Peppers bring colour and flavour to everyday meals

Peppers add more than spiciness and bring unique flavours to foods.

They belong to the genus Capsicum and are either of the hot varieties, called chiles, or sweet peppers. The Scoville factor, created by American pharmacist Wilbur Scoville in 1912, measures the heat or spiciness of peppers.

The bell pepper sits at zero on the scale and the jalapeno at 3,500-10,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU). Habaneros and scotch bonnets are at 100,000-350,000 SHU but most peppers used in cooking are somewhere between the bell pepper and scotch bonnet.

The Komodo Dragon pepper is said to be 40 times hotter than the scotch bonnet at 1.4 million SHU.

Wear rubber gloves when chopping and preparing hot peppers because the residue on your hands can be painful if you touch your eyes or skin.

Cooking peppers reduces their heat and spiciness along with removing the seeds. Eating dairy products such as yogurt or sour cream can reduce the heat in your mouth.

Jalapeno Poppers

  • 12 jalapeno peppers
  • 1 pkg. cream cheese
  • 1 pkg. thick cut bacon

Slice peppers in half lengthwise and remove ribs and seeds. Soften the cream cheese and fill each half of pepper with it.
Lay slices of bacon on a baking sheet and precook in a 350 F (180 C) oven until about half cooked. Wrap a slice of bacon around each cheese-filled pepper and secure with a small wooden skewer. Grill on a medium hot barbecue until the bacon is crisped and pepper is tender. Do not turn over or the cheese will ooze out. Serve immediately.

Pickled Peppers

Add these to sandwiches and salads or use as a condiment with meats and cheeses.

  • peppers, any hot peppers
  • white vinegar
  • garlic

Slice peppers into rings, remove all seeds and ribs. Seeds can be reserved and added to the jars if you want the peppers to be spicy. Pack into a jar.
Measure enough vinegar to fill jars and pour into a saucepan. Heat with crushed garlic. Discard garlic and fill jars leaving 1/4 inch (6 mm) head space. Water bath process for 20 minutes.

Keay’s Three Beer Salsa

I thought about editing the crazy parts but it is so much fun to read. I cannot find the origin of this popular recipe but by all accounts a vendor at the Crossroads Farmers’ Market in Calgary distributed it. I have been making it with my dinner club friends since the 1990s.
Assemble the following:

  • 15 lb. slightly under-ripe tomatoes, preferably romas 7 kg
  • 20 assorted large hot peppers
  • 4 jalapenos, or more if you want it hotter
  • 2 large green bell peppers
  • 2 or 3 large yellow onions
  • 13 oz. tomato paste 385 mL
  • 3 bottles beer
  • 1/2 c. pickling or kosher salt 125 mL
  • 2 c. vinegar 500 mL
  • 2 tbsp. sugar 30 mL
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced, optional

Equipment that you will need:

  • 3 gal. stock pot 12 L
  • 2 gal. or larger plastic pail or bowl 8 L
  • canning jars totalling about 7 quarts or 4 pints capacity 7 L
  • 6 gal. canner 24 L
  • small glass bowl or saucer
  • wide mouth funnel
  • ladle
  • tongs
  • wooden spoon
  • unsalted taco chips
  • assistant

You will need about one hour, three to 12 hours ahead of time to prepare the tomatoes (Phase 1). The salsa (Phase 2) and canning (Phase 3) take about two hours total. Add 1/2 hour for cleanup (Phase 4).

Phase 1

Skin the tomatoes by blanching. Heat a large pot of water to boiling. Half fill a clean sink with cold water. Select about 30 barely ripe and five definitely under-ripe tomatoes. Score an X on the bottom of the tomato and then drop into boiling water for 40 to 60 seconds in batches of six or less.

Quickly fish them out and drop in the cold water. The skins should peel off with minimal effort. Cut out big stem ends and roughly chop the tomatoes into one half-inch pieces. Slightly larger is OK, but smaller is not recommended.

Place chopped tomatoes in plastic bowl or pail and mix in 1/2 cup (125 mL) pickling salt. You should have at least two gallons (8 L). Cover and let sit for three to 12 hours. The salt will suck most of the water out of the tomatoes and you’ll be pouring off three or four quarts (2 or 3 L) of clear saltwater. The end result is a thick chunky salsa rather than watery.

Phase 2

Carefully drain tomatoes. The more saltwater you lose the better. Add tomatoes, vinegar and sugar to stock pot and start heating at medium. Place saucer or small bowl in freezer.

Meanwhile, your assistant has been finely chopping the hot peppers and four of the jalapenos. Use everything except stems, chop fine and throw in with the tomatoes as soon as possible.

Time to crack beer No. 1 because now you’re pinned there gently stirring for the next hour as the salsa starts to simmer. The assistant should enjoy a beverage of preference in moderation because dangerous utensils are in use.

The salsa will burn if you don’t stir it. Keep it at a gentle simmer. Check the time and remember when simmering started. Do not taste.

Meanwhile your assistant is manually chopping the onions and green peppers in 1/2 to one inch (1-2 cm) pieces. Remove green pepper seeds. At 30 minutes past the start of simmer, throw in the onions, green peppers and the tomato paste. Fill canner with hot water and get it boiling.

At precisely 45 minutes past the start of simmer, spoon three to six tablespoons (45-90 mL) of salsa into bowl from freezer and return to freezer. Avoid tasting the hot salsa.

At 50 minutes past simmer, cleanse palate with ice cold beer No. 2 and taco chips. At 55 minutes, remove cooled salsa from freezer, which must be at room temp or lower. Taste. If mild, quickly add three or four more jalapenos and cook for 10 more minutes.

Phase 3

Remove salsa from heat and stir often as you fill your jars to 1/2 inch (1 cm) from the top for pint jars and 5/8 inch (1.75 cm) for quart (litre) jars. Fill large jars first.

Wipe rims, install lids and screw on rings snugly but not tight. Add jars to water filled canner. The tops should be at least one inch (2.5 cm) below water level.

Process at full rolling boil 15 minutes for pint jars, 20 minutes for quart (litre) jars. Enjoy beer No. 3 while monitoring processing and supervising Phase 4.

Sarah Galvin is a home economist, teacher and farmers’ market vendor at Swift Current, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. She writes a blog at allourfingersinthepie.blogspot.ca. Contact: team@producer.com.

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