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Monday, September 30, 2013

Fish House Green Tomato Pickles

Ozarks Gardening
Copyright 2013, Jim Long

Green Tomato Pickles

We’re at the end of the tomato growing season with lots of green tomatoes on hand.  There are several choices about what to do with the tomatoes before cold weather arrives.

You could wrap them individually with newspaper and put them in a box where they’ll ripen slowly over the next few months. A drawback to this method is you have to unwrap every tomato to see if it’s ripening. You could use my method and leave them on the windowsill over the sink, unwrapped, where they will ripen slowly and provide tomatoes right up to the Holidays. Or, you could make a batch or two of fish house green tomato pickles. Here’s my recipe, it’s easy, quick and provides a batch of outstanding green tomato pickles.
Quartered tomatoes.

Fish House Green Tomato Pickles

2 quarts quartered green tomatoes
2 large onions, chopped or sliced
1/3 cup chopped hot peppers
1/3 cup chopped sweet red bell peppers
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons salt
3 cups white vinegar
1 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon yellow mustard seed

Combine ingredients in a large cooking pan and bring to a boil. Let simmer for about 5 minutes. Ladle into hot, sterile jars, wipe lip edge of jars, screw on hot, new jar rings and flats and finger-tighten. Place jars into a boiling water bath, with at least 1 inch of water above the jar lids. Bring to a boil and keep slowly boiling for 15 minutes (for pints, 10 minutes for half-pints; if you are above 1,000 ft. elevation, increase processing time accordingly). Remove and cool on a towel. Don't tinker with the lids, they will seal in 30 minutes or so. Let cool overnight then label and store in the pantry. These are best after the flavors have matured, about 2 weeks or more, and will keep for one to two years in the pantry.
Fish House Green Tomato Pickles, ready for winter.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

World's Hottest Pepper

For many years I've been growing what was the World's Hottest Pepper, the Bhut Jolokia, or Ghost Pepper. In my book, Make Your Own Hot Sauce, I give some background of the pepper and offer a few recipes in using it in hot sauce. This year for the first time, I'm growing the current record holder for the world's hottest pepper, the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion. Later today I'll be making a batch of hot sauce with both of these peppers.
The two world's hottest peppers.
Depending on the source (I accept the New Mexico State University Chili Pepper Institute's measurements) the heat, measured in Schoville Heat Units, or SHU, can vary slightly. They rate the Ghost pepper at 330,000 to 1,023,310 SHUs. The new record holder, the Scorpion, weighs in at 1,500,000 to 2,000,000 SHUs.
In other words, it's pretty darned hot! So you may wonder, why would anyone want peppers that hot? Well, for the guys (and it IS a guy thing) who crossed the ghost pepper with a Red Savina habanero pepper and came up with the Scorpion, it means bragging rights. It also means they can license seed companies to sell their seed, and make a profit. But beyond that, believe it or not, these intensely hot peppers, have flavor, as well. Flavors not necessarily found in other peppers. And you don't eat them raw, or you shouldn't because it can be dangerous. But if you mix them with other kinds of peppers and ingredients, you get the flavor and not as much of the heat. To give an idea of where this heat comes on the giant pepper heat scale, keep in mind the Scorpion comes in at between one million and half and two million heat units. For comparison, look at the Jalapeño and Cayenne listing, below.
A Jalapeño pepper is rated at 3,500 to 8,000 SHUs. And my favorite for roasting and eating, the Poblano, is almost without heat, with 1,000 to 2,500 SHUs.
But if I combine some roasted Poblanos, a few Jalapeños, onions, garlic, vinegar, cilantro and a couple of Ghost peppers and a Scorpion, it will be a tasty hot sauce for just about anything I put it on. I'm getting ready to do a program on making hot sauce for the Ozarks Area Community Congress coming up next weekend and we'll have some tasting of my different sauces. This one I'll probably name, Two Ghosts and a Scorpion.
Various hot sauces I've made so far.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Pepper Roasting

A pepper roaster, ready to work.

A few years ago I drove the entire Santa Fe Trail. I’ve been a speaker for the Santa Fe Trail Symposium, but had never actually driven the entire route from Independence, MO, through southern Colorado and into Santa Fe. It was enjoyable, of course, but it also created an addiction for me. Traveling that route in early fall means passing hundreds of roadside pepper roasters in action.
Pepper roaster in action.

At every roadside stand, people were standing in lines to buy hot roasted peppers to eat or freeze for later. I bought some to bring home, just to see what all the excitement was about. That’s what got me hooked on roasting peppers.

Now, 5 years later, I’m growing 40 varieties of hot and mild peppers. Some are for drying but many are for roasting and eating on top of steaks, or turning into hot sauce. I make lots of hot sauce and wrote a book last year with my favorite hot sauce recipes (Make Your Own Hot Sauce, available on my website, including directions for canning sauces for winter.

I’ve been roasting peppers on my grill and in the toaster oven ever since, but it’s more tedious and slow. I still have to put the hot, roasted peppers into a paper bag to steam them and loosen the skins. It’s certainly worth the effort, but not as efficient as using a pepper roaster.
The propane flame underneath roasts and peels the peppers.

This year I felt I could justify buying myself a real pepper roaster. It’s a metal cage with a hand-crank handle on the end. It holds 5 pounds of peppers and has a propane burner underneath. Turning the handle keeps the peppers moving over the flame and as they toss, the pepper skins char and fall off, leaving me with roasted and peeled peppers.

Sweet peppers are just as tasty as hot peppers, just without the heat. Thick walled peppers roast better than thin walled ones. Hatch pepper, an especially good flavored, little heat pepper are available through the fall season in several local grocery stories.

To see a pepper roaster in operation, one place you can visit is the Springfield (Missouri) Farmers Market on Republic Road any Saturday morning (or a check the farmers market near you). You can roast them on your barbecue grill, as well. Once you've tasted this amazing culinary marvel, you can join me in enjoying one of the authentic flavors of the 1840s and of life along the historic Santa Fe Trail.