Chocolate Habanero

2016-10-21-12-34-31Why do they call you chocolate habanero? Is it because they want to watch me take a bite and laugh at my tears and burning tongue? I know it’s only a name because they look like chocolate, but I’m just dumb enough to want to taste one….

Spicy peppers at the farmers market, jalapeno, habanero, Serrano, Fresno, cayenne, poblano

I love the hot peppers on display at the farmer’s market.

They are too spicy for me, but I enjoy pickling them for my husband.

Chopped hot, spicy peppers on a cutting board

They are so pretty when chopped up and canned.

Hot spicy peppers slices and pickled in masn jars

P is for Preserving Food

Two summers ago I tried canning for the first time and loved it. Last year I did even more food-preservation projects.

Cherries were first. I canned some sweet and some sour, and I also made jam for the first time. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be. I’m still getting over how much sugar goes into jam. It’s hard to dump 6-7 cups of sugar into a pot of something I’m making.

Canned cherries and cherry jam

Later, I made blackberry jam. It was such a nice day picking these blackberries that I used some photos for my entry in the photo challenge called Good Day.

Homemade Blackberry jam

I also canned peaches. At the time, I felt like I had packed the jars full of peach halves, but after canning they kind of shrunk and floated, making it look like I could have fit more in.

Jars of home canned peaches

Throughout the summer, I was canning tomato sauce. Each week I would bring home tomatoes from the farmers market and make sauce.

Quarts of home canned tomato

Sometimes you can find tomato “seconds,” which are fruits that aren’t in perfect shape, but are still definitely edible. There may be bruises that you have to cut off, splits, or minor things like that. These are sold at a discount, or sometimes given away for free. They still make excellent sauce, so they’re good enough for me.

Chopped heirloom tomatoes in pot for tomato

In all, I think the things that I canned were: cherries, cherry jam, tomato sauce, pickled beets, spicy peppers, applesauce, picked roasted bell peppers, peaches, blackberry jam.

Canned spicy peppers

It got so hectic that I wasn’t keeping up with writing down or taking pictures of the stuff I canned, it was hard enough just to get it done and still have my tiny kitchen cleaned and ready to cook the next meal. But I really loved it. The chaos and mess were totally worth it.

I love the idea of preserving good products at the peak of freshness to enjoy later. It’s nice to have control over the process of what goes in it. I’m looking forward to doing more this summer as things come into season.

***

I’m participating in the A to Z Challenge for the month of April. The idea is to post every day, except Sundays, and end up with one post for each letter of the alphabet. It’s a good challenge to help me to blog every day.

A to Z Challenge badge

Things That Are Hot: Cee’s Fun Photo Challenge

Campfire for smores
For this week’s Cee’s Fun Photo Challenge, the theme is things that are hot. This campfire made some yummy smores last summer.

Canned spicy peppers
This is a mix of spicy peppers that I pickled and canned last fall. Jalapeños, Scotch Bonnets, and some others that a friend grew but couldn’t remember the name. They sure were hot when I was cutting them up!

Toasting a marshmallow
Another campfire for smores from last summer. I guess that’s all I do in the warm months.

Two mugs of hot cocoa with marshmallows
Marshmallows again. I really didn’t think I ate them that often.

Blue flame
(You could totally toast a marshmallow here if you had to.)

Photo Challenge: Muse — Nature

Tomato flower and green cherry tomatoes
Tomato flower and green cherry tomatoes

My muse is found in nature. In growth and change. How does a tiny seed turn into a flower, or even more amazing, into something I can eat?

Pepper flower
Pepper flower

I love to get out and explore new gardens, parks, and places, but I can’t always do that. My little garden on my balcony helps me see some of the small changes that are always happening in nature. Some flowers last a few weeks, others, just a day.

Tomato flower silhouette
Tomato flowers

Nature never stops. There’s always something new to see. It could be a big change or small. I can always find something to get lost looking at, and something to inspire me.

This week’s photo challenge theme is Muse.

