Roasting Fresh Chile Peppers

I love the smell of roasting peppers. My wife and I made a fall trip to New Mexico a few years ago, and it seemed like everywhere we went they were roasting the new crop of chiles. The wonderful aroma permeated the air as the roasters were set up outside supermarkets and on street corners. They were so reasonably priced, it was tempting to buy some and try and bring them home. But I knew I already had plenty NuMex type peppers growing in my own garden. And they would be waiting for me to roast when I got back home from vacation.

Roasting Chile Peppers (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Roasting Chile Peppers (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

In the Southwest they use big, specially made roasters to do the job. At home, you can use the oven broiler or do like I do and use the gas grill. The grill lets you do a larger quantity at one time, and it also helps keep the smell outside just in case you aren’t as fond of the aroma as I am. Today I’m roasting a mix of two varieties: Anaheim and Biggie Chili. You can use any peppers you have available, and I also sometimes roast poblanos/anchos and other New Mexico types.

roasting chiles on the grill

roasting chiles on the grill

Either way you do it, the goal is to char the skin until it is blistered and blackened, but not so much that the peppers are burnt to a crisp. This is the part of the operation that I think smells so good! It doesn’t take long on a hot grill, perhaps five minutes, so check on the peppers after a few minutes of roasting to see how they are coming along. Once they are nicely charred on one side, flip them over and do the other side. This might go even a bit faster, so don’t be tempted to leave them too long!

charred skin of chile pepper

charred skin of chile pepper

I put them on a plate after they come off the grill. Aren’t they pretty? Now it’s back in the house for the next step that will make it easier to get those charred skins off.

roasted chile peppers

roasted chile peppers

After roasting, you want to cover the peppers and allow them to sweat as they cool. This loosens the skins, and makes them much easier to peel. I usually put them in a big metal mixing bowl, and then invert another mixing bowl over the top to make a cover. You can also put them in a plastic bag, or cover them with a damp towel. They should be ready to peel in about 10-15 minutes. It doesn’t hurt if they sit a bit longer though.

sweating the roasted chile peppers to loosen the skins

sweating the roasted chile peppers to loosen the skins

Some people just freeze the roasted peppers whole, skins and all, but I like to skin them and remove most of the seeds before I freeze them. I do put on gloves for the next step of skinning and seeding the peppers. Rubber gloves work, but I prefer a thinner vinyl glove because I find it allows me to have a better feel for what I am doing. And if you don’t wear glasses, you might consider wearing goggles for this task since I have managed to get some of the juice up in my eye and it is no fun!

peeling the roasted peppers

peeling the roasted peppers

After skinning, I split the peppers in half lengthwise and scoop out as many seeds as I can. You can also use a spoon for this if you like, scooping and scraping down the inside of the pepper. I avoid rinsing the seeds off under running water because I don’t want to wash away any of that good flavor.

split chile peppers before seeding

split chile peppers before seeding

At this point, the peppers are roasted, skinned and seeded. If you are going to use them right away, they can be refrigerated and kept for several days. But for longer term storage they need to be frozen.

roasted, skinned and seeded chile peppers

roasted, skinned and seeded chile peppers

I’m going to give these a coarse chop with a knife, and then I will divide them into portions before vacuum sealing them with the FoodSaver.

roasted and chopped green chile peppers

roasted and chopped green chile peppers

After sealing, it’s off to the freezer, where they will keep for at least a year. Of course you can also put them in a freezer bag or other container. The vacuum sealed bags do keep the air out though, and the quality of the peppers after thawing is excellent, as is the flavor.

 

peppers after sealing

peppers after sealing

And what can you do with all those peppers? Roasted chile peppers are great in salsa, sauces, soups and salads. They can also add flavor and a bit of heat to casseroles, cornbread and egg dishes. For me, they are a must for chili and chalupas, as well as for taco and burrito fillings. The flavor is so much better when you roast your own that you might never go back to using canned ones again!

This post was shared at  Green Thumb Thursday, Simple Lives Thursday and Old Fashioned Friday

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Monday Recap: Peppers and Parsley

It would seem that September is prime pepper season here at HA. So many of them are ripening about now, and it has kept me busy with harvesting and processing. Many of them get photographed too, which is partly for my own benefit so I can reference them later on, but then I also like to share them with you all.

