Jars, Jelly and Beer

My Serrano Pepper plant was not nearly as prolific as last year’s specimen. Usually one of these hot pepper plants is more than enough for a family! Last year’s plant must have had the perfect accommodations. A nice view of the sunrise, warm enough throughout the day and into the shade as late afternoon crept in. I think the dining in this location must have suited the plant well. The corner occupied by this plant was in my oldest raised bed, six years in the making.  It had been nurtured with aged compost every year and the worms turning the soil are abundant. The food must have been as good as any ***** establishment….. based on the size and productivity. This year the location was missing the morning sun…and the bed is just 2 years old.

So now – back to the title of the post. From last year’s plant I made several batches of Serrano Pepper Jelly. Each batch was made with a different recipe but they all came out well, each with its own merits. The first was a back to basics batch, I made it with pectin I made from apples. It jelled very well but was not hot enough. The next batch was made using commercial pectin, more Serrano peppers, but didn’t set well. This poorly set “jelly” turned out to be perfect for pouring over soft cream cheese used as a party dip. I tried to replicate the “pourable” jelly and came close. It was all good…just some better than others. Where have I heard that phrase before?????

Now the batch I made two days ago seems to be setting up nicely….. may not pour as well over the cream cheese but I can still blend it in. The remedy for the” jelled-jelly “- just blend it into the cream cheese – it seems to work very well. Recipe number 4 may turn out to be a keeper. I actually wrote it down – not really wrote it down – I typed it into a word document and saved it into my recipe file on the hard drive. I am not sure that many of us really “write” any more. My mother is good about sending hand written letters and notes. It is such a pleasure to see her beautiful cursive script. My grandson recently sent me a hand written thank you note after receiving his birthday card….. made me feel warm inside. I think we need to slow down sometimes and reflect on some simpler pleasures and times.

Where was I going? – oh the new recipe. What I like about it is the abundance of Serrano peppers it calls for. The flavor is nicely warm without causing beads of sweat to break out on your forehead.  I was concerned about having pepper pieces in the jelly so I used a sieve and removed some before canning. In hindsight I should have left it alone. Those that remained give the jelly a pleasant look and a bit of something to chew on. All of the peppers came from my garden ……. I know how they were grown and fed. The recipe basics –  A cup each of finely chopped red and green Bell Peppers(2 total), about 20 deseeded Seranno peppers, I added a half dozen yellow peppers just because they would have been lonely in the fridge, one cup of apple cider vinegar used to puree the Serrano peppers, a box of Sure-Jell pectin and 5 cups of sugar. Yum! Standard directions – heat pepper mix to boiling, add sugar, heat to rolling boil – hold for a full minute (does that make sense, isn’t a minute always a minute?) then place in hot clean jars.

It was a busy day in the kitchen. My wife had left on a trip to California to be with her brother and family as he recovers from a serious surgery. With her gone I could spread out a little more and let the resulting mess linger a little longer…..without her comments – I have learned that she really cares for me and that is why she continues to invest time in coaching me. I had also been delaying the process of getting my beer out of the secondary fermenter and into the bottles. So I combined efforts in the kitchen and completed two culinary actions…..I think I can lump beer into that culinary category can’t I? As you can see from the picture above I was busy in the kitchen. I have to wait a couple of weeks for the beer but the jelly is ready to go. Link to my beer blogging is shown below.


My lettuce growing efforts had a bit of a setback – my son came home from school for the Thanksgiving Holiday and brought his lovely Labrador mix pooch, Sierra, home from school. She apparently still has a bit of puppy in her and loves to dig in good, moist and rich soil. So, where do you suppose my young lettuce plants were…….emphasis on were. You guessed it, like a laser guided missile she made a precision strike on the three rows of young lettuce plants. There is that old philosophical question about a tree falling in a forest. If no one is around to hear it, does it make any sound? Hmmmmm. When young and tender lettuce plants are brutally shredded and no one is there, do their screams of agony not make any noise? Take a deep breath Bishop and remember that the new lettuce seed packets have many hundreds more waiting to be planted.

My to-do list for today will include lettuce planting, green bean picking, turning the compost pile and raking leaves. I wonder what he neighbors were thinking on Wednesday when I cruised the street with my portable leaf vacuum and shredder….. I was able to gather a barrel full of shredded leaves from the neighbor’s yard. Shredded leaves make great mulch and adds carbon to my composting efforts. The leaves are dropping all over the neighborhood so the crazy guy in the big green truck will be gathering leaves today and tomorrow. My wife is still gone so I will not be embarrassing her directly. ;-D

Strawberry rantings coming soon.