Cowboy Candy – Sweet Pickled Jalapenos [Recipe]

Even though I can, I’m not quite at the production level of a lot of homesteaders. Our garden is on the smaller side because of our location so what we don’t eat fresh typically only equates to a couple of quart jars or freezer bags. One vegetable that I always seem to wind up with an excess of is jalapenos. We’ll use the peppers in salsa (canned and fresh), pico de gallo, and just mixed in with dinner but somehow we always end up with way too many peppers.

I hate seeing them wasted so enter “Cowboy Candy”. Basically Cowboy Candy is sweet pickled jalapenos sliced into rings. They are delicious and addictive with a nice sweet heat that stays with you but doesn’t overwhelm you.

The recipe is super easy. First you start off with chopping your jalapenos peppers. Honestly, this is the hardest part of this whole recipe. I have to make my sweet pickled jalapenos in small batches as slicing the jalapenos is tedious and tends to take my breath away from the fumes. I usually wear a pair of gloves when I chop any sort of hot peppers for my safety. I learned the hard way that taking out your contacts at night after chopping peppers is not fun.

Once your jalapenos are all chopped and you take a little break for some fresh air, you’ll get your pickling liquid together. My pickling liquid is pretty basic – apple cider vinegar, water, sugar, salt, and garlic cloves. You bring it all to a boil on the stove, stirring gently to dissolve the sugar and salt. Again – key word is to stir gently. The liquid is hot and it will not pleasant if you get it on yourself.

Once everything is nice and dissolved, you’ll add your sliced jalapenos. Make sure that they are submerged under the liquid. They won’t cook long so I usually stand at the stove, stirring them until they darken in color.

After cooking in the pickling liquid, you’ll add the jalapeno rings (AND the garlic) into your sterilized jars. I had a couple of red jalapenos that I tossed in as well which ended up looking really pretty mixed in among the green.

Your pickling liquid will cook a few more minutes and then you’ll add it to your jars. I ended up with almost a perfect amount of everything. The jar on the right is a little low but I think that if I hadn’t been lazy and had chopped just one or two more jalapenos, it would have been perfect.

These two quart jars will last us until about December as we love to eat them with pretty much everything. I ‘m planning to do another few jars once I get out to the garden to pick some peppers.

My method for canning is a little more old school (think a la your grandmother’s era) which is why I didn’t include canning instructions below. If you are wanting to store these for long term, I suggest searching for water bath canning so that you have the most accurate safety information.

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Cowboy Candy - Sweet Pickled Jalapenos
Servings
2 Quart Jars
Ingredients
Servings
2 Quart Jars
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine garlic, water, vinegar, sugar, and salt. Bring the ingredients to a boil, stirring carefully to dissolve the salt and sugar.
  2. Add the sliced jalapenos, making sure that they are submerged. Let the jalapenos cook for 4 minutes and then use tongs to transfer the jalapeno rings to a clean - sterilized - jar.
  3. Reduce heat and let your liquid simmer for an additional 10 minutes before ladling the liquid over the top of the jar, leaving about 1/2" head space or so (you'll probably end up with just enough liquid to cover your jalapenos).
  4. Pop on your sealing lid/band and let the jars cool before sticking them into your refrigerator. Be patient and let them sit for a few weeks before digging in to them.
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Food in Jars Mastery Challenge: Shrubs

For March’s Food in Jars Mastery Challenge, we had the option of choosing between making a jelly or making a shrub. Since making a shrub has been on my agenda for a while, I decided to go with that option. We already have quite a few jars of grapes jelly canned so it was nice to have the option to try something else.

So exactly what is a shrub? There are a couple of different beverages that go under this category – one being liquor mixed with sugar and citrus, the other being what we are going to focus on. Popular during the American Colonial area, a shrub (also known as drinking vinegar) is a combination of fruit, sugar, and vinegar left to infuse for a few days to create this wonderfully sweet/tart liquid. The resulting liquid can be added to cocktails, sparkling water (for a healthy drink that gives you the feel of soda), salad dressing, or really anything you can think of. It was developed as a way to help preserve berries and fruits at the end of season.