I planted three cayenne pepper plants this year. One is called Joe’s Long Cayenne, and those peppers certainly live up to their name, getting around 8″ long. Another is Cayenne Long Red Slim, and it is a productive cayenne, though it is nowhere near as long as Joe’s. The third cayenne is Cayennetta, and I have it growing in a container. In the below photo, from left to right we have Joe’s Long, Long Slim and Cayennetta.

trio of cayenne peppers: Joe's Long(L), Long Slim(M), Cayennetta (R)

trio of cayenne peppers: Joe’s Long(L), Long Slim(M), Cayennetta (R)

I’ve been growing Cayennetta for several years now. It does great in a container, and I can usually count on more than a hundred peppers each year. I haven’t really counted them, but they are truly prolific. The peppers themselves are a tad milder than most cayenne peppers, but still plenty hot. I dehydrated those in the below photo.

Cayennetta peppers

Cayennetta peppers

Another pepper that is called a cayenne type in the catalogs is Maule’s Red Hot. This was a free seed packet given to me this year along with my Seed Savers Exchange order. This pepper was introduced in 1912 by the William Maule Seed Company, and is supposed to be a good pepper for those with short growing seasons. I have to say it was quick to fruit here, and the red hot peppers have a nice crunchy flesh that is thicker than the usual cayenne type, and also not quite as hot. This one is a keeper, and I will probably save seeds from some of the later peppers. Right now I have another use for the ones in the photo below.

Maule's Red Hot pepper

Maule’s Red Hot pepper

I started a batch of fermented hot sauce with the Maule’s Red Hot, trying a little different trick that comes from The Hot Sauce Cookbook by Robb Walsh. He cuts the peppers in half lengthwise, puts them in a stainless steel bowl, then crushes them with a potato masher until they are bruised but still in large pieces. Then you mix with salt, and crush some more. You leave the peppers sit out overnight until liquid forms in the bottom of the bowl, then it’s on to a glass jar for fermenting. After fermenting, you can easily scrape the seeds away from the flesh. With this recipe, you wind up with a fermented pepper mash that can then be used for several hot sauces, or used to make a fermented chili garlic sauce. I’m not sure what my end product will be like just yet, but I will let you know how it turns out.

mashing the pepper and salt mixture

mashing the pepper and salt mixture

I’m growing two NuMex chili peppers this year, Anaheim and Biggie Chili. In the below photo, that’s Anaheim in the top row and Biggie Chili in the bottom row. I plan on drying the ripe ones for chile powder, and roasting the green ones. I’ll be back later this week and show how I go about roasting them. These plants are really loaded this year. There’s almost six pounds of them here in this batch, and there are plenty more peppers coming on the three plants.

Anaheim(top) and Biggie Chili (bottom) peppers

Anaheim(top) and Biggie Chili (bottom) peppers

Another pepper worth noting is the one I am calling Sweet Happy Yummy. This is a ‘rogue’ pepper that first appeared in 2011. It has medium thick sweet orange flesh, and gets to be about 1.5″ wide by 6″ long. I am still trying to stabilize this new strain, and I was pleased to find that one of the plants I set out this year made peppers that were true to type. I’ll save seed from this one, which should be the F5 generation. I am told it can take eight generations or more to stabilize a strain of pepper, so I have a ways to go yet!

Sweet Happy Yummy peppers

Sweet Happy Yummy peppers

In non-pepper news, the tomato seeds that were fermenting last week have now been rinsed, strained, and are drying on a paper coffee filter. The paper helps wick away the moisture, and they are easy to scrape off the filter when they are dry.

drying tomato seeds after fermenting

drying tomato seeds after fermenting

Parsley is growing lush right about now, thanks to ample rains we have had throughout August and early September. I decided I needed to use some of it, and tabbouleh came to mind.

flat leaf Italian parsley

flat leaf Italian parsley

I sometimes use bulgur or quinoa for tabbouleh, but this time I made it with freekeh. We bought a bag of this ancient grain on a recent pilgrimage to Costco (we don’t have a local one). If you don’t know, and I didn’t until fairly recently, freekeh is made from wheat that is picked before it is fully ripened, then dried, roasted and cracked into smaller pieces. It can be used like regular cracked wheat, and has a nice flavor that is hard for me to describe. I used the rice cooker to cook it before making the tabbouleh. I had to buy a cucumber since ours are not producing at the moment but I used our own tomatoes, garlic, parsley and a bit of mint.

