Hot Peppers in a Pickle

School Start = Hatch Chili Season

Everywhere I go right now, I see these big black drums filled with roasted hatch chilies.  I must admit as they are roasted in spinning drums, I’m always waiting for someone to reach in and pull out the winning lottery numbers.

Hatch chilies are really Anaheim chili’s with much more heat.  They are named “Hatch” after the small town they are grown in New Mexico (chili capital of the world!).  Just like wine they have different flavors depending on the region where they are produced. It is believed that the hot days and cool nights of this region, give Hatch chili’s their unique flavor.  They have enough heat to let you know they are there, but not too much to overpower the flavor of a dish.

Peppers are an excellent source of Vitamin C! They also contain Vitamin A, B6 and potassium. They are low in calories and contain no saturated fat.

Locked inside of peppers are these amazing phytonutrients known as capsaicin.  Capsaicin is found in the seeds and flesh of peppers and is responsible for its heat. Some people remove their seeds before cooking to cut down on some of the hotness.

This powerful built-in chemical has been shown to help relieve arthritic pain, protect against nerve pain, ease sinus issues, relieve dermatological itching, prevent many forms of cancer, treat ear infections and speed up our metabolism. Plus, many, many, many other health benefits!

FUN FACT ABOUT CAPSAICIN: Capsaicin in hot peppers is a natural pest control service. The burning sensation caused by these fruits, keep animals from eating them.

A pseudo-canning activity you can do with students is to make “pickled hot peppers.” In the recipes I made, I used “hatch” chilies, Fresno red chilies (also named according to the region in which they are grown), jalapenos and serrano’s.

The first recipe is the simplest and doesn’t contain any added sugars or salt.  It’s the purest form of “pickled” hot peppers.

IMPORTANT: MAKE SURE STUDENTS WEAR RUBBER GLOVES WHEN SLICING AND WORKING WITH PEPPERS TO PREVENT THEIR HANDS FROM BURNING OR IRRITATION.

jars-of-refrigerator-pickled-hot-peppers

Quick Pickled HOT Peppers

Ingredients:

  • A variety of sliced hot peppers – remove seeds and inside flesh
  • ¼ of a yellow or sweet onion
  • 2 smashed mature garlic cloves – blanching them first will keep them from turning blue
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar

 Instructions:

  1. Add all ingredients to a pot and bring to a slow boil.
  2. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Use slotted spoon to remove peppers from pot and place in mason jars.
  4. Pour remaining liquid over peppers and cover with lid.
  5. Let sit on a counter top until peppers cool and then serve.

The second recipe contains unrefined honey and a little salt and definitely more of the flavor that students enjoy.

“Crunchy” Pickled HOT Peppers

Ingredients:

  • A variety of sliced hot peppers – do not remove seeds and inside flesh.
  • ¼ of a yellow or sweet onion
  • 2 smashed mature garlic cloves – blanching them first will keep them from turning blue
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons raw honey
  • 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

 Instructions:

  1. Place peppers in a mason jar.
  2. Add water, vinegar, honey and salt to a pot and bring to a slow boil.
  3. Pour liquid over peppers in mason jar and cover with lid.
  4. Let cool for about 10 minutes and then place jars in the refrigerator to cool.
  5. Serve once peppers are fully cooled. FYI: These peppers taste much better the next day, once the flavors have had time to settle in and are well worth the wait.
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Cherry Baby

Cherries eaten from nature are incredibly sweet, juicy and flavorful!  There are over 1,000 different kinds with the most popular being the Bing, Rainier, black and sweetheart. The rainier are considered the “princess” of the cherries because they are the sweetest and most expensive.

Cherries are great in salads, jams, cookies, muffins, breads or scones or dried and mixed with nuts, in a cherry pie or cobbler or covered in chocolate (see healthier version of chocolate covered cherries below).  They are the “cherry on the top” of a lot of rich desserts including cheesecake or cherries jubilee (doused with sweet liquor that is lit on fire).

Cherries are naturally low in calories (makes them a great snack!) and fat. They are a good source of fiber and potassium and are high in Vitamin C. They contain some protein, Vitamin A, calcium and iron.

Something you may not know is that there is about ½ cup of water in each cup of cherries.  This not only contributes to your daily water requirements, but also helps provide fullness.

They are naturally sweet, so you don’t need to add sugar to them.

And they contain the flavonoid anthocyanin (responsible for their red color), which is why they provide a variety of health benefits including:

  • Reducing inflammation
  • Protecting the liver
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Improving eyesight
  • Suppressing cancer cells

They play a significant role in preventing cancer, diabetes, heart and neurological disease. Plus drinking their juice can reduce or even eliminate the symptoms of gout.

For a special treat, try chocolate covered cherries. Most of these recipes use jarred maraschino cherries that are bleached with chemicals and other additives. Plus they contain added high fructose corn syrup and red dye #4.  This recipe contains only “real”, whole cherries from the stem.  To make it a bit healthier, we swapped out butter and milk chocolate with dairy-free dark chocolate. We also used raw honey and 100% pure organic maple syrup instead of refined white sugar.

Delectable Chocolate Covered Cherries

Yields: 12-15 cherries

Ingredients:

  • 1/3rd pound stem removed and pitted cherries (approximately 12-15) – one for each chocolate covered cherry
  • ½ cup honey or maple syrup – use maple syrup if you prefer a vegan recipe
  • ½ tablespoon vanilla extract
  • Sprinkle of almond extract
  • ½ tablespoon arrowroot
  • ½ tablespoon water
  • 1 cup (approximately 2 bars) dairy-free dark chocolate 72% cacao – use one sweetened with coconut sugar to reduce added sugar amount.
  • Chocolate covered cherry mold

Directions:

  1. Mix together cherries, honey or maple syrup, vanilla and almond extract and then place in a medium sauce pan.
  2. Heat on medium heat until mixture simmers.
  3. While cherries are heating, mix together arrowroot and water in a small container until it forms a thick paste.
  4. Raise heat to medium high and then add paste to cherry mixture.
  5. Mix in arrowroot and cook until mixture is thick. You may need to add more arrowroot if mixture is runny and won’t thicken.
  6. Remove cherry mixture and set aside.
  7. In another pot, melt chocolate on low heat. It only takes about a minute or two to melt chocolate.
  8. Place chocolate mold on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper.
  9. Using a teaspoon, drizzle chocolate into bottom of each cherry mold. Add 1 cherry and some juice on top of it.  Cover with another drizzle of chocolate.
  10. Place cookie sheet in freezer for 30-40 minutes or overnight in the refrigerator.
  11. Turn candy mold upside down and pop candy out of mold. Serve immediately.

 Tip: I would highly recommend purchasing a cherry pitter to remove pits as it will save you a significant amount of time (cost is around $7-10 for this).