Sunday, October 17, 2010

Pa Sportman's Club Sweet-Hot Wax Peppers

When I was a very young child, living in a small coal-mining town in Western Pa, my mother helped the family scrape-by serving at the local sportsman's club. I can barely remember the place, only the lake out front which hosted local fishing contests and giant bullfrogs. But she remembers a pepper relish that was served at every table with white bread and butter, and has been asking me to make it for months now. Well, peppers are in season and the subject of this month's Click for tigress can jam food blog challenge, so I gave it a shot, and gosh-darn is it good!

5 pint jars, lids and rings, sterilized
1 1/2# hungarian wax peppers
1/2# baby sweet peppers (added for color)
1/2 sweet onion, julienne
5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3 cups apple cider vinegar
2 cups water
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tsp canning salt

Slice peppers into rings, removing seed pods. Mix with garlic and onion. Bring vinegar, water, sugar and salt to a boil. Tightly pack pepper mix into sterilized jars, fill with brine, and attach lids and rings. Process for ten minutes. Here, I'm having mine on wheat bread with cream cheese.

Kashmir Chile Pepper Chutney

Once again, I'm amazed at how different my husband and I can be. While I cooked up twelve half-pints of apple butter and 5 pints of hot pepper rings (both very simple recipes from my childhood), Joe lovingly labored over two half-pints of pepper jam, grinding his own Garam Masala in a mortar and pestle, tasting and re-tasting until perfection was achieved. And I must say, it was worth it. This chutney is incredibly well balanced in sourness, sweetness and heat, and set quite beautifully, as well. We could build an Indian feast around this jam, and probably soon will.

2 1/2 pints, lids and rings, sterilized
1# mixed peppers, including Red Bell, Poblano, Cubanelle, Serrano, Finger Hot, Jalapeno and Habanero
1/2 sweet onion
1 Tbsp canola oil
2 Tbsp garlic and ginger paste
1 Tbsp garam masala spice mix (see note*)
2/3 cup rice vinegar
juice of 2 limes
1 cup sugar

Small dice peppers and onions, removing the seeds and membranes (or not for a much hotter version) from all but the fingerhot and serrano peppers. We sliced these two into thin rings. Heat oil in a small pot and sweat vegetables on medium-low heat, about ten minutes. Add garlic and ginger paste and cook another five minutes. Add spice mix, lime juice, vinegar and sugar and reduce until the chutney is thickened, about ten more minutes. Ladle into jars, attach lids and rings and process for ten minutes.

Click for tigress can jam food blog challenge

Note* Garam Masala is a warm (not hot) spice mix typical of the northwest region of India, including Kashmir and Punjab. You could buy it in an Indian market, but blending your own spices gives you a much more fresh and intense flavor, and you may also alter it according to your own tastes. Ours included, in order of mass, largest to smallest: cardamom, allspice, anise seed, coriander, nutmeg, cinnamon, fennel, and cloves.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Old Fashioned Apple Butter

Okay, I've got something to fess up to: I miss autumn. I miss the leaves changing colors, and that crisp feeling in the air. I miss pulling out a cozy sweater to visit the nearest pumpkin patch and drinking fresh apple cider at Reeger's Farm fall festival. But since winter and snow inevitably must follow, I will stay here in perpetual summer and honor the season the best way I can- with food.
I will make chili and roast chicken, bake pumpkin pies and zucchini bread and slather it with apple butter just like the Amish make at Smicksburg. Of course, no one here sells good old fashioned homemade apple butter, so I had to make it myself. Here's how-

12 1/2 pint jars, lids and rings, sterilized
10# sweet apples (I used NY Honey Crisp)
2 cups water
1-2 Cups brown sugar (depending on the sweetness of your apples)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground clove

Wash and cut apples into one inch chunks. I removed the core, but left the skin on. In a large pot, cook apples with two cups water on medium-high heat until very soft. Pass apples through a Foley food mill into a medium size pot. At this point you could add the sugar and spices and process as apple sauce. For butter, cook apple puree on very low, just barely a simmer, stirring every fifteen minutes, until reduced by half. Mine took about three hours to reach this point. Make sure to partially cover it as you cook, as it tends to splatter quite a bit, but also needs an opening for steam to escape.
As it reaches the appropriate thickness add the sugar and spices. Begin with one cup sugar, adding more to taste. For the last step, to make it more apple buttery, I used a hand-held immersion blender to smooth it out. You could also use a blender. This is an important step so do not skip it. Otherwise, your apple butter will just look like very thick apple sauce. Ladle into sterilized jars and process ten minutes.
Because this is so time consuming, and creates a lot of dishes to wash, I do not recommend making any less than ten pounds at a time. You could even double it, provided you have pots large enough to cook that many apples. And given your family is all going to want a jar, that would probably be a good idea.