Freekeh Tabbouleh

Freekeh Tabbouleh

As it turns out, I wasn’t the only one enjoying the parsley. I found a swallowtail caterpillar munching away on one leaf. It actually hatched a few feet away in the carrot bed, but I had moved it to the parsley a few days earlier. I planted some parsley over in the Wild Garden just for the swallowtails, but of course the female swallowtail laid her eggs on the carrot tops instead! This one seemed to be ok with the parsley substitution though.

swallowtail caterpillar on parsley

swallowtail caterpillar on parsley

I used some of our recent zucchini harvests and homemade marinara sauce to make a batch of Three Cheese Zucchini Stuffed Lasagna Rolls. This recipe from Skinnytaste was relatively easy to put together, and tasted delicious. I froze the leftovers, which will make for an easy future meal. I am thinking the filling would also work well for shells or manicotti. I can’t remember the last time I made lasagna, or ate it for that matter, and this lightened up recipe was a real treat. The photo below makes it look like there’s more cheese involved than there really is, and most of the sauce is hidden in the bottom of the baking dish.

Three Cheese Zucchini Lasagna Rolls

Three Cheese Zucchini Lasagna Rolls

Our blueberry season is over for the year, but I used some of our frozen ones to make a batch of Blueberry Syrup with Honey. Rachel at Grow a Good Life shared the recipe last week, and I have to say it is quite yummy. I would also like to try it with blackberries or maybe cherries in the future. It was my wife’s turn to cook starting yesterday, and she made a batch of Whole Wheat Sourdough Pancakes for lunch. The blueberry syrup made a great topping!

Whole Wheat Sourdough Pancakes with Blueberry Syrup

Whole Wheat Sourdough Pancakes with Blueberry Syrup

In the bread department, I baked a batch of Moomie’s Famous Burger Buns last week. This continues to be my go-to recipe for buns, and like pita bread we almost always have some of these buns in the freezer.

Moomie's Famous Burger Buns

Moomie’s Famous Burger Buns

That’s a look at what’s going on here at HA. To see what other gardeners are celebrating, harvesting, and cooking up, visit Daphne’s Dandelions where Daphne hosts Harvest Mondays every week.

 

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Herb Infused Iced Tea

Tea is pretty much the beverage of choice here at Happy Acres. And for much of the year, that means iced tea. There is almost always a pitcher of tea available here for me and my wife to drink, or to offer up to visitors. And that tea is almost always infused with some sort of herb, usually something from our own garden.

iced green tea infused with spearmint

iced green tea infused with spearmint

Mint is one tea herb that gets a lot of use here. I’ve been a fan of mint tea for a long time. To my taste buds, mint and tea just seem like a marriage made in heaven! I planted several mints in the herb garden at my first house, and I’ve been growing a variety of them ever since. It was back then that I first learned that mint spreads like crazy, and needs to be contained somehow or it will quickly take over. Now I grow it in containers, where it can more easily be kept from becoming invasive.

Moroccan mint for tea

Moroccan mint for tea

A lot of different mints can be used for teas. I have quite a selection to choose from myself these days, from spearmint types like Moroccan Mint and Mint Julep to peppermints like Blue Balsam and Black Mitcham. That’s spearmint ‘The Best’ in the below photo, growing in a container. Chocolate mint is another great mint that combines peppermint flavor and aroma with subtle chocolate overtones. And I’ve recently become fond of Orange Mint, Mentha citrata, which has rounded leaves and a perfumed citrus aroma. Most mints dry well too, and you can always do like I do and keep some dried mint in a jar for winter use.