Green bean blossom
Green bean blossom

Canning Roasted Pickled Peppers: 5 Photos, 5 Stories: Day 5

Roasted pickled peppers in a mason jar
Roasted pickled peppers

My last post in this challenge is about my fourth canning project from last fall.  I made three pints of roasted pickled bell peppers and they were fabulous.

Like the tomato sauce, this second-ever canning project of mine also took a lot of work: first the roasting until the peppers got slightly browned, then putting in a paper bag to cool (this is allegedly supposed to make them easier to peel the skin), then peeling the skin (which didn’t seem to be easy despite sitting in the paper bag), then the packing and boiling.

I used peppers from the farmer’s market, which came in varying shapes, colors, and sizes because they were organically grown. I understand that naturally grown foods do not grow into the standardized, uniform shapes that we see at the grocery store–and I love that….but when it comes to peeling roasted peppers, all that variation was kind of a pain.

While I was swearing my way through the peeling process, I said I wouldn’t make these again. How could they be worth all the trouble? Well, a few months later, after the flavors had mingled and set, I discovered that they are totally worth it. I began adding them to everything and I look forward to more later this summer.

Canning was a fun experience and I’m looking forward to doing more this year. I think I unknowingly chose harder things first and easier foods later: tomato sauce, pickled peppers, apple butter and pickled beets. Now at least I know what I’m in for when I bring home a 45-lbs box of tomatoes or decide to start roasting 7 lbs of bell peppers. It was a fun learning experience.

This post comes as part of the Five Photos, Five Stories challenge sent to me by Nonny Moose. I thought my theme for the next five days would be food, since I haven’t written much about that lately. A theme is not necessary, but for me this is motivation to get caught up on some posts I have been drafting in my mind.

The challenge rules are:

  1. Post a photo each day for five consecutive days.
  2. Attach a story to the photo. It can be real, fiction, a poem, a quote or short paragraph – that is entirely up to you.
  3. At the end of each day, nominate one other blogger to take part.

Today I nominate Luke of LukeWymer. It’s a new blog and I hope Luke shows us some more beautiful Irish scenery. There’s no pressure, it’s just for fun 🙂

Is Summer Over Already?

The changing leaves in New England, foliage
The changing leaves in New England

Haha, I started this draft a month ago. I guess it’s better late than never?

I suppose I haven’t blogged in a bit. Summer was just starting to get busy and boom, now it’s done.

I’m trying to get everything back into a routine. Still trying to grow a few vegetables and flowers out on my balcony. I’ve picked a few Lemon Boy tomatoes, a few red ones from the plant labeled “Patio,” and quite a few of the cherries (although they end up being more like the size of blueberries). I discovered that at least one of the Hungarian wax pepper plants will produce peppers that turn red and get quite spicy if I leave them on the plant long enough. That was a nice surprise. Perhaps it’s a slightly different kind of pepper plant?

Or maybe Hungarian wax peppers are similar to shishitos, which I discovered at the farmer’s market a few months ago, where about 1 in 10 is spicy. I have been eating shishitos all summer, usually just pan fried and sprinkled with a little salt. Sometimes thrown into a stir fry. With it’s thin skin and membrane, you can eat the seeds and everything but the stem. They are delicious.

Anyway, I have a few months worth of photos to look through and post. We’ve had many happy trips to farms to pick our own food and for the kids to learn about how it grows. I’ve been cooking a lot and have attempted canning this year. I’ll post more about my canning adventures soon.

I hope you are enjoying October in your part of the world!

Progress in my Container Garden

It’s always encouraging to see progress in your garden.

Yellow Boy tomato
‘Lemon Boy’ tomato

I have teeny, tiny tomatoes growing now. Seems like the spider shaped flowers have produced some fruit. Above is a tomato growing from the flower from my ‘Lemon Boy.’

And this will be a cherry tomato when it grows up.

Tiny cherry tomato
Tiny cherry tomato

This Hungarian Yellow Wax pepper is really coming along. Just three weeks ago it was a flower.

