my favorite, earthy poblanos. Any suggestions?
Until next time...