Well, you win a few, you lose a few and some get rained out. Then there are some that go so wrong from the start you know you shouldn’t have shown up. Such is my experience with my Jalapeños. I should pause and say that one of my big problems with farming is figuring out yields. I look at a tiny start or a little packet of what looks to be ten seeds, and I can’t believe I’ll get a crop out of it. So I’m always overplanting. And did I tell you about my complete aversion to green thinning? I know the theory is that you’ll get a bigger better crop if you thin out sprouts and unripe fruit, but I’m still in that early farming stage where I’m measuring my success by sheer volume.
Which is how I ended up planting three Jalapeño bushes. Each of which seems, to date, to have about a pound of peppers. Those are only the ripe ones. Then again, how do you tell the ripe ones? Well, according to Diana Kennedy, doyenne of Mexican cooking, I should demand only smooth glossy Jalapeños. But then another source (on the Internet that I can’t now find) says there are several stages of ripeness which bring the pepper through increasing stages of hotness. The start point is when the pepper is that smooth, glossy green. Then later, the skin develops some striations, until finally it is red. Not that I would ever argue with the inestimable Mrs. Kennedy, but if my glossy Jalapeños are only going to get hotter. ¡Ai! Carumba! The Scoville scale may rate Jalapeños as only “medium hot”, but you’d have to judge ours on the Salma Hayek Scale. And by that measure, our peppers are hotter than Salma in a string bikini. Clearly, it was time for a panic harvest before the peppers reached nuclear strength.
So what do you do with a pound of Jalapeño peppers? Most recipes call for no more than one pepper. Señora Kennedy to the rescue with a recipe for Escabeche, sort of a vegetable pickle heavy on the Jalapeños. (I found a modified version of her recipe at Simple Recipes.)
In my haste to get an unscheduled canning session done before midnight, I made several fatal mistakes. The first was grabbing my go-to frying pan for the initial sauteing of all those vegetables: my cast iron skillet. Big mistake and I realized it as soon as I started to pour the cider vinegar over the veggies. Acidic ingredients react with cast iron and darken the color of food as well as imparting an off taste. Well, too late now. I kept going hoping for the best.
Second mistake: I didn’t cross reference the recipe with several others and especially with other canning resources. I find a lot of recipes that call for canning are very lax about specifying canning safety and I think this was one of them. I seem to recall, that when canning, food in the jars should be completely submerged in the liquid with no air pockets. Turns out this recipe doesn’t call for enough liquid to allow total submersion. I added some more vinegar, but that’s always an iffy proposition mid-cooking. Still not enough to cover everything. Well, I went ahead with the canning. I’ll let the Escabeche rest during the curing period (24 hours) then refrigerate the cans. And, in an effort not to poison myself or my friends, I’ll recommend consuming these within two weeks.
That is assuming that the concoction is even edible. I haven’t had the heart or the nerve to try it. Judging from the nibble of the one Jalapeño I tried, a jar of them — even when mixed with cauliflower, garlic, carrots, onions and spices — may blow the top of my head off.
Salma Hayek preserve us!