Making Pickled Banana Peppers at Gracie’s

The best ever banana pickles have to be those from your own garden.  And the best ever day of canning is when it is done with a friend. Gracie and I took an afternoon to do just that. Some canning takes lots of long, hot work or time consuming, tedious preparation  and cleaning. Banana Peppers are nearly ready while still on the vine. Banana pepper are typically used for pickling while still yellow-green. If left in the garden to mature, they will turn orange and then red. The red peppers are great to dry by tying with a string and hanging in the kitchen until ready to use. The crisp, immature peppers are perfect for making rings of peppers for sub sandwiches, and salads.

SONY DSC

A bowl of unblemished peppers shinning in the morning sun. It is always a good idea to pick, prepare and process produce all on the same day.  The produce will be crispier and more flavorful once canned. One nice thing about peppers is that they are easy to grow in just about every part of the country. They are usually free of pests so can be grown organically with very little effort.

SONY DSC

Slice the peppers into beautiful little rings. The seeds can be included in the jar for more flavor. Sterilize the jars and lids by boiling in water.  Then you are ready to fill the jars. I pack the jars by hand, filling the jars as full as possible.

SONY DSC

Wipe the rims of the jars with a towel to make sure they are clean, dry and free of any pickling residue.

SONY DSC

Pull the hot lids from the boiling water and place on each jar.

SONY DSC

The rings are hand tightened. Turn the lids 1/2 turn past the point you first feel resistance. This assures that the rings are tight enough to form a seal, but can still be easily removed when cool.

Pickled Banana Peppers

2 lbs. yellow banana peppers
3 cups white vinegar
2 cups water
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons sugar
4 cloves garlic

Stem and slice peppers. Combine vinegar,  water, salt and sugar in a 2-quart glass measure. Microwave for 10 to 12 minutes or until boiling, stirring twice. Pack peppers into hot sterilized jars. Pour vinegar mixture over pepper rings, leaving ½-inch head space. Add 1 clove of garlic to each jar.  Remove any air bubbles by running a utensil inside each jar. Wipe rim of jars and place hot lids and rings on  jars. Hand tighten rings and place in a boiling water bath. Process for 10 minutes, making sure that water is at least 1-inch above jars. Allow to cool, undisturbed for 24 hours. Store up to 1 year.

Makes 4 pints

 

Prickly Pear Cactus at Your Local Farmer’s Market?

I have traveled across the United States visiting Farmers Markets this summer, and they all have such wonderful regional specialties.  I really enjoy the produce that is unique to each area,  such as prickly pear cactus. It is a delicacy found at most of the large city markets.  I thought it grew only in more arid parts of the country until my father-in-law showed me a huge patch he planted in his Minnesota yard several years ago. It has gone crazy and taken over the space, so  it might be best to keep it contained if you decide to plant it. He said that a friend had given him three little “starts” from his own Minnesota prickly pear patch.prickly pear cactus growing in Minnesota

Prickly pear cactus blooms in the spring and can be picked and served in a wonderful fresh salad called Napolito.

photo (4)

You might want to wear heavy gloves when dealing with the prickly pear.  Remove the blooms by pulling them off and be sure to get all the “prickles” off by using a vegetable peeler.IMG_0787 (3)

 

Tomatoes, cucumbers, and other seasonal produce combine for a really unique salad.

Napolito Salad

4 medium prickly pear cactus leaves
1/4 cup water
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup diced tomato
1/2 cup diced cucumber
½ green pepper, chopped
½ cup diced yellow bell pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh green onion
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup vinegar
¼ teaspoon fresh snipped thyme
1/8 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

Clean, remove stickers, and slice the cactus leaves into 1/8 inch x 1 inch strips.

Microwave the cactus strips and water on high for 6 to 8 minutes or until tender but still crisp. Drain and cool. Combine cilantro, parsley, tomato, green pepper, yellow pepper, and green onion in a serving dish. Combine remaining ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake until mixed and pour over salad ingredients. Serve garnished with the extra cilantro.

 

Cupcake Wars Are Not For The Timid

My food science students had  a blast with our version of cupcake wars.

We started with all types of bases for the cupcakes and added layers of flavors. Culinary experts from William Sonoma did an excellent job of judging. At the end, the judges graciously gave feedback on each of the 20 different entries.

We learned a few things in the process of having tons of fun.  While experimenting with leavings and increased beating time we found that peaks really do form, and there is a reason some cupcakes come out flat.

Creating new flavor combinations was part of the fun. There happened to be three different teams who chose to add cardamon! The judge’s comments for the first was “overpowering cardamon,” the second cardamon entry was “too weak” in flavor, and the third . .  well, the third was a charm.  It combined cardamon and tea leaves steeped in milk  which were then cooled and added to the cupcake batter. It was pronounced “wonderful” in flavor even though the judges were not able to detect exactly what the flavor was that they were enjoying. That particular cupcake was one of the top winners and made the point that sometimes the blend of flavors are what makes a food shine.

I will post the most requested recipes from the cupcake wars, so vote on which recipe you would most like to try by pinning it.