Spearmint ‘The Best’ growing in container

Spearmint ‘The Best’ growing in container

Some of my other favorite tea herbs include lemongrass, lemon verbena and lemon balm. Lemongrass and lemon verbena are not winter hardy here in my area, but they can easily be grown in containers. You can also plant them in the ground for summer, then dig them and pot them up before freezing weather arrives. They are easy to over-winter indoors, and you can always harvest a few leaves as needed. Lemongrass is very easy to start from stalks you can buy at the grocery, and you can read more about how to grow it here: Saturday Spotlight Lemongrass. I don’t think lemongrass retains much flavor after drying, but lemon verbena and lemon balm are both quite nice when used dried.

mint and teas

mint and teas

Though I’ve tried other methods over the years, like making sun tea, I use the coffee maker these days to make my infused teas. It’s quick, easy, and produces consistent results. I did buy a second permanent type filter that I use exclusively for the herbal teas. That way I don’t wind up with herbal flavored coffee when I use the coffee maker to brew my morning joe. You can also use a paper filter and accomplish the same thing.

adding herbs in with tea bags

adding herbs in with tea bags

Just prior to brewing, I chop up the herbs coarsely. Bruising the leaves helps release the volatile oils so they can get infused in the tea as it brews. I usually use two or three tablespoons of fresh herbs, or about two teaspoons of dried, but you’ll have to experiment to find the amount that’s right for your tastes. I like to use four of the regular sized tea bags, or one family sized, per 12 ‘cup’ pot of water. Black, green and white tea can all be used, and my current favorite is a mix of green and white. I add the chopped up herbs in with the tea in the filter, then it’s time to brew the tea. After brewing I let the tea cool before adding ice, unless I’m in a hurry.

pitcher of Herb Infused Iced Tea

pitcher of Herb Infused Iced Tea

Making your own infused iced tea is a great way to enjoy the variety of mints and other tea herbs. They add a lot of flavor to tea, without adding a lot of calories. And with such a variety of herbs to choose from, there’s sure to be something to please everyone!

 

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Monday Recap: Pulling Up, Winding Down

I think it’s safe to say the summer vegetable garden is slowly winding down. And by September, I am usually quite ready for that to happen. The bush dried beans are all done for now, so I pulled up what was left of the plants, and my wife and I spent some time last week shelling out and picking through the beans. Growing dry beans is somewhat challenging in our area with the hot and humid summers that we typically have. The beans tend to rot or even sprout in the pod before they are ready to harvest. This year I grew three bush varieties: Jacob’s Cattle, Whipple and Hutterite Soup. I also have pole dry beans growing but they won’t be ready for awhile longer.

Jacob's Cattle beans

Jacob’s Cattle beans

Jacob’s Cattle is a tried and true bean that has done well for me over the years. It’s also sometimes called Trout bean or Appaloosa, no doubt due to the spotted markings on the beans themselves. This year the beans were quite variable in color, with many not spotted at all, but that shouldn’t change the way they taste or cook up. I devoted a ten foot section of row to each of the three bean varieties, and Jacob’s Cattle yielded 26 ounces of dried beans.

closeup of Jacob's Cattle

closeup of Jacob’s Cattle

A newcomer here that sounded interesting to me is the Whipple bean. It’s popular in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, where the growing conditions are no doubt quite different than they are here in the Southern Ohio Valley! The beans themselves are fat and almost round, and purplish-red in color with some white spots. Whipple yielded 16 ounces of dried beans. They look like a nice meaty bean that should be good for soups, salads or side dishes.

Whipple dry beans

Whipple dry beans

Hutterite Soup bean is a small greenish yellow bean with a distinctive eye. It’s slightly larger than a Navy bean, and is an heirloom that was cultivated by the Hutterite religious group. I got my seed from the Seed Savers Exchange, who got their seed stock from a Hutterite colony in North Dakota. The beans are supposed to be quick cooking, and make a creamy, delicate tasting soup. They wound up being the least productive for me, yielding only 14 ounces. It’s enough for a nice batch of soup though, and I look forward to tasting it whenever it gets to be soup weather around here. Growing dried beans is perhaps not the most productive use of garden space, but it is fun to try some of the many types that are out there. And of course the beans are good to eat too!

Hutterite Soup bean

Hutterite Soup bean

Both sweet and hot peppers continue to ripen. We’ve been enjoying the sweet ones a number of different ways. The hot ones will mostly be dried, roasted, frozen or made into hot sauce, so I tend to let a bunch of them ripen before I harvest and process them. In the below photo there’s the big red bell pepper Big Bertha along with Topepo Rosso, Jimmy Nardello, two orange Hot Happy Yummys and two Early Sunsations. A White Scallop squash also came in that day and appears to have photobombed the peppers!

