Posted on | August 24, 2016 | 2 Comments
Are you kidding me? It’s August? End of August?
I had some suspicion that summer was full on when I went from gleefully eating a tomato sandwich 3 times a day to averting my eyes from the rows of tomatoes slowly starting to rot on the counter. I should have realized summer was at its peak when every meal involved some combination of bread and veggies from the garden—tomato pie, pesto pizza with roasted peppers, brushetta, eggplant panini. The Other Half started cooking himself a pound of venison sausage every weekend and nibbling on it throughout the week for a protein fix. And everyone ranted and raved ecstatically when I made meatball subs one night in an effort to finish off the crockpot full of homemade tomato sauce.
Although in their defense it may not have been the sudden appearance of meat that they appreciated as much as the fact that I made dinner itself. ’Cause the night before I just sat on the couch with crackers, cream cheese, and a jar of freshly made hot pepper jelly. As everyone wandered in looking for dinner, I looked at them blankly and continued to shovel in creamy, sweet, spicy goodness without comment. And the night before that they came in to find me eating a homemade chocolate cake smeared with coconut pecan frosting (don’t get excited—it was box cake mix and a tub of store frosting). Which, at least, counts as cooking.
The point is that I should know August is here when I am frantically scouring pinterest for new veggie recipes and when the dinner routine fades away into random grazing. (Why do those people need dinner every night??) And the end of August is definitely here when I finally give up on using up the overflow of veggies and start searching for canning recipes instead. I would share that hot pepper jelly recipe but it ended up being a combination of several recipes because I had one kind of pectin and the original recipe called for a different kind of pectin. Herein lies the problem with canning—the entire activity involves substances and processes that no one understands anymore.
Do you know what pectin is? No, no you don’t. I mean, you know the pectin turns the sauce into jam or jelly but you have no idea really how or why. And you can check Wikipedia, but….
“Pectins, also known as pectic polysaccharides, are rich in galacturonic acid. Several distinct polysaccharides have been identified and characterised within the pectic group. Homogalacturonans are linear chains of α-(1–4)-linked D-galacturonic acid. Substituted galacturonans are characterized by the presence of saccharide appendant residues (such as D-xylose or D-apiose in the respective cases of xylogalacturonan and apiogalacturonan) branching from a backbone of D-galacturonic acid residues. Rhamnogalacturonan I pectins (RG-I) contain a backbone of the repeating disaccharide: 4)-α-D-galacturonic acid-(1,2)-α-L-rhamnose-(1. From many of the rhamnose residues, sidechains of various neutral sugars branch off. The neutral sugars are mainly D-galactose, L-arabinose and D-xylose, with the types and proportions of neutral sugars varying with the origin of pectin.“
Our grandmothers understood pectin, (They made that crap from apples, people, apples!) but we just buy it from the store and add it to our recipe. And if we don’t have the right kind of pectin for our recipe—because it comes in liquid pectin, regular dry pectin, low sugar dry pectin, no sugar dry pectin, freezer jam pectin, or low methoxyl pectin—then we have to wing it. The first batch came out a bit soupy but the next batch was fine. Go figure. In any case, it was good for eating over cream cheese in lieu of making dinner.
In addition to peppers I had baskets of tomatoes to use….
so I combined the 2 in a recipe for Tomato and Pepper Chutney. Which was tangy, sweet, a little bit spicy and, just like the recipe claimed, ready in an hour.
The rest of the tomatoes went into a tomato soup recipe specifically chosen because:
1. it did not require scalding, peeling, or deseeding tomatoes
2. it used up a bag of sprouting onions in the onion bin
3. it freezes flat so that it doesn’t take up any more cans or pantry space
4. I got to use my immersion blender. Wheee!
It was like the universe peeked into my kitchen and handed me a perfect recipe and an easy healthy meal for weeknights this winter.
That still left me with several baskets of peppers—some sweet, some hot, and lots of unlabeled unknown surprise varieties.
I went back to the hot bath with Habanero Jalapeno Jelly that is not for the faint of heart (or tongue!) and a Hot Pepper Honey Mustard that I cannot stop putting on sandwiches. For the record, my version used 40 Hungarian wax peppers instead of 40 banana peppers so it’s a bit spicier than the original recipe.
Next I charred a batch of red and green bell peppers under the broiler.
Then used them for Roasted Red Bell Pepper Pesto….
and Roasted Green Bell Pepper Pesto. Both of which froze up nicely in ice cube trays.
The rest of the garden basil went into regular old fashioned pesto. The best part of the bell pepper pesto is saving money by leaving out those expensive pine nuts!
The last of the roasted peppers are for roasted green pepper soup. I don’t expect this to be a big seller at my house so I am serving it alongside pork tacos with salsa verde (because salsa verde is the only recipe I can find to use up my tomatillo crop). Perhaps I will put it in shot glasses like the amuse-bouche of soup that The Other Half and I had once at a fancy restaurant. We went around and around for a while discussing whether the tiny glass of thick creamy liquid brought out with our drinks was soup or dipping sauce or a joke from the rich people sitting around us who realized we were just rednecks with a gift card. Eventually we knocked it back and realized it was, indeed, soup, then we laughed so hard we almost snorted it out through our noses because it was soup in a shot glass. And because,well…we were rednecks in a fancy restaurant.
I was out of ideas for the rest of my hot peppers. So I settled for the same trick women have been using with hot peppers for centuries. I hung them to dry so that I didn’t have to worry about it for 3 or 4 more months. I got out an upholstery needle and some twine and strung garlands of jalapenos, Thai, poblano, cayenne, anaheim, and habanero around the kitchen windows for sun and eventually, lots of dry heat from the woodstove.
So maybe August sneaked past me. And I only have a couple days to get back-to-school and back-to-dinner-time. Every. Freaking. Night. But with all the red and green garlands around here I’m at least 3 months ahead of time for December.
Which is good. Because, according to the garden, I have oh, probably 20 minutes before I have to start canning and freezing again….