Harvest Monday September 19, 2016

Welcome to Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related. Harvests are slowing down here, as we transition from summer to fall. The peppers are still ripening fast and furious though, and they are keeping me busy. I started a batch of hot sauce with a mix of Maule’s Red Hot and Aji Amarillo, plus a few of the Not Frigitello peppers that proved to be hot and not sweet as they should be.

Senorita jalapeno and Maule's Red Hot peppers

Senorita jalapeno and Maule’s Red Hot peppers

I also got enough of the Senorita and Fooled You jalapeno peppers to smoke and turn into chipotles. I smoked a test batch of the Senorita peppers a couple of weeks ago, and they made a tasty chipotle powder that was milder in heat than that I made last year. It’s still plenty hot, just a bit less so! The Fooled You jalapenos have no heat, and adding a few of them should lower the overall heat level a notch or two.

peppers for smoking

peppers for smoking

The first of the Malawi Piquante peppers are ripening now too, at least the ones on the container grown plant. I pickled these along with a few more of the Aji Golden peppers in a sweet brine. The Malawi Piquante peppers are ‘similar’ to the ones used to make the pricey, trademarked Peppadew peppers you can find on salad bars and in grocery stores.

Fooled You jalapeno and Malawi Piquante peppers

Fooled You jalapeno and Malawi Piquante peppers

In the sweet pepper department, the yellow Escamillo and red Carmen are ripening now. They are both bull’s horn peppers and AAS Winners, and Escamillo may be the best tasting yellow sweet pepper I have ever grown. Carmen is a long time favorite here, but I can see Escamillo becoming a favorite too. I have already made a note on my 2017 plans to grow more of these two! Meanwhile we will enjoy eating these, some of which I grilled and others I used in a quinoa ‘fried rice’ dish I cooked up last week.

Escamillo and Carmen peppers

Escamillo and Carmen peppers

It’s not all peppers here though. I cut the first of the fall kale last week, starting with the White Russian. The kale will be sweeter when really cold weather arrives, but this was pretty tasty too, especially when we haven’t had any kale for a few months. The cabbage moths have really been active here, and I’ve been spraying a neem oil/Bt mix to keep the caterpillars controlled.

White Russian kale

White Russian kale

Most of the tomato plants are taking a break, but I’m still finding enough of the small fruited ones for salads and such. I got a nice bunch of Sunrise Bumblebee and Purple Bumblebee to add to a salad we had for lunch one day.

Sunrise Bumblebee and Purple Bumblebee tomatoes

Sunrise Bumblebee and Purple Bumblebee tomatoes

I baked two of the Early Butternut squashes to use in a couple of dishes last week. One was a Pumpkin Cake recipe from the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking book that uses a mix of whole wheat and barley flours. This recipe is pretty close, though I used less sugar and varied the spices a bit.

baked Early Butternut squash

baked Early Butternut squash

The other dish was a pasta creation using the pumpkin puree for sauce along with whole grain farro penne, a bit of the White Russian kale, chicken sausage, and seasoned with garlic and fresh garden sage. I think it tasted better than it looked, and satisfied my craving for both butternut squash and pasta without requiring a lot of kitchen time. Of course then we had pumpkin cake for dessert! I put the rest of the cake in the freezer to enjoy later before I ate it all up.

pasta with butternut sauce and kale

pasta with butternut sauce and kale

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to share, add your name and blog link to Mr Linky below. And be sure and check out what everyone is harvesting!

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Posted in Harvest Monday | Tagged , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Fermented Pepper Mash

It’s hot pepper season here at Happy Acres. That means it’s time to start turning some of those peppers into hot sauce. I usually make several different kinds every year, some with fresh peppers and some with fermented peppers. I’ve already shared my recipe for fresh sauce that I call No-Rooster Chili Garlic Sauce, which is my version of the popular Huy Fong Foods Chili Garlic Sauce (with the signature rooster on the label). It can be made and enjoyed immediately, but the fermented sauces take a bit more time and preparation. On the plus side, the fermented ones also keep for a long time, so a little effort up front is well rewarded.

Maule's Red Hot and Aji Amarillo peppers for fermenting

Maule’s Red Hot and Aji Amarillo peppers for fermenting

I’ve tried two different ways to ferment the peppers, both producing good results. One involves cutting the stems off the peppers, then using a food processor to chop them up into a fine mash. Then I weigh the chopped peppers, and add sea salt at the rate of 10% salt by weight and mix it all up together. I pack the salted peppers into a glass jar, cover loosely, then leave to ferment for at least a week. For my early efforts at making hot sauce I added dairy whey to the peppers, but I found it really isn’t necessary and I no longer do that. The lactobacillus bacteria are already present on the peppers, and will multiply readily without a jump-start from the whey or other starters.

chopped hot peppers

chopped hot peppers

For the other method I remove the stems from the peppers and cut them lengthwise, and place in a stainless steel mixing bowl. I use a potato masher to bruise the peppers slightly, then add sea salt at the rate of 5% salt by total weight of the peppers. I mix the salt in well, then leave the bowl of peppers to sit overnight. The salt causes the peppers to start releasing their juices to make a brine. In the morning, I remove as many seeds from the peppers as I can, wearing gloves to protect my hands. Then I pack the peppers and brine into a glass jar, cover loosely with a lid, and leave it to ferment for at least a week.

jalapeno peppers

jalapeno peppers

One big difference between the two methods is the amount of salt used. Since chopping up the peppers before fermenting makes them more prone to mold growth, more salt is required for that method. And once they are chopped up there is no way to remove the seeds, though you can remove some before chopping if you like. With the second method, it is actually fairly easy to remove many of the seeds, and since the peppers stay intact during the fermentation, less salt is required to keep the molds suppressed.

mashing peppers for fermenting

mashing peppers for fermenting

There is really no set or standard amount of salt to add to the peppers. Though most sources agree that chopping them first makes them more prone to mold developing, the amount of salt called for ranges from 2% to 10%. Even though the mold is harmless and can be scraped off before processing the peppers into sauce, I generally err on the side of caution and use the higher end of the recommended range of salt. I do think that fermenting the peppers before chopping is probably my preferred way, since you have a few more options in terms of how you use the pepper mash once it is fermented.

jalapeno peppers fermenting

jalapeno peppers fermenting

There is also no consensus of opinion about how long to let the peppers ferment. In the Art of Fermentation, Sandor Katz recommends letting them go a full month or longer. However, in The Hot Sauce Cookbook by Robb Walsh, the author calls for a one to two week fermentation period. I’ve made sauces with anywhere from a one week ferment up to a full month, and to be honest I can’t really tell the difference. I think the type of peppers used matters more than how long they ferment, but it is fun to experiment, and I would urge everyone to do their own taste-testing and see what they think!

I’ll be back when the peppers have fermented and talk about what I do with the pepper mash to turn it into homemade sauce creations. Until then, Happy Growing from Happy Acres!

For more information and recipes for making your own hot sauce:

  1. Homemade: No-Rooster Chili Garlic Sauce
  2. Homemade: Sriracha-Style Hot Sauce
  3. Homemade: Fermented Hot Sauce
  4. Have Fun, Save Money: Make Your Own Hot Sauce (Mother Earth News)
  5. Brine Recipes (The Probiotic Jar)

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Posted in Food, Recipes | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments