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Pepper Jelly Makes a Great Christmas Present

SlicedPineapple

Pineapple during the Holidays? It’s not just for ham anymore!

I’ve been making all sorts of pepper jellies in the run-up to Christmas. Late-year fruit usually are the firmer ones: Pears, apples, quince and the like. I’ve used some red pears in a pear-prickly pear-red chiles jelly that was a bit on the milder side; I guess I didn’t get enough serranos in there. I found some nice candied ginger, and used that in a pineapple-ginger-prickly pear-habanero blend. Very nice!

Maybe you’re noticing a pattern here: Lots of prickly pear. Yes, I still have many quarts of tasty prickly pear juice to sweeten and add flavor to my jellies. As I have mentioned elsewhere, it was a great summer for prickly pear fruit. I’ll not use it all soon, even in my frenzied campaign to make lots of gifts.

I found some cherries on at a reasonable price this week. Unusual, and they can’t be U.S. product. Not sure where they’re from; I guess Chile. Tasty little beggars in any case. I’ll use them with pineapple in one prep, and with no other fruit. Both will feature (you guessed it) prickly pear juice and habaneros.

BowlOCherriesStrawberries are nice at the moment too. Surely hothouse cultivated, but nicely priced in any case. With some raspberries in there, and enough habaneros to burn off the roof of your mouth add a nice, tingly after-bite, these strawberries will make a wonderful jam.

I saw some pretty persimmons in a specialty grocery, but I’ve never used these before. If I see them again I’ll snag a couple and taste them and learn how to peel them. I know my grandmother used to make persimmon jam, but my mom doesn’t have her recipe. Pity.

In a related note, I made some prickly pear syrup. Cooked down some juice, added brown and white sugars, and it came out awesome. Slow process, though. I didn’t need any artificial flavors as the prickly pear was all I needed.

Time to get back into the kitchen and make some more Holiday hot-stuff. So many jellies, so little time…

The (Gift of Hot Cuisine) Heat is ON!

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Friday Follies: The Turkey Coma Problem and More

DoubleTurkey

I missed this report in the New Yorker during the hustle-bustle of Thanksgiving. It’s clearly appropriate, and touches all the key points. Although it didn’t say which way the author was leaning on the critical national issue of the coming NCAA football playoffs.

In other news, a couple of party animals learned not to leave signed pizza receipts lying around after stealing the neighbors’ furniture. Come on, Man, don’t make it so easy…

Yet another reason not to name your child after a food, even as a nickname: Honey Boo Boo’s sister is now pushing snake oil. (Yes, snakes might actually be involved.) The product was claiming to be “useful against an array of medical problems, including Ebola, cancer, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, diabetes, heart disease, and dementia.” That about covers all my ills, real or imagined. Too bad the FDA pulled the plug; now it’ll be hard for me to get mine…

Enjoy the (Too Much Turkey) Heat!

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Holiday Marmalade with Habaneros and Prickly Pear Juice

This entry is part of a series, Pepper Jelly Chronicles»

XMasPears

Citrus fruit of all sorts are available this season, in high quality and at good prices. Marmalade is fairly easy to make, especially if you’re a patient sort. I’ve gotten to where I make nice-sized batches of this spread, mostly for Christmas stocking gifts.

This year I happen to have a glut of prickly pear juice, thanks to an awesome summer for growing the unique fruit, and a fall that let them ripen slowly over many weeks. I worked up about 170 lbs of the thorny little bastards egg-shaped beauties, an experience that every Texan should have to endure at least once. (I’ve got that off my bucket list, thankfully.)

Most recipes don’t add much in the way of spices to their marmalade. Naturally, most marmalade is about the citrus flavor, and you don’t need to fancy up those versions. For the Holidays, though, I added small bits (less than half a teaspoon each) of several flavors that remind me of the great eats at the end of the year.

ThreeNavels

Here’s my version:

  • 4 lbs navel oranges
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 lime
  • 1 grapefruit
  • 2-3 cups water
  • 2 cups prickly pear juice
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1.5 droppers Stevia concentrate (NOW Better Stevia is my choice)
  • 2 tablespoons low-sugar pectin powder (Ball works wonders)
  • 1/4 lb candied ginger
  • 6-10 habanero chiles, to suit your heat level interest
  • ground cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom

Slice the citrus thinly using a mandoline or a very sharp knife (if you’re handy that way). Pitch the seeds, of course. I cut across the thin rounds to make smaller bits of fruit. Place the cut citrus, 2 cups of water, and all the prickly pear juice in a large pot and bring to a boil (10 minutes or so), then reduce heat to simmer and cover. Cook the fruit for 40-50 minutes, or until the rinds are nice and soft. Add more water if the cooked fruit looks to be too stiff.

