Saturday, September 3, 2011


I admit I may have overdone it a bit on the jalapeño front during a recent u-pick adventure with my friend Jennifer. Partly it was because we made our trip out to Brentwood a little late in the season, and in general there wasn't that much on offer that we could pick ourselves. After checking out a bunch of different farms, we scored and landed at Smith Family Farm. First off they have a fantastic farmstand if you're not up for hitting the fields. Great variety, top quality and very reasonable prices. They did have nectarines, peaches, chard, herbs and LOTS of peppers available for picking - and everything is $1 a pound! This is always the price for u-pick, and they stay open to December, with a rotation of seasonal crops available at different times. I'm thinking pomegranate season might just bring me out there again...

Anyhow, we walked the rows of peach and nectarine trees for awhile, mostly just enjoying the inland heat and chatting. Occasionally we added a couple of fruits to our buckets, but really they were still virtually empty by the time we hit the rows of lush peppers.

A fraction of my u-pick pepper haul
The first four rows of peppers (jalapeños, anchos, Anaheim and poblanos) we were warned were all hot. Even with the typically milder varietals mixed in, they said we were not to be fooled. They also had bell peppers and another sweet variety I can't recall. They were all beautiful though and with a few pickling recipes in mind, I just couldn't seem to hold back. I picked a peck of peppers just like you-know-who.

After getting some chard and fresh sage, we paid up. Mine was $10, which for the amount of produce I had was ridiculously awesome, but also meant I had at least a good 8 lbs of peppers!

We picked up some gorgeous heirloom tomatoes, garlic and pickling cucumbers from the stand and then drove off for a cold beer to compensate for all our "hard work".

Sweet Garlic Dills, Pepper Jelly & Pickled Jalapeños
Using a recipe from Ellie Topp's excellent book The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving which I had just gotten from the library, I turned my cucumbers into my first ever batch of Sweet Garlic Dills. Then I made a half batch of the Pepper Jelly I had gotten inspired by the Shibaguyz doing a live demo of during the Canning Across America Canvolution. Finally I turned a couple pounds of the abundant jalapeños into pretty looking pickled rounds.

That was Day 1 of jalapeños.

Day 2 had me set on making some Jalapeño Bread & Butter Pickles which I think the fabulous Well Preserved folks had recommended. After selecting more peppers from my stash, I washed them and then donned protective latex gloves. Never underestimate the potential pain of working with hot peppers! You may think they're not that hot or that it won't bother you, but slicing and deveining 2 lbs of them had me feeling it in my lungs and eyes just from the fumes. Luckily I had a chance to recover since my recipe came with a built-in four hour break while the salted peppers and onions chilled in the fridge. After that it was as simple as adding the spices, cooking a few minutes, putting them into jars, and processing in a water bath for 10 minutes. Oh, and let's not forget the most important step: standing back and admiring your work.

Freshly picked jalapeños
Salted & sliced
In the pot with spices
End result: Bread & Butter'd
I did have grand plans of making hot sauce, and roasting peppers, and all kinds of other good stuff with the remaining peppers, but had to turn my attention to other projects so into the dehydrator they went. I'm sure they'll find their way into an interesting recipe this winter though and will spice up a cold winter day or night just right.