assortment of peppers and squash

assortment of peppers and squash

Another project I’m working on is saving some of the o/p tomato seeds. The recommended procedure calls for squeezing out the seeds into a container and letting them ferment for a few days. The fermentation removes the little gelatinous sack that encases the fresh tomato seed, and helps kill many seed borne diseases. I sometimes add a bit of water if the mix seems dry. You can eat what’s left of the tomato too, so it’s not all wasted.

squeezing out tomato seeds

squeezing out tomato seeds

After a day or two they will develop a layer of mold and start smelling pretty much like a rotten tomato! In the below photo the white patches on the surface are mold. I won’t go into all the details here, but I generally follow the instructions in my favorite seed-saving reference book Seed to Seed by Suzanne Ashworth. After fermenting the seeds are rinsed, strained and then dried before packaging up.

fermenting tomato seeds

fermenting tomato seeds

The slicing tomatoes seem to have taken a break for a bit. There are still plenty of the small fruited types coming on for us though. In the below photo we have Black Cherry, Juliet, Green Tiger and Golden Sweet.

mix of tomatoes for salsa

mix of tomatoes for salsa

They all went in a batch of salsa I made, using our tomatoes, onions, garlic and cilantro. Instead of peppers I used a splash of homemade hot sauce to give it a bit of zip. I often make salsa using the smaller tomatoes, and I love the mix of colors and tastes they bring.

fresh salsa

fresh salsa

Another project this past week involved making soap. My wife and I made two batches, one a Lavender Bastille and the other our Flower Child Coconut Milk. You can blame me for the soap names. We don’t sell our soaps but I do like to give them descriptive names. I need to share the recipes here since I know there are a few soap makers out  there and these are two of my favorite soaps at the moment. Needless to say they smell so much better than the fermenting tomato seeds! That’s the Bastille soap on the left in the below photo, and the golden color comes from a bit of honey in the mix. The sugars in the honey help increase the lather, and the color usually fades to a light tan as the soap cures.

Lavender Bastille and Flower Child Coconut Milk soaps

Lavender Bastille and Flower Child Coconut Milk soaps

I didn’t bake any loaves of bread last week, but I did make a double batch of Whole Wheat Sourdough Pita Bread. I often make a double batch of pita bread, because once the oven is hot (and the pizza stone I bake them on) it just makes sense to take advantage of it. They also freeze well, and that’s what we do with the extras. It’s so easy to pull one out of the freezer and let it thaw a bit before eating. They’re almost as good as new that way, and definitely better than store-bought ones.

Whole Wheat Sourdough Pita Bread

Whole Wheat Sourdough Pita Bread

That’s a look at what’s happening here in early September. To see what other gardeners are harvesting, cooking and preserving, visit Daphne’s Dandelions where Daphne hosts Harvest Mondays every week. And thank you Daphne for helping to create this great community of garden bloggers!

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Saturday Spotlight: Vinson Watts Tomato

Fifty two years is a long time to work on one project. In the last fifty two years I’ve done countless things countless different times, but I have never stayed on one project for that long. Fortunately for the gardening world, Mr Vinson Watts from Kentucky did just that. He devoted fifty two years of his life to growing and improving upon one tomato, the one that bears his name and is today grown by tomato lovers like me everywhere. It all makes for a fascinating story too.

slices of Vinson Watts tomato

slices of Vinson Watts tomato

Back in the 1950s, Vinson Watts got seeds of a family heirloom tomato from his boss at Berea College, a man named Charlie Evans. Vinson and Charlie were both avid gardeners and often talked about their backyard tomato crops. Evans was originally from Virginia, and his family had grown this one special tomato there for years. Evans was ready to branch out and try some other varieties though, and asked Watts if he would grow the family’s tomato, save seeds from it, and keep the strain pure. Vinson agreed to the request, and from 1956 until his death in 2008 he grew only that variety of tomato in his own garden.

trio of Vinson Watts tomatoes

trio of Vinson Watts tomatoes

Vinson took it upon himself to improve the tomato in the process. Every year he selected the best ones for disease resistance, flavor, size and productivity.  By saving the seeds from his best selections every year, he gradually improved upon the original. And he shared the seeds with friends and neighbors. Even though he continued to grow just the one tomato variety in his own garden, he did ‘borrow’ garden space so he could grow other tomato varieties himself.

the inside of a red ripe Vinson Watts tomato

the inside of a red ripe Vinson Watts tomato

The Vinson Watts tomato was first offered commercially in 2006 by Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, and is now available from several sources. I got my seeds from fellow blogger Lynn (Wood Ridge Homestead), who thought it would be a great tomato for me to try. In 2011 she blogged about her experiences growing this heirloom tomato with “Vinson Watts: My BFF“. That was the first time I ever heard about this variety, and I want to thank Lynn again for sharing seeds with me, and for introducing me to this wonderful tomato.

Italian eggplants with Vinson Watts tomatoes

Italian eggplants with Vinson Watts tomatoes

This is my third year growing the Vinson Watts tomato. In that time, it has proven to be a tasty and reliable performer. The large, deep pink beefsteak tomatoes are meaty, red fleshed, and have a fairly small number of seeds. The indeterminate vines are vigorous, and I have not had any problems with disease. Of course taste is always subjective, but I find the Vinson Watts tomatoes to have a fine balance of acid and sweet taste. While the tomatoes can reach one pound in size, mine typically average in the 8 to 12 ounce range. The big tomatoes are great on sandwiches or as a side dish.

Vinson Watts tomato

Vinson Watts tomato

I shared seeds of this variety last year, and I hope to have a limited number of them to share again later this year. If you are looking for an heirloom beefsteak tomato that is long on both flavor and history, Vinson Watts is at the top of my very short list. And we have one man to thank for that, Mr Vinson Watts himself!

To see my other Saturday Spotlights, visit the Variety Spotlights page.

 

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Monday Recap: When the Squash Come Marching In

After a quick inspection last Wednesday morning, I decided it was time to harvest many of the winter squashes. I naively took a big Tubtrug down to the garden, thinking I would fill it and use it to transport the squash up to the house. Well, I filled it all right, but then I couldn’t lift it! So it wound up taking about three trips to get all the squash up the hill to the house. It was well worth the effort though.

Bush Delicata and Canada Crookneck squash

Bush Delicata and Canada Crookneck squash

Like an old episode of Dragnet, all the squash had to be lined up and photographed. Then they were brought in and weighed (instead of fingerprinted) before I cleaned them up a bit. Like I did last year, I cleaned the outside with a mild bleach solution (4 tsp per gallon of water) as outlined in this Clemson University bulletin: Pumpkins and Winter Squash. Then it was off to the warm basement where I spread them out to finish curing.

Long Island Cheese and Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck Squash

Long Island Cheese and Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck Squash

Despite planting too many of the vining types in the area I devoted to them, they still made quite a few squash. I think we will have plenty for our needs. In the first photo, one of our  favorites (Cornell’s Bush Delicata) is joined by a newcomer here, Canada Crookneck. In the second photo, our favorite ‘neck pumpkin’ (Penns. Dutch Crookneck) is joined by the legendary Long Island Cheese pumpkin. Both of these are C. moschata types, as is the Canada Crookneck. One of the L.I. Cheeses weighed in at six pounds, while the larger one weighed exactly ten pounds. The two neck pumpkins together weighed a bit over ten pounds.

mature Kumi Kumi and Honeyboat Delicata squash

mature Kumi Kumi and Honeyboat Delicata squash

Next in the lineup we have a mature Kumi Kumi plus several Honeyboat Delicata. These delicata are a bit small compared to the bush variety, but I think conditions were not exactly ideal in the crowded beds where they grew. Next year I will try and do a better job of spacing out the vining squash that I grow.

Violina Rugosa, Black Futsu and Seminole squash

Violina Rugosa, Black Futsu and Seminole squash

And last but not least in the squash lineup we have several unusual looking squash I’ve never grown before, and also the biggest one so far this year. In the above photo, to the left is Violina Rugosa, which is an Italian heirloom butternut. To the right is the large Black Futsu, which went from dark green to a chestnut color as it matured on the vine. And in the front is Seminole, which was cultivated in Florida by the Seminole Indians back in the 1500s. All three of these are C. moschata varieties.

weighing the Black Futsu squash

weighing the Black Futsu squash

The Seminole weighed about 22 ounces, while the Violina Rugosa weighed almost seven pounds. The Black Futsu maxed out the digital scale however, so I had to use my old kitchen scale to weigh it. It tipped the scales at twelve pounds, six ounces, which is a lot of squash for us. All the squashes that day came to a total of 62 pounds, so it is no wonder it took me three trips to carry them up to the house! I am looking forward to tasting these squash after they have cured and aged a bit, though we will eat the Delicatas right away since they don’t keep like the others do.

