One of the most prolific fruits of the garden around these parts are peppers! In my yard, jalapenos and banana peppers and long green peppers grow like weeds (though I’ve never been able to grow decent bell peppers).
And when I say prolific, I mean just a few jalapeno bushes will wear a gardener out all the way from early-summer until first freeze sometime in October or November. Each bush can potentially have dozens of peppers on it at any given time, with maybe a third of the peppers being ready to pick every day or two.
Add to this prolific nature of jalapenos the fact that it offends me to see a patch of ground not growing something, and you will begin to see the potential for the pepper apocalypse we are experiencing at the Parker hacienda. See, instead of just a “few” plants, I planted a dozen jalapenos and a dozen banana peppers this year and they are burying us in produce!
How to use all these peppers? Channeling our internal Bubba, we’ve eaten them raw in salads and nachos, made salsa and various relishes (baba ganoush, hummus, etc…) with them, cooked them in a crock pot with a roast, stuffed them with sausage and cream cheese and wrapped them in bacon, made chile rellenos, grilled them, roasted them… and we still had a head-high mound of peppers on the kitchen counter!
So I finally resorted to my fall-back plan – Cowboy candy (A.K.A. candied jalapenos). These sweet fresh-pack pickles are the perfect combo of sweet, tangy, and hot for use on sandwiches, cheese trays, and on top of chili or soups later on in the year when the weather turns cold. They also make great Christmas gifts when packed into half-pints with some pretty labels and ribbons. (Shhhh! Don’t tell the extended Parker tribe what they are getting for Christmas!)
You can search the interwebs for “cowboy candy” recipes and come up with several pretty good ones, but in typical Parker fashion, we prefer to experiment so I suggest looking at several recipes and mixing and matching ingredients to taste. Here is the base recipe That I copied from Old World Garden Farms blog.
Candied Jalapenos – ingredients
3 pounds fresh jalapenos, washed (about 8 cups sliced)
2 cups apple cider vinegar
6 cups granulated sugar
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon celery seed
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
*note – everything in Parker cooking is always approximate and subject to substitution at any moment!
- Slice the peppers into rings
- In a large pot, bring all ingredients except peppers to a boil. Add the pepper slices and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Put the peppers in jars, with juice, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Cap them with canning lids.
- boil then in rolling water for 10 minutes, then set them out on a towel to cool.
First off, most recipes will advise you to wear gloves when slicing jalapenos – or use a food processor with a slicing blade. I didn’t use no sissy gloves or machine (mostly because I couldn’t find my slicing blade) so I just held them by the stem and cut rings from the tip to the butt, making sure to never get any juice on me. Worked out okay (this time).
A little pointer that nobody seems to mention when they are talking about slicing jalapenos – it takes a long time to slice a head-high mound of jalapenos, and just like an apple or banana, once you slice them the insides begin to oxidize and turn brown. This doesn’t affect the flavor at all, but it makes them visually unappetizing. To prevent this, just as when slicing apples or pears – drop them into a bowl of water and lemon juice concentrate as you slice them. The ascorbic acid in the lemon juice is a strong antioxidant and will totally prevent that darkening of the fruit.
For my Cowboy Candy, I used a mix of jalapenos and banana peppers, substituted powdered garlic for the clove garlic, added some celery salt and generic pickling spice, and omitted the cayenne figuring these peppers were hot enough. I also couldn’t bring myself to use that much sugar so I reduced it by about 1/3.
Once these babies are jarred up and sealed it’s best to let them rest for about a month before opening them. Usually in a batch this large I’ll either have a part of a jar of lagniappe or I’ll have a jar that doesn’t seal, so I get to taste them right away and put a few in the fridge. But this time the jars came out exactly (5 pints and 14 half-pints) and they all sealed beautifully.
So I had to turn around and break one jar open to try a few on a tomato sandwich. They are mighty fine and will only be better by the time Autumn rolls around!
UPDATE 9/15/2017 – someone on the interwebs just turned me onto this variation of Cowboy Candy with pineapple. Sounds yummy! Might be worth a try!
Photos by Elise D. Parker