In my garden my pepper bed has space for 18 pepper plants. I normally pop in half a dozen bell peppers so I can have a good supply to freeze to use over the winter months as we use them in most meals. So that means there are 12 spots for interesting things.
Ordinarily I kind of panic at the end of the season, let them all go red and make one giant batch of sweet chili sauce with all my good intentions falling by the wayside as I wander back to the house with a basket laden with produce.
But this season I have been intentional with my good intentions and given each variety of peppers the ability to shine for the stars they are. Each has their own special flavour and use and after going to all the effort of growing them from seed it is important to celebrate them in a way that allows us to fully appreciate what they have to offer. It was a lot of work, but I have to say I am so glad I took the time as I now have some amazing condiments and ingredients to enrich my cooking.
Now this is a rather long story, so I’ve broken it into two parts, so it isn’t so overwhelming. It also buys me a little more time to do something with those beach balls.
We’ll start at the beginning because it makes more sense as I always plant my garden out in alphabetical order in case something goes amiss with the labels. Although strangely enough the first is the last as I’ve only just bulk harvested my bell peppers and they are destined for the vacuum packer in small batches and will be tossed into the freezer.
I could have dried them all and ground them up but to be honest it would have made a mountain of cayenne powder and if I use it at all, it is a pinch at a time. So, these helped make up the bulk of my sweet chili sauce and I’m ok with that. I did air dry some because they look really cool and there may be a recipe at some point that calls for chili flakes and then I’ll have some on hand.
I am a fool. I have grown this for many years and we really don’t like things too spicy. Every autumn I say, “I won’t grow these again – they are too hot.” But come spring and I look at those inoffensive little seeds and I think ‘why not’ and sow some. And they are prolific. This season I made a Piri Piri sauce using garlic and lemons to give it the right flavour. I also made a hot mango sauce with them, added a handful or several into the sweet chili sauce and used them in the smoked chili powder. I also made a fermented sriracha style sauce. And there are still loads on the plant! I’m not a great one for following recipes so I looked on the great big internet and got the general gist of things – making sure I kept the preserving elements and ratios correct and kind of winged it. I wish I remembered exactly what I’d done as my Brother the Chef said they were really good! High praise indeed.
(NB click on the images above for descriptions)
Now I stumbled on to this one by accident and by accident it was one of those seed catalogue shopping accidents when you click all the buttons ‘by accident’. But I’m pleased to say it was a happy accident and this little beauty will be in my garden again next season. What it is, is a heatless habanero and it has so much fruity flavour. Who knew behind the heat of a habanero was something so complex and delish? They certainly pack a punch – but in a good way. I made a habanada relish that is so lovely with a soft cheese on a crisp cracker. I also use the cute little heatless bombs in place of peppers as they give so much yumminess to a dish.
Hungarian wax and Yellow Banana
I’ve put these together here because I treated them the same in my kitchen. I sliced them up and pickled them. I got the recipe off the internet and it is a pretty standard salty / sweet / vinegary recipe. But I kept them separated as the Yellow Banana is really mild and the Hungarian Wax is quite spicy but they both give a great crunch on a platter of cheese and crackers or to lift a salad from the doldrums. Or just steal them one at a time out of the jar.
Normally these grow really well for me and my favourite thing to do with them is to stuff them with cream cheese and cook them on the BBQ. But for what ever reason this season they grew really small and not so prolifically, so I didn’t get many. But I did manage to get enough to make something I’d only heard of recently and that was Cowboy Candy where they are sliced up and cooked in a sugar / vinegar syrup until nice and sticky. The heat and the sweet go really well together. I really should look into how they are eaten as I’ve just been doing the cheese and cracker combo with them. We’ve been eating a lot of cheese lately… because of all the peppers.
Now I’m going to stop here, or I’ll end up going on and on and on and on!
Come again soon – I can’t wait to tell you about the Jwala. That is probably my favourite chilli.
Sarah the Gardener : o)