Posts Tagged ‘garden’

The Hot Pepper Bandit

Saturday, September 19th, 2009

We’re rapidly coming to the end of summer, and it’s the time of plenty right now in northern Maryland, when it seems impossible to walk out to the garden without returning with armfuls of fresh veggies. Bobby and I went to the Westminster farmers’ market today and Baugher’s farm and ended up with even more than what we’ve already grown. We’re slowly squirreling away for the winter as part of our continuing endeavor to lessen our negative impact on the world around us by eating locally produced foods as much as possible.

Yesterday, I added to our burgeoning jar of ground cayenne pepper and made three batches of jalapeño hot sauce. (Tangent: Firefox spellcheck recognizes jalapeno as a word but not jalapeño? WTF??) Today, I made a big jar of habañero hot sauce.

Habañeros are wicked, wicked peppers. They are given a heat rating of 10 on our big pepper poster, the only pepper to earn that honor. (Cayennes are second, being rated 9-10.) We didn’t even intend to grow habañeros this year. We planted too many last year and still have bags of them in the freezer downstairs. This year, when buying plants, we found an innocent-looking wee pepper plant called “Caribbean red hots.” Since we’re always looking to experiment with new plants, we bought two of them and planted them. They grew great! Only when they began to produce fruit, I realized that the fruit looked an awful lot like habañeros.

A Google search reveals that they are a super-hot variety of the same. I can’t bear to let fruit rot on the vine, so as they reddened, I reluctantly picked them and stored them in the refrigerator. As they amassed, I realized that I needed something to do with all of these hot peppers. To flavor with them takes only a pinch–and I do mean a pinch–and our habañeros always produce really, really well. That’s a lot of pinches.

I’ve decided to use last year’s frozen crop and this year’s crop to make hot sauce. And then give it away. Bobby and I like spicy foods but really do not need gallons of habañero hot sauce.

But, like I said, habañeros are wicked peppers. Bobby and I have both learned the hard way about working with hot peppers. Now, I not only wear plastic gloves but also cover my mouth and nose with a folded bandana. It looks more like I’m going to rob a train than cook a condiment, but if I breathe in hot pepper fumes otherwise, even from so innocent a source as running a bowl that held pepper scraps under a hot tap, then I am too miserable coughing and choking to get anything done, not to mention that neither coughing nor choking are ideal in the vicinity of food.

Today, I donned my train-robber get up and proceeded to eviscerate close to two dozen “Caribbean red” habañero peppers. All was going well until I rinsed my gloved hands to rid them of seeds. The little bit of mist was enough to set me off choking and sneezing, so I excused myself to go take care of that. After blowing my nose with a tissue, I folded it and dabbed the tears in my eyes. And–gross TMI warning–apparently I had enough capsaicin in my bogies that even touching my eyelid with a folded tissue that had touched my nose was enough that my eye ended up burning, and I had to wash my face in milk.

Habañeros are wicked, wicked peppers.

The good news, at the end of the day, is that we not only ended up with a big jar of hot sauce but also four jars of pickled jalapeños and five jars of spicy salsa. My right hand is burning (from washing dishes used in processing the peppers), but our canning shelf downstairs is filling up fast, so what’s a little pain? It will be worth it.