Hungarian Yellow Wax pepper growing nicely
Hungarian Yellow Wax pepper growing nicely

These are radish flowers. When I plant radish seeds, they generally don’t grow radish bulbs, but they will produce flowers if I let them go long enough. I may actually have one radish out there, which is exciting. I’ll peek sometime soon, but I don’t want to disturb it much. The rest of the plants in the pot were either eaten as lettuce greens when they were shoots, or they are growing wild and making flowers.

Radish flowers
Radish flowers

This is one of the pea plants. I was interested in playing with the HDR setting with the sun behind the leaves.

Pea plant
Pea plant

Container Gardening: Vegetables and Herbs

I finally made it to the garden center on Sunday. Usually I would have done this on Mother’s Day weekend, but this past month has been busy.

I didn’t realize that three weeks had slipped by, and was surprised at first at the small selection. The fact that vegetables were on sale, and that there were so few to choose from, really made it sink in.

I was after the usual: vegetables, herbs, and flowers.

A few varieties of tomatoes and some Hungarian Yellow Wax peppers made up my vegetable selection. I had started lettuce, peas, carrots and radishes from seed weeks ago but so far the lettuce seems to be the only thing working out. I have not had success with carrots and radishes. Even though the packages say the seeds are container friendly, they will sprout but never grow a root that I can eat. I plant them for fun anyway, thinking maybe this year will be the year.

I thought this Patio tomato and Hungarian Yellow Wax pepper would be good roommates, so they are sharing a pot. This is based purely on how they looked, not on anything that I maybe should have looked up about how well they grow next to each other. (Oops.) I picture the tomato plant being the sloppy one and the pepper being the tidy, efficient half of the pair. The pepper is always cleaning up, trying to keep the absent-minded tomato on track. But, the tomato gives good hugs. Just look at those fuzzy leaves.

A Patio tomato and Hungarian Yellow Wax pepper
Perfect roommates: a Patio tomato and Hungarian Yellow Wax pepper

Herbs are pretty dependable on my balcony. Here are the staples: oregano, basil, and cilantro. If they look a bit smushed, it’s because just moments after they were planted in their new home, my daughter stumbled back and fell—but luckily these three heroes broke her fall and caught her as she sat into the pot. (She wasn’t hurt and we both laughed at the cartoonish aspect of it.)

Oregano, cilantro, and basil
Oregano, cilantro, and basil (sat on for extra flavor)

I planted the rosemary and tarragon together. Not only because they both like well-drained soil, but because they are both tall with thin leaves. They seemed like they could be good friends. I’m sure they both wish they were living near the Mediterranean. (That makes three of us.)

There was an interesting note on the tag of this Artemisia dracunculus French that says, “Know your tarragon! True French tarragon should have a subtle anise flavor and if chewed, should make the lips numb. Not to be confused with Russian Tarragon which is tasteless and a weed.” (Source: Gilbertie’s Herbs)

Rosemary and tarragon
Rosemary and tarragon

This is a new one for me: chocolate mint. It’s just like the name says, and I want to eat the whole plant. I’m planning to pick strawberries soon and I’ll use this when I make strawberry shortcake. I think it’s going to be great!

chocolate mint plant
There is a chocolate aroma in the leaves of this chocolate mint

 

Lettuce and Peppers

My lettuce is finally starting to resemble lettuce. Hooray!

lettuce growing
The seeds were planted in April.

I picked up some Hungarian Yellow Wax peppers at the nursery yesterday. Peppers have such smooth, neat leaves. Overall a very cheerful-looking plant.

hungarian yellow wax peppers
This plant came with a bonus: a baby pepper!

I thought the flowers were cute. They reminded me of snowdrops, although when I googled snowdrops, the comparison wasn’t as close as I had thought. Guess it’s been a while since I have seen snowdrops.

hungarian yellow wax pepper blossom
Snowdrop look-alike? Well, they are both white…