Violina Rugosa squash

Violina Rugosa squash

Summer squash are still coming in too. Last year the Striata d’Italia was the ‘last squash standing’, and it may well be again this year. It’s joined by the White Scallop squash in the below photo.

Striata d'Italia zucchini and White Scallop squash

Striata d’Italia zucchini and White Scallop squash

In other harvest news, the sweet peppers came marching in too. I didn’t need to make extra trips to haul them in though. In the below photo, we have three Italian heirloom peppers hanging out with the hybrid Nadia eggplant. At the top we have the round Topepo Rosso and two Tolli’s Sweet Italian. At the bottom are long slender Jimmy Nardello peppers. I picked the Topepo Rosso by mistake before it was quite fully ripe, but the others were in their prime. It is my first year growing the Topepo Rosso and Tolli’s Sweet Italian, while Jimmy Nardello is an old favorite here.

mix of Italian peppers and eggplant

mix of Italian peppers and eggplant

Another day I brought in some peppers for paprika plus a ripe red bell pepper called Red Knight. In the below photo, that’s Hungarian Paprika on the left and Dulce Rojo on the right. I dehydrated those two varieties to make some sweet paprika.

paprika peppers and red bell pepper

paprika peppers and red bell pepper

Lately I’ve been baking about one loaf of bread each week. Sandwiches have been tasting good to me, and that calls for some sort of homemade bread. This week I baked a batch of the Light Rye Sandwich Loaf. It was great as a base for a Meatless Reuben I made one day for lunch, which also used some of my homemade Kohlrabi Kraut. I usually freeze any leftover bread, or make croutons using the dehydrator.

Light Rye Sandwich Loaf

Light Rye Sandwich Loaf

Along with the Meatless Reuben I grilled a Jimmy Nardello and a Tolli’s Sweet Italian pepper so I could do a taste test. The Jimmy Nardello is bit sweeter tasting, but the Tolli’s Sweet Italian had a nice rich pepper flavor too. I think the Tolli’s will be quite useful in the kitchen. We have been enjoying all the ripe sweet peppers grilled, and some wound up on pizza as well. I have to say the real star of that meal was the Kohlrabi Kraut. I made it and some cabbage kraut back in July, and both have been improving with age in the refrigerator. If I had known how good the kohlrabi kraut was going to be, I would have made it years ago! I made both of them ‘in the jar’ using my Homemade Sauerkraut recipe. I am hoping to make more kraut this fall.

Meatless Reuben with grilled peppers

Meatless Reuben with grilled peppers

I also found time last week to dehydrate some of the 2014 garlic. I mostly selected a few of the types that don’t keep as long, including the Asiatic/Turban varieties and some of the Artichoke types.

peeled garlic ready for slicing

peeled garlic ready for slicing

I wound up with a little more than a pound of peeled cloves that I sliced up using my garlic slicer. It took longer to peel them than it did to slice them. It is certainly easier to peel the garlic after it is a bit older, but I wanted to do it while I had the time and the dehydrator was free. The Zyliss slicer makes easy work of the slicing part, and does a much better job than I could do with a knife.

sliced garlic ready for drying

sliced garlic ready for drying

The dehydrating took about 13-14 hours total. The house smelled like garlic the first couple of hours, but then the odor dissipated and it wasn’t that bad for the rest of the drying time. I dry these until they are brittle dry, and snap in two when you bend them. They weighed a bit more than six ounces after they were dried. I’ll store the dehydrated slices in a glass jar for later use. Most of it will be ground up for garlic powder, but you can also rehydrate the slices and use them in cooking as well.

dehydrated garlic

dehydrated garlic

After dealing with all the winter squashes, I was jonesing for something made with pumpkin. I decided to make a pumpkin cake using some of the frozen pumpkin puree from last year. I loosely followed this recipe, using all whole wheat flour. The bottom part has cocoa powder and some chocolate chips mixed in with the pumpkin cake batter. It was pretty tasty, and I’ll share my version here once I tweak it a bit more.

Pumpkin Cake

Pumpkin Cake

That s a look at what’s going on here at Happy Acres. I hope those who are celebrating Labor Day are having a great one! To see what other gardeners are harvesting and celebrating, visit Daphne’s Dandelions where Daphne graciously hosts Harvest Mondays.

