By Crystal Grobe – CBS Minnesota
It really is fall, isn’t it? Time to accept the change of seasons, especially after attending the last outdoor markets at both Kingfield and Mill City recently. The final sign? Daylight Saving Time. At least we still have a few warm weather days ahead, so soak up all the sunshine you can!
Right now I’m working on preserving, canning, and jelly projects in the kitchen. I missed the tomato wave but I’m not too late for the pepper wave. We have quite a few jalapenos from our home garden and I was gifted a few from my brother, so I decided to turn them into candied jalapenos. I have made these in the past and trust me, they are spicy! Remove the seeds and membrane for a milder version and don’t forget to use gloves!
These candied jalapenos are best paired with goat cheese, cream cheese, or another “cooling” spread, perfect for a party appetizer. I’ve used it as a garnish on nachos, in quesadillas, and even used the syrup in a (very spicy) cocktail.
Candied Jalapeños. Ah. There’s a story here. Once upon a time, my friend Katie casually mentioned eating a sandwich made with Candied Jalapeños. She was singing the praises of what she described as an addictive jar of goodies. Then she said the magic words, “I wish I could figure out how to make these at home.” By this point, you know me enough to know what affect that statement has on me, right? I quizzed her on the texture, flavor, and appearance of the jalapeno rings. I begged for photographs. I had her send me a picture of the ingredient list on the label. I asked her to describe the flavor to the very best of her food blogging abilities. She was game. She provided all the information.
After carefully examining close to thirty recipes on Candied Jalapeños, also known as cowboy candy (who KNEW there were so many people candying jalapenos?) I called my local Cooperative Extension office to pick the brain of their home food preservation specialists. Since jalapeños are a low-acid food, some precautions need to be taken when canning them. You have two choices for safely canning peppers of any kind; you can pressure can them or you can acidify (i.e. add vinegar, lemon juice, etc…) the liquid in which you pack the peck of pickled peppers.
I opted for acidifying the pepper liquid because I wanted to maintain some of the texture of the peppers through the process because pressure canning Candied Jalapeños would turn them to flavorful mush. The result was gobsmackingly, head-spinningly, brain-addlingly delicious. Sweet, spicy and savory, Candied Jalapeño rings are way too easy to eat on just about everything. I’ve stashed them in sandwiches, chopped them up on baked beans, tucked them into tacos, used the syrup to brush meat on the grill, perched a couple rings on top of a cream cheese laden cracker and all sorts of other evil things.
For such a simple thing to can, these pack tons of flavor. You’re going to want to make as many of these as you possibly can simultaneously, because once that first jar is cracked open you’re not going to be able to stop eating them. And I mean it. I am not kidding with you when I say that I barter with jars of these for valuable goods. Candied Jalapeños have fed my fine pottery addiction because my favorite local potter is as Candied Jalapeño fixated as I am with her pottery.
- Hate canning? Afraid of canning? For those of you who may be freaking out slightly or massively over the idea of canning, rest easy. You can follow all of the instructions up to the actually canning portion, then stash the jars in the refrigerator for up to three months. You get a year out of canning, but if an alternative is all that stands between you and making them, use your chill chest!
- Wear gloves when working with the peppers. Not a wimp? Neither am I… but jalapeños have a notoriously wide range of heat on the Scoville scale.
- Let’s address slicing the peppers, because we’re going to be going through 3 pounds, folks. The quickest, easiest way to do so is with a slicing blade on a food processor, standing the peppers on their ends in the feed chute. No food processor? Use a mandolin! No mandolin? Just take your time and slice by hand with a very sharp knife and gloved hands.
- I’ve been asked many times whether you should discard the seeds. I don’t because we like them. Contrary to the old wives’ tales, seeds do not contain the heat of a pepper. The membrane inside the pepper packs the most punch. Since you’re not removing that, don’t sweat the seeds. Heh. Pepper humour.
- Quite a few folks have asked WHEN exactly to start timing the boiling of the peppers. You begin timing them once the liquid has returned to a full rolling boil. As soon as it reaches a full rolling boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and let it simmer gently (gentle bubbles that blub up) for 4 minutes. To clarify further, you will not be boiling them HARD for 4 minutes, you will bring them to a boil then drop the heat and simmer.
- Many, many people have asked me whether they messed up the recipe because their peppers look all shriveled after simmering them in the syrup, packing them in jars, and canning them. The short answer is no. The long answer is that you’re fine and they WILL look shriveled when you jar them up if you’ve simmered them properly. They will re-plump as they spend those 4 weeks of rest time in the jar between processing and opening.
- Yes, I said 4 weeks. My husband has been known to crack a jar at the two week mark out of desperation for candied jalapenos, but he will absolutely agree with me that they improve immensely in flavour and texture when left to mellow for at least 4 weeks after processing. Try to be patient. You’ll be rewarded.
- How to serve them? On cream cheese and crackers, obviously… On sandwiches, on salads, chopped up in dips, on taco soup, on tortilla soup, on tacos, on pizza… The sky is the limit. I kind of suspect my husband would eat them on breakfast cereal if he didn’t know I’d wonder about his sanity.
- 3 pounds fresh, firm, jalapeno peppers, washed
- 2 cups cider vinegar
- 6 cups white granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon celery seed
- 3 teaspoons granulated garlic
- 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- Wearing gloves, remove the stems from all of the jalapeno peppers. The easiest way to do this is to slice a small disc off of the stem-end along with the stem. Discard the stems.
- Slice the peppers into uniform ⅛-1/4 inch rounds. Set aside.
- In a large pot, bring cider vinegar, white sugar, turmeric, celery seed, granulated garlic and cayenne pepper to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the pepper slices and simmer for exactly 4 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the peppers, loading into clean, sterile canning jars to within ¼ inch of the upper rim of the jar. Turn heat up under the pot with the syrup and bring to a full rolling boil. Boil hard for 6 minutes.
- Use a ladle to pour the boiling syrup into the jars over the jalapeno slices. Insert a cooking chopstick to the bottom of the jar two or three times to release any trapped pockets of air. Adjust the level of the syrup if necessary. Wipe the rims of the jars with a clean, damp paper towel and fix on new, two-piece lids to finger-tip tightness.
- *If you have leftover syrup, and it is likely that you will, you may can it in half-pint or pint jars, too. It’s wonderful brushed on meat on the grill or added to potato salad or, or, or… In short, don’t toss it out!
- Place jars in a canner, cover with water by 2-inches. Bring the water to a full rolling boil. When it reaches a full rolling boil, set the timer for 10 minutes for half-pints or 15 minutes for pints. When timer goes off, use canning tongs to transfer the jars to a cooling rack. Leave them to cool, undisturbed, for 24 hours. When fully cooled, wipe them with a clean, damp washcloth then label.
- Allow to mellow for at least two weeks, but preferably a month before eating. Or don’t. I won’t tell!