Food in Jars recommends a ratio of 1:1:1one part sugar, one part vinegar, and a handful of fruit – easy enough, right?

March isn’t exactly the best month around here for fresh, local fruit. It’ll be another month or so before strawberries start popping up in the fields and our fruit trees have only just began to bloom. That’s sort of a bummer to me as it feels a bit like cheating to purchase fruit from the grocery store.

I already knew that I wanted my shrub to have ginger. I love ginger (in fact, I just purchased plants a few days ago to grow my own ginger to get fresh-fresh ginger). I combed the grocery store looking for the best looking fruits before settling on a mixture of blueberries and blackberries. Robb loves both of those berries so I knew that he would enjoy eating what I didn’t use.

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In a quart mason jar, I added one cup of berries and one cup of organic cane sugar, muddling them together. Then I added 1 cup of vinegar. In any other circumstance, I would have used apple cider vinegar, but I had a bottle of homemade peach vinegar in my pantry that I had purchased from my local farmer’s market a few months ago.

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I gave everything a quick stir and grated about a 1.5 -inch piece of ginger on top. Stirring one more, I covered the jar with a lid and stuck it in the fridge.

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After two days in the fridge, I did a quick strain (to get out more of the pulp, you’ll probably want to use cheesecloth or something similar). The leftover berries went straight to the chickens! I packaged my finished shrub in a leftover Kombucha bottle.

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Eager to try it out, I poured a glass of water and added a bit of my shrub – yum! I want to pick up some sparkling water for next time, but I loved the almost kombucha-like taste of this shrub.

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Berry Crumb Pie for Pi Day [Recipe]

It’s Pi day! Get it? March 14 – 3.14? No? Hmm.

Moving on. Pie is one of my boyfriend’s favorite desserts so what better way to celebrate Pi day than to bake him a pie? Regardless of what he might say, I am not good at making pies and often wonder why his favorite dessert couldn’t be something like brownies – a dish that I can knock out of the park.

But being that I love him, this is the 3rd pie that I’ve made for 2017. The first was a lovely berry pie with blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries. The second was a lemon meringue pie (using fresh meyer lemons) that nearly kicked my butt.

That lemon meringue pie was a mess. My meringue fell, twice, because I got distracted when I dumped out half of my pie as I tried to readjust it in the oven (note to self: always place your pie on top of a baking sheet). I threw a hissy fit, threatened to the pie in the trash, but still continued to cook it. I never tried the pie but Robb said it was delicious.

I went simple with this pie. I have a freezer full of frozen fruit that I need to start utilizing so I decided to make him another berry pie (which I think is his favorite kind of pie) with a crumb topping. I ended up going with a mixture of red currents, strawberries, and blueberries.

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Berry Crumb Pie

  • 1 (9 inch) unbaked pie shell

Filling

  • 4 cups of thawed berries (drain some of the juice if necessary)
  • ¾ cup sugar (I used Florida Crystals Organic Pure Cane Sugar)
  • 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Pinch of salt

Topping

  • ⅔ cup packed brown sugar
  • ¾ cup rolled oats
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 6 tablespoon butter, cut into 1/4″ cubes
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine your fruit with granulated sugar, flour, lemon juice, and a pinch of salt. Pour into pie shell.
  2. Combine brown sugar, rolled oats, all-purpose flour, cinnamon, and butter until crumbly Spread the topping evenly over the pie filling.
  3. Place on foil-lined baking sheet in lower third of oven. Bake until fruit bubbles and crust browns, approximately 1 hour. If topping begins to brown too quickly, tent with foil. Let cool.

Did you celebrate Pi day?

Food in Jars Mastery Challenge: Salt Preserving

Guys, I kicked butt on Sunday. I swiffered the walls (to get rid of cobwebs), scrubbed the toilets spotless, picked up dog poop in the backyard, swept/vacuumed/swiffered the floors, planted my tomato seeds, made the beds, did laundry AND did the dishes.

But somehow during all of that I found the time to process almost 13 total pounds of lemons I had purchased from Lemon Ladies Orchard. Based in California, Lemon Ladies Orchard offers delicious and fragrant meyer lemons which are Certified Naturally Grown.

