Preserved Home: Today’s hot topic? Creative uses for jalapenos

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Preserved Home: Today’s hot topic? Creative uses for jalapenos

You can preserve and use jalapeno peppers in several ways, from dried and powdered to candied. (Photo by Laura Woolfrey-Macklem)

You can preserve and use jalapeno peppers in several ways, from dried and powdered to candied. (Photo by Laura Woolfrey-Macklem)

You can preserve and use jalapeno peppers in several ways, from dried and powdered to candied. (Photo by Laura Woolfrey-Macklem)

You can preserve and use jalapeno peppers in several ways, from dried and powdered to candied. (Photo by Laura Woolfrey-Macklem)

Laura Woolfrey-Macklem

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2013_COLUMN_WOOLFREYWhen you buy produce in bulk, you have to get creative. This is especially true when you buy 17 pounds of something which is used sparingly, such as jalapenos.

My husband likes his food ultra-spicy, and I have to stop him from ruining dishes like my homemade chicken pot pie with hot sauce. Spicy heat is good, but it can quash the integrity of some dishes. On most of my culinary offerings, however, he gets away with dousing dinner with spice. One of my husband’s favorite condiments are pickled jalapenos, which are nearly $2 for a small jar. That won’t do with my grocery budget, so I decided to buy them in bulk, and put up some peppers.

When I had previously pickled jalapenos, I was only dealing with four pounds. I had to think beyond the bine this time because of the amount. I tried to recall ways I used jalapenos, and spice in general. In the end, I successfully used all my peppers, which I can use in a variety of ways.

I got to work straight away with my go-to when preserving in bulk — dehydration. Before dealing with peppers, however, I put on latex gloves and opted for no contact lenses that day, just in case traces of pepper oil made it to my fingertips. Never work with hot peppers without using gloves.

I sliced and dehydrated the peppers, leaving some in slices and making jalapeno powder with some, as well. Both sliced and powdered peppers can be used in soup, chili or stews. Use also as an ingredient for dehydrated camping and backpacking meals. I like to make my own seasoning mixes and will use jalapeno powder in those as well.

To make jalapeno powder, simply put dehydrated jalapenos in a small food processor or blender attachment. To make powders, you need a smaller container and a high-powered motor. I use the Ninja blender single cup to make my powders.

I have been dying to try jalapeno poppers, which are jalapeno halves stuffed with a cream cheese mixture, often wrapped in bacon. With no time to experiment with this recipe, I decided to cut some jalapenos in half, deseed and flash freeze. At some point, I’ll use these jalapenos for poppers. And, if I need fresh jalapenos for a recipe, I have some tucked in the freezer.

While I was at the farmers market, one of my vendors had 21 pounds of heirloom tomatoes that had to be used sooner rather than later, so he gifted those to me. I used these tomatoes and my jalapenos to can salsa for the first time. I used Ball’s Vegetable Salsa recipe, which makes for the best salsa I’ve ever had. I also employed my jalapenos to make mango salsa.

Of course, I pickled several jars of jalapenos but decided to try canning them in two ways. I made the traditionally pickled, and also candied.

Sweet and hot, candied jalapenos are great atop crackers with cream cheese, on sandwiches or in grilled quesadillas. They make for an interesting item on a pickle platter, and all jarred up with a bow, these make great gifts.

The amount of sugar in this recipe is not a typo, it’s just the right amount to add sweet to contrast the spicy.

Canned candied jalapenos

Yields about 7 pints.

3 pounds firm, fresh jalapeno peppers, washed
2 cups cider vinegar
6 cups white granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. celery seed
3 tsp. granulated garlic
1 tsp. cayenne pepper

Sterilize jars, lids and rings. Put latex gloves on. Wash peppers and cut off tops. Cut into slices. I used my food processor, which made very quick work of slicing. Combine all ingredients, except peppers, in a saucepan and bring to a boil, then lower to simmer for five minutes. Add peppers and simmer for four minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, fill jars 1/4 inch to the top. Return liquid mixture to a boil, and cook for six minutes. Then, add hot liquid to jars, still keeping the 1/4 inch space from the top. Use a knife or another tool to poke around the jar to check for air pockets. Add more liquid to maintain the 1/4 inch headspace if necessary.

Wipe rims of the jars clean, and screw on bands and lids. Add pint jars to hot water and bring to a boil. Once the water has come to a boil, process for 15 minutes. After taking jars from water, you should soon hear a “pop!” Try not to disturb jars until completely cooled. All jars with lids popped down are shelf stable.

Laura Woolfrey-Macklem is a former North County resident who produces the Preserved Home blog. Visit www.preservedhome.com. Send questions and comments to columnists@northcoastcurrent.com.

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