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Homemade: Fermented Hot Sauce

Traditionally, hot pepper sauces have been made by fermenting a mash of chopped up peppers. Many of the world’s best known and most loved hot sauces are lacto-fermented before bottling, including Tabasco and sriracha. For the last few years I have had a lot of fun making my own hot sauces. Once you understand the basics, it’s easy to do and a great way to preserve the flavor of homegrown peppers. It’s also fun to experiment and make your own one-of-a-kind sauces. Like my Hot Happy Yummy Sriracha, for instance.

ripe orange Hot Happy Yummy peppers

ripe orange Hot Happy Yummy peppers

Since discovering the rogue pepper I am currently calling Hot Happy Yummy back in 2009, I have found a lot of different uses for it. And my favorite one is making hot sauce. Last week I used some of these ripe orange peppers plus some of our homegrown garlic to make my Homemade Sriracha Style Hot Sauce. This sauce ferments for about four days before you cook it briefly, strain it, and bottle. I love Sriracha sauce, and I’ll make some more when I have enough red ripe jalapenos for a batch.

Hot Happy Yummy Sriracha Sauce fermenting

Hot Happy Yummy Sriracha Sauce fermenting

Next I started two batches of Basic Fermented Hot Sauce. This recipe calls for peppers, salt, and time. You can let it ferment anywhere from one to four weeks, or even longer if you have the patience. I made one batch with red ripe Aji Angelo peppers. This Capsicum baccatum variety has a unique flavor and medium heat, and I thought it would make a great tasting hot sauce. I like to remove the stem but leave the green ‘cap’ on the peppers before chopping them up. It is said to add a little extra flavor to the finished hot sauce.

ripe Aji Angelo pepper with green cap

ripe Aji Angelo pepper with green cap

For the other batch I used a mix of ripe cayenne and serrano peppers. I let both batches ferment on the kitchen counter for nine days before I added the vinegar then strained and bottled them. I press on the strainer with the back of a spoon to squeeze out as much of the juice as I can. With these two sauces I got almost five ounces each. If you like your sauce thicker, you can blend it up in the blender without straining or if you like it chunky then bottle it up without straining or blending. It’s all good, and the best thing is you get to make it exactly like you like it!

pressing pepper mash to get all the juice out

pressing pepper mash to get all the juice out

You can use any variety of peppers you have on hand, from mild to extra hot, and everything in between. The orange Sriracha proves you don’t have to use red peppers either. I made a Green Jalapeno Sauce back in 2012. And I’m going to try and make one this year with red, orange and yellow C. chinense peppers that are milder versions of the hot Habeneros. The possibilities are endless. And you don’t need to grow your own peppers either. You can often find all different kinds of hot peppers at farmer’s markets or at ethnic grocery stores.

bottling the hot sauce

bottling the hot sauce

The fermented hot sauces keep for a long time in the refrigerator. The folks who make Tabasco say their red sauce keeps for 5 years whether opened or unopened, refrigerated or not, but that it is “best by” the third year. As a matter of preference I like to keep my hot sauces refrigerated, and use them within one year of making. And what do I use them for? They go on and in lots of things, from baked potatoes and barbeque sauce to scrambled eggs and frittatas. You can see the three hot sauces I made all bottled up in the below photo, along with the lovely labels my wife made for me! I left the middle one unlabeled so you can see the pretty red color of the hot sauce inside.

bottled homemade hot sauces

bottled homemade hot sauces

Homemade hot sauces make great gifts for family and friends too. The basic recipes can easily be scaled up to make extra for giving away. Whether you like your hot sauce mild or prefer it to be mouth-blistering hot, making your own is a fun way to be creative with peppers. So how about you all, have you ever made your own hot sauce? Or perhaps you will give it a try after reading this. Either way, let me know – I’d love to hear about it!

For more information on making your own hot sauces:

  1. Homemade Sriracha Style Hot Sauce
  2. Basic Fermented Hot Sauce
  3. Have Fun, Save Money: Make Your Own Hot Sauce (Mother Earth News)
  4. Fermented Hot Chili Sauce Recipe (Nourished Kitchen)
  5. Sriracha Chili Sauce Recipe (Viet World Kitchen)

 

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