Set up your canner and get your jars, lids and rings ready. I use half-pints, mostly, but use smaller or larger as you wish. This batch will make about 8 half-pints, give or take 1.

Put on disposable gloves and process the habaneros. I cut the tops off and leave the seeds; your choice. I put them in my small Kitchenaid food chopper with a small amount of liquid from the cooking citrus. I chopped the candied ginger into smaller bits and put that in with the chiles. Process the mixture until the desired consistency; I like to get this stuff down fairly fine, but with a bit of texture left.

When the fruit is ready, add the chile-ginger paste and stir to combine. Bring the pot to a hard boil and add most of the sugar, with stirring. Blend the pectin with the remaining sugar, and add to the pot with all the remaining ingredients. Stir regularly for 5-7 minutes, and test the gel set if you like. I add the pectin because I’ve had marmalade refuse to set well before; this little “cheat” guarantees the mixture works as jam.

Can as recommended. Half-pints usually only need 10 minutes or so in the boiling-water bath, pints a bit longer, to guarantee a safe seal. Or you can simply put the marmalade in jars with tight-fitting lids and refrigerate. If you do skip the canning, be sure to eat the marmalade in a few weeks! Not that there’s ever a problem around my madhouse with any going bad…

Enjoy the (Bittersweet Citrus Spread) Heat!

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Heavenly Beef and Guinness Pie

Pastie

Cool weather is here, and though it wasn’t a typical Texas scorcher this past summer, I’m ready for the comfort foods of autumn. (How hot was it last summer? I hear it made the Jehovah’s Witnesses take up telemarketing.) One of those foods is pot pie, and the pot pie’s close cousin, the pasty.

I recently came across this wonderful website, and on there is an awesome recipe for Beef and Guinness Pie. I believe you simply MUST try this one, as it has two of the major food groups listed in the title! I won’t reproduce it here, as Chef Leite has done a much better job of description and presentation than I ever could. I will say I’m sad that I didn’t come up with this phenomenal dish myself, but I’m pleased I found this version.

I will point out, though, that you can make awesome pasties with his filling! First, make some pasty dough, like maybe this one. How much? If you want to match Chef Leite’s quantities, you’ll need to triple or quadruple the dough. That’s a bit much. So here’s a more workable strategy: Make the Beef and Guinness Pie filling, and save off about 1/3 of it. Make the dough, and use the smaller portion of the filling to make pasties. Bake those and have a small army over for dinner. In the meantime, save the other filling portion for later. All you need to do is reheat the filling gently, then follow the rest of the instructions for making the pot pie.

Trust me, this filling gets even better by standing a day or two in the refrigerator. By making a smaller casserole, you won’t have to share, either; no need to thank us, it’s what we do here at the Underground, make everybody happy…

Enjoy the (Fall is Finally Here) Heat!

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Site On Partial Lock-Down…

BangBox

 

In the last few weeks the Chile Underground has been found by the masses. Masses of hackers, I mean…

One strategy that’s used to gain malicious access is for somebody’s zombienet to generate throwaway email addresses, then attempt to register on blog sites with those addresses. I’m not entirely sure what happens after that, although the Internet’s chock-full of scary stories about what could happen next. I’d rather not resort to Captcha strategies, and I thought I had plenty of protection up to catch softbots trying to do anything on my site.

Silly me. Seems the softbots are ahead on points, this round. My registered users list is a few dozens, then suddenly BOOM! I get 140,000+ requests. Not bloody likely.

Until I have a fix that I like in place, I’ve disabled auto-registration, and dumped the unregistered users that showed up recently. (In case you’re wondering, it took an automated cleaner over 3 hours to do this, shutting down the site during that time. I HATE down time.) If you were honestly attempting to become a registered user of the site and you got tossed in this sweep, I apologize. At present, though, the only way I’ll take new users is if they send me an email: Chile Doctor at chile underground. (You DO know how to unmung that address, yes?) Real name, a non-disposable email address, and a sporty note (to cheer me up) and I’ll get you into the database manually and send you back a password. I doubt I’ll be inundated this way; we’ll see.

Oh, what’s a disposable email? Things like Yahoo, Hotmail, almost anything ending in .ru, guerrillamail,and more. (I’ve got the list, trust me.) I will accept GMail, and if I think what you’ve supplied is suspect I’ll drop you a line back and see where we can go from there. Think it through, though: I’ll likely be conservative, given the huge number of recent dodgy attempts to gain access. I take security seriously, even though I don’t collect information. My content, and your visitor experience as a consequence, is important to me…

The (Spam Signups) Heat is ON!

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It’s National Coffee Day, and We’re All Thankful

AhCoffee

It’s Monday morning, and it’s National Coffee Day (and, in a fateful alignment of the stars, International Coffee Day). The latter fact makes the former one bearable, maybe even pleasant.

Check around, lots of places will have free coffee today. Get it while you can! Few things beat free caffeine.

I always have half a cup first thing in the morning. Doctor’s orders. Oh, he didn’t order the coffee regimen, but he DID order that I cut my consumption in half. So now I only have half a cup.

The cup this morning is a 32-ounce Disney mug, with Goofy on it. The coffee’s got a bit of Truvia in it, as I like that flavor in hot drinks. (Iced tea, not so much.) And some light creamer.

Just because it’s National Coffee Day I’m going back for seconds, hang Doctor’s orders…

Enjoy the (Caffeine Monday) Heat!

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More Summertime Fruit Pepper Jellies

This entry is part of a series, Pepper Jelly Chronicles»

LovelyPair

You can get almost any fruit you want, whenever you want it, thanks to our grocery industry. But don’t they taste best when they’re in season? That’s why I make so much pepper jelly this time of year…

Dark sweet cherries have been available in our area for a few weeks, but the prices! I didn’t want to sell a car or take out a second mortgage to get a few pounds of these tasty morsels. I was beginning to think the harvest had been poor up north, then the prices dropped a lot. I stocked up! A friend showed us how to quickly pit cherries (Thanks, Kari!), and we worked our way through seven pounds in no time. Fortunately, cherry juice isn’t nearly as staining as others. (Although it was easy to spot who wasn’t putting all their pitted cherries in the bowl, since they sported a deep purple ring on their smug mug.)

I made two big batches of jelly from these cherries, totaling 15 half-pint jars. The first one I used four habaneros, giving the spread a nice, even heat. What I call “stingjam” level. Not enough heat to put anybody off, but if you put too much on the cracker you’ll notice. The second batch got cowhorn cayennes from last year’s bumper crop. I simply grabbed a few frozen peppers out of the freezer, topped them while they were still solid, then ground them up in my trusty little Kitchenaid food processor. I guess there were about eight of these long, red lovelies. The eight half-pints this batch produced have a milder aspect, but every now and again you get a bigger bit of the cayenne and you know it. Nice little surprises!

In case you forgot how I make my jellies, read this post.

Next up, pineapples. It seems that Central America has had a bumper crop of the large, yellow fruit this year. We’ve had them available in our area for a while now, at prices as low as a buck apiece. Mostly they’re going for two-for-three, or sometimes $2 each, but not more. They’ve been in that price range since April! Although the scuttlebutt in our area is that the great prices are about to come to an end. I hope they don’t go back to the $6-8 range, like they were. I’m getting spoiled by having this juicy, sweet produce readily available; I’ve been enjoying pineapple on ice cream, in salsas, and as a snack. Can’t get enough!

I bought two for the pineapple jellies, and made two batches. The difference between them is the alcoholic spirit I infused. One got bourbon, the other got rum. Each batch of six half-pints took a pineapple each, which I cut into pieces and scorched on my new grill to give the fruit some nice marks and added flavor. I added a few ounces of pineapple juice, and I used lemon juice as the acid for these batches. Pretty standard preparation, other than that.

So far that makes about 80 half-pints of jelly this season. And I don’t even have many peppers from this year’s garden yet! Though the number of blooms at the moment is amazing…

Enjoy the (Jars O’ Jelly) Heat!

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The Usual Hot Dog Follies, With a Twist (It Has a Nice Ring to It)

BigDawg

It’s Fourth of July, and guess what? Nathan’s held a hot dog eating contest! Again! No, really; I’m not kidding…

Joey Chestnut, aka “Jaws,” put away the competition again too. He never looked like he was threatening to beat last year’s record of 69 dogs and buns (his own record, of course), but he was quick out of the gate and nobody could catch him. He put down 61 this year, beating second place Matt Stonie by a full five dawgs.

Before downing the competition, though, he had a solemn chore to perform, which he got down on one knee to complete. He asked his long-time girlfriend, and fellow extreme eating enthusiast, to marry him. Neslie Ricasa said yes, and Joey took the emotional high from that into the serious business of capturing the Nathan’s crown once more. After all, he didn’t was to lose after that, did he?

Sonya “Black Widow” Thomas wasn’t on her best game, it seems, and ceded her crown to Miki Sudo. The ladies are much more petite eaters; it only took 34 dogs and buns to win, by 6½. There’s always next year, Sonya. And America loves a good comeback story, so train hard! I’m sure Nathan’s will host this event again next year, same bat time, same bat channel.

In case you’re wondering what does one feel like after consuming 60+ hot dogs in 10 minutes? Consider this: The mass and volume of meat, bread and water is surprisingly similar to that of a full-term baby, if the baby’s on the large size. In other words, Joey got engaged, pregnant AND went to full term on the Fourth of July! All in the space of about 15 minutes.

Only in a free America, I tell you…

The (Extra-Full Tummy) Heat is ON!

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