Picking a Peck of Peppers!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Bird Pepper Crop: Bird Back 40

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
Did Peter Piper pick a peck of pickled peppers?
If Peter Piper Picked a peck of pickled peppers,
Where's the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?

Go ahead and say that five times fast! C'mon now! I "double-dog-dare" you to do it!

WARNING! Mouthwatering recipes ahead. Better bring a BIB to this blog posting -- because it's literally bursting with late summer goodness.

Yeah, yeah I know. The calendar on the wall reads "summer fun ends at Labor Day, son." But -- technically? We've got another ten days or so before Autumn, 2011 officially kicks in (September 23rd to be exact). Until then? I'm enjoying my summertime bounty!

California Wonder: Yellow Bell Pepper
Besides -- the weather hasn't exactly slacked off in terms of heat now has it? The heirloom tomato crops have mostly delivered a large summer crop and new fruit is already forming at the top for a much-hoped-for fall delivery. The wife that is Venus and I will enjoy fresh garden tomatoes until November if Mother Nature is in that giving sort of mood.

One crop that is indeed late this year -- but welcome just the same -- is all things PEPPERS! From Bell Peppers to Jalapeno Hot Mamas -- the Bird pepper crop is indeed "busting out" this September. It's been a long time coming -- but welcome just the same.

Like most backyard crops? Nothing really compares to a pepper harvested straight from the backyard garden. It is literally bursting with a sweet and tender juice -- and the Jalapeno peppers are at the point where they will burn the skin off your lips if you're not careful.

Mucho Nacho Jalapeno Pepper
At least -- it does seem that way.

Venus and I are somewhat partial to the Jalapeno peppers because they have a wide variety of uses in so many different summertime dishes. Fajitas aren't fajitas -- unless you got a finely sliced n' diced jalapeno pepper in the mix. Salsa isn't salsa without the bite of a Mucho Nacho Jalapeno. And nothing goes better with a big bowl of Chicken Pho (pronounced "fu" as in "fun") than a carefully sliced Purple Jalapeno.

Plus -- as noted in this blog before -- it is the only hot pepper that I know of that retains that famous heat after boiling on a stove with other ingredients for a good 30-minutes to one hour. The mighty orange Habanero turns into pipsqueak status after cooking, as do a number of other "hot" peppers that are somewhat hotter than the Jalapeno on the "burn your lips off" scientific scale.

Purple Jalapeno Pepper
So, we be partial to Jalapeno peppers. Not just one bush of them either -- but three. What we don't use in fresh cooking this year can be canned for later use. Yes, even the Jalapeno retains some heat after canning. It's not quite as strong, but it does deliver a welcome jolt in the dead of winter.

Safe to say that Venus are using peppers in just about every dish we cook this month. Besides the already mentioned Fajitas, there's the asian-inspired Green Pepper Beef. The Betty Crocker Cookbook offering of Southwest Chicken Soup is one of the best in the land IF you're using fresh red bell peppers, and plain old scrambled eggs are just boring unless it's scrambled with some sliced and diced Ancho (aka Poblano) peppers.

Peppers are make quite the meal offered raw. There's nothing quite like a summer plate of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers tossed with a little red wine vinegar, salt and pepper to taste and a dusting of fresh or dried oregano.

Ancho or Poblano Peppers
I'm hungry already!

Venus and usually go a little overboard with our pepper plantings -- and this year is no different. We do depend on them a lot for canning efforts. Our Roasted Garlic, Pepper and Heirloom Tomato Salsa, for example, relies upon anywhere from four to six cups of roasted and fresh peppers. Canned tomato sauce is kinda boring unless you zip it up a bit with a Jalapeno or two. Get the idea?

Therefore -- it isn't all that uncommon to find anywhere from 10-15 odd and assorted pepper plants growing in the Bird Back 40. That includes the aforementioned Jalapeno peppers (three different varieties), the California Wonders (Red, Yellow, Green), Big Bertha (Purple) and usually one or two unique offerings. This year? It's the Paprika pepper -- which Venus and I will dry in some safe spot in the garage and grind into fresh paprika pepper.

Big Bertha Bell Pepper (Purple)
Who needs to blow $4 or $5 at the store for a small jar of overprocessed paprika when you can get something better at home for FREE? The numbers add up for me.

And now -- as I promised -- some pepper recipes that WILL make you drool. Remember, I warned you. Don't blame me if your computer keyboard suddenly shorts out!

SOUTHWEST CHICKEN SOUP (Betty Crocker Cookbook offering)

2 large red bell peppers
1 whole chicken breast (about 3/4 pound), skinned and boned
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro (we use a tad more)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup cubed jicama

Bill's Note: Like most Betty Crocker recipes, the seasonings are catered to blander tastes. We usually double up on spices.

Red California Wonder Bell Pepper
Set your oven control to broil. Place bell peppers on rack of broiler pan with tops about 5 inches from heat. Broil peppers, turning occasionally, until skin is blistered and evenly browned (do not burn!). Remove peppers to a brown paper bag, seal tightly. Let peppers stand 20-30 minutes.

Place chicken on rack in broiler pan. Place broiler pan so top of chicken is 5 to 7 inches from heat. Broil chicken 15 minutes, turning once, until juices run clear. Cut into quarter inch strips.

Pare peppers (remove skin and seeds, but do NOT run under water). Discard skin and seeds. Place peppers and onion in blender or food processor and blend and process until smooth.

Heat pepper mixture, chicken broth, lime juice, cilantro, salt, pepper and garlic to boiling in two quart saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in reserved chicken and jicama. Heat until hot.

GREEN PEPPER BEEF

1/3 cup soy sauce
¼ cup beef broth
2 tbsp dark brown sugar
¾ pound top round steak, thinly sliced (I use ground turkey)
1tsp light Sesame Oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp Ginger
2 tsp Curry Powder
2-3 green or red bell peppers, seeded and cut into strips

Green or Red Pepper Beef Anyone?
Mix soy sauce, beef broth, brown sugar, minced garlic, ginger and curry powder together and set aside.

Stir fry beef strips or ground turkey with sesame oil until cooked. Add peppers and stir fry until crisp tender. Add reserved sauce and top to coat. Serve over hot rice.

NOTE: At one time this recipe also called for cornstarch to thicken the sauce. I HATE cornstarch, so I left it out. But you're free to add it right back in again (blech!).

7 comments:

SouthCoast Guy said...

Those peppers look great, it was a very wet summer and we have only been able to harvest a couple this year....next year I may try and put a few in pots and see if that helps

JM said...

So, so jealous of your pepper crop! I planted two bells, a chocolate bell, a jolly-peno, and an anaheim... And ended up with three peppers, total. One anaheim, one jalapeno, and one chocolate. Stupid Davis weather.

Sheesh.

Greg Damitz said...

Your peppers look fantastic.

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Jenny said...

Beautiful peppers! I'm growing Purple Jalapeno and Mucho Nacho Jalapenos for the first time this year. How did you like them? Are you growing them again this season?

Bill Bird said...

Jenny,

We are indeed growing both varieties again this season, plus regular Jalapeno. All three make a key blend of peppers for our ultra-famous Roasted Garlic, Pepper and Heirloom Tomato Salsa. It gives it the bite that keeps on kicking. And that's what good salsa is all about -- taste and bite. We go for both. Of course, there are tons of peppers left over for canning purposes. So, we slice and can and use them as condiments in various dishes. I can't imagine a summertime without our three jalapeno blend!