There's a few things I've learned since we started gardening
1. North Texas gardening is a battlefield. You get unpredictable hail, crazy temperature fluctuations and big black rabbits named Layla stomping all over your veggie patch.
2. Gardening takes a lot of work, patience and discipline. Thank god for Collin or else our garden would only be growing rocks.
3. Anything that grows in your own garden is 100 times tastier than anything you'll ever buy at the store. Because your own blood, sweat and tears will always taste better than someone else's blood, sweat and tears.
4. When it rains it pours. Bountiful harvest always means an overabundance of produce that either spoils before you get the chance to eat it all or you just get sick of eating the same thing for weeks. Best solution? Preserve.
There are plenty more lessons to be shared about gardening but I wanna get to this pepper jam. We had an influx of habanero peppers last Summer to the point of panic. With Collin being a pepper head, we had our fill of chocolate habaneros, Caribbean reds, and Congo Trinidad habaneros. The thing is, with habaneros being some of the spiciest peppers out there, one can only use so much without the entire dish burning your mouth to the point of tears.
We vacuum packed them and froze them, gave them away to family, friends and neighbors and as the weeks went on, our freezer slowly started filling up with these crazy hot peppers to the point of utter madness. We had peppers up to our ears without a use in sight.
Then somehow, the subject of canning came about and that led us to the idea of jamming some habaneros together and hoping for the best. I found this recipe through Allrecipes and added pineapple and pasillo peppers for a slightly different flavor profile and the results were stunning. The jamming process somehow transformed these freakishly hot peppers into something delightfully palpable, with the perfect balance of sweetness and bite. I find myself using this jam on pretty much everything: a tasty schmear on a sandwich, a spoonful in my salad vinaigrette, a transformative glaze on a pork chop or maybe even in a cocktail.
The truth of the matter is, even though canning takes a little elbow grease to complete, it's a great way to store and preserve garden bounties. Now we're equipped with a closet full of Habanero pepper jam readily available to use for the rest of the year.
So first the recipe for the jam:
(yields 8 half-pint jars)
- 8 half pint canning jars with lids and rings
- 1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
- 6 1/2 cups white sugar
- 1 cup shredded carrot
- 1 cup canned pineapple, drained and small diced
- 15 habanero peppers, seeded and minced
- 5 pasillo peppers, seeded and minced
- 2 (3 ounce) pouches liquid pectin
Stir the vinegar and sugar in a saucepan over medium-high heat until the sugar has dissolved, then stir in the carrot and pineapple. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and simmer 5 minutes. Add the pasillo and habanero peppers and simmer 5 minutes longer. Pour in the pectin, and boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Skim and discard any foam from the jelly.
Sterilize the jars and lids in boiling water for at least 5 minutes. Pour the jelly into the hot, sterilized jars, filling the jars to within 1/4 inch of the top. Wipe the rims of the jars with a moist paper towel to remove any food residue. Top with lids, and screw on rings.
Place a rack in the bottom of a large stockpot and fill halfway with water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then carefully lower the jars into the pot using a holder. Leave a 2 inch space between the jars. Pour in more boiling water if necessary until the water level is at least 1 inch above the tops of the jars. Bring the water to a full boil, cover the pot, and process for 5 minutes.
Remove the jars from the stockpot and place onto a cloth-covered or wood surface, several inches apart, until cool. Once cool, press the top of each lid with a finger, ensuring that the seal is tight (lid does not move up or down at all).
Store jams in a dark, cool and dry place and can last for up to 2-4 years.
Now going back to point 1, because of the unusually cool weather we've been having in Dallas this Spring, it's allowed us to grow all different types of lettuces. My newfound love? Butterhead Lettuce aka Bibb or Boston lettuce. There's some magic in this lettuce as the texture is velvety and firm with a buttery and creamy flavor. It makes my mouth feel important just eating it and tastes even better when dressed perfectly with the right kind of toppings.
For this salad I blanched some carrots and tossed them in a spicy garlicky mixture and paired it with shaved jicama, avocado and snow peas. It's light and spicy with great textural profiles and is a true celebration for all things Spring. Feel free to garnish with toasted peanuts and Black Cyprus Sea Salt (which is mixed with activated charcoal and serves as a natural detoxifier) for a crunchy nutty finish.
When eating any type of produce, whether store-bought or from the garden, make sure you are thoroughly washing before ingesting as many fruits and vegetables may have harmful residue that can make you sick. Lettuce learn how to properly wash produce from NPR.
Here's the recipe for the dressing:
(serves 1-2, yields about 1/8 c dressing)
- 1 lime, squeezed
- 2 tablespoons evoo
- spoonful of Habanero Pepper Jam
- pinch of salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Place ingredients in a small bowl, whisk together thoroughly and set aside until ready to use.
Here's the recipe for the salad:
- Butterhead lettuce, washed and dried
- 1/2 cup jicama, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup snow peas, washed and thinly sliced
- 1 avocado, pitted and cubed
- 2 carrots, peeled and small diced
- 1 clove garlic, finely minced or grated
- 1 tsp chili flakes
- 1 tsp honey
- 1 tsp olive oil
- pinch of salt
- 1/4 cup toasted peanuts
- Black Cyprus Sea Salt
- Habanero Lime Dressing (see recipe above)
Heat a small pot of water over high heat. Once water is boiling, place carrots in and cook for 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat, drain and immediately place in ice water bath. Drain and place in a small bowl with garlic, chili flakes, honey, olive oil and pinch of salt. Mix well and set aside.
Place washed butterhead leaves in a bowl and dress with Habanero Lime Dressing making sure leaves are evenly coated. Sprinkle with salt and freshly cracked black pepper and place it on a plate. Top with jicama slices, snow peas, avocado and carrot mixture and finish with toasted peanuts and black cyprus sea salt to finish. Serve immediately.