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My first order – a 3 pound box.

Earlier in the week I made lemon bars, following it up with a lemon pie on Saturday. My big “lemon” day was on Sunday when I canned a lemon and ginger concentrate, dehydrated lemons, and made a lemon and rosemary salt for the Food In Jars mastery challenge.

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Starting the dehydration process.
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Done!
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One of 3 1/2 pint jars of a lemon and ginger concentrate.

I love canning and trying to preserve as much of my garden harvest as I can. I tend to stick to jams/soup bases/pickles but am always looking for ways to expand my skills. When I came across the year-long food preservation mastery challenge hosted  by Food in Jars earlier in the month, I knew I had to participate. The challenge focuses on a different skill each month.

Calendar of Preserving Skills

January – Marmalade

February – Salt Preserving

March – Jelly OR Shrubs

April – Quick Pickles

May – Cold Pack Preserving

June – Jam

July – Hot Pack Preserving

August – Low Temperature Pasteurization

September – Fruit Butter

October – Drying and Dehydration OR Pressure Canning

November – Fermentation

December – Fruit Pastes

Though I missed out on January, I was excited to hop right in with February’s challenge of Salt Preserving. Since I already have a jar of preserved lemons hanging out on top of the fridge that I started back in January, I decided to create a citrus salt.

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As I was making my lemon and ginger concentrate, I zested each lemon before juicing them. I spread the zest out on a pan and added coarse Kosher salt, mixing until I found the ratio I liked. I decided to make it a little heavier on the zest than on salt to reduce my overall salt intake. Using some fresh rosemary from my mom’s house, I clipped rosemary into small chunks, mixing them into the zest and salt mixture.

I’m letting it sit until dry (which if you are in a rush, you can heat it in the oven on your lowest setting until dry), stirring it around whenever I venture into the kitchen. It’ll probably take about 2-3 days for the mixture to dry before I place it in a jar.

I’m excited to use this salt mixture the next time we cook some of our Alaskan halibut. Lemon Ladies Orchard also included some fresh Bay leaves in my box and I can’t wait to use those as well.

Shrimp Po’boys and Remoulade [Recipe]

Being raised on the coast, I grew up surrounded by fresh seafood to the point where I won’t order seafood typically in a restaurant if I have my doubts on its freshness. I hate frozen seafood as it tends to taste a bit… fishy to me.

A few months ago, my grandfather went and purchased several hundred pounds of fresh shrimp at a ridiculously cheap price so all of us in the family bought a few pounds off of him. Robb and I ate a couple of pounds freshly steamed and froze a few more pounds knowing that we would need to make it a point to eat them before they ended up freezer burned.

Enter shrimp po’boys.

The finished product – yum!!

My mom started fixing shrimp po’boys a few years ago when we were just looking for something new for dinner. I absolutely fell in love with them. Our shrimp po’boys are ridiculously easy to fix – fried shrimp, lettuce, tomato, and baguette, but it is our remoulade sauce that elevates the dish.

A remoulade is a sauce that typically mayonnaise-based with the addition of herbs and other spices. Our recipe is super simple but the secret is to fix it the night before to let all the flavors blend and meld together.

Remoulade for Po’Boys

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • ⅔ cup ketchup
  • 3-4 tbsp minced horseradish
  • 1 tbsp creole seasoning
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Mix together and refrigerate. Best if made the night before.

I used House Autry fish fry seasoning to bread my peeled shrimp. I filled up a pot a few inches with vegetable oil, heated it up on medium high until the surface shimmered.
The finished shrimp. I tested the hot oil with a few shrimp of breading to test that it was ready then added the shrimp – SLOWLY – and fried for a few minutes. We don’t use napkins, so we used a piece of newsprint.

On Robb’s request, we steamed about half of the shrimp using some beer and a blend of Old Bay and a spicy seasoning that we had picked up at Whole Food’s earlier. The steamed shrimp were absolutely delicious and we certainly ate our fill of them!

Steamed shrimp!
Robb enjoying our feast before I fixed our po’boys.