One of the joys of canning is putting summer’s garden bounty into a jar, to be enjoyed, even savored, all year. It’s a way to get absolutely flavor-packed food you make yourself. Before I get into one of my new favorite recipes – using homegrown jalapeños for pickled sweetened peppers called Cowboy Candy, I want to address a few canning issues.
There are dangers associated with canning, and some of them are as serious as they are rare. Today’s canners are advised to use only recent tested and approved recipes from reputable sources. I actually break a few rules with regard to “tweaking” a recipe when I make Cowboy Candy. The point is, each canner needs to decide for herself or himself what is right.
Even so, it helps to remember there is a responsibility that comes with canning. It is joyful, but it is also hard work and requires focus. Some people prefer to use family recipes. Others like to do some research. I use a number of references. One of the best books is the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving, generally available as low as $10. I use this book so much that I took it to a printer and had it spiral bound for easier use. There is also the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. A great classic is Putting Food By, by Janet Greene, Ruth Hertzberg, and Beatrice Vaughan. And I also like So Easy to Preserve, published by the Cooperative Extension University of Georgia.
My online sources are the https://www.healthycanning.com, the National Center for Home Food Preservation, and https://www.freshpreserving.com. But there are literally hundreds of websites and blogs.
So far, I have focused my canning repertoire on water bath canning. What that means is, prepared food is put into clean jars, sealed and then boiled in a canner for a specific amount of time, adjusted for the altitude of your location. All of the references I have mentioned provide basic tutorials for water-bath canning. The next level of canning is using a pressure canner, a must for meat and low-acid foods. Peppers are low-acid, but they are preserved in a vinegar brine, so the water bath is acceptable.
Cherylyn Hurtig of Royal is an expert canner who taught me how to use a pressure canner for meat. I may rely on her skills for a future meat canning article.
My Cowboy Candy recipe is based on recipes at Fresh Preserving, and the websites Chili Pepper Madness, Foodie With Family, and The Chunky Chef. In my first article, I am doing something that is NOT recommended, altering a recipe. But my alterations are simply more sugar than the sanctioned Ball recipe, which is not generally considered dangerous. Oh, well. But here is an idea if you don’t want to can. You could make this recipe and store the jars in the refrigerator for up to three months.
So let’s get started with Cowboy Candy. First, make sure you wear gloves. It’s imperative with jalapeños. Before slicing, decide whether you want to use the seeds. I use all of them since the point of this recipe is a spicy hot condiment. And depending on your particular jalapeños, they do tone down in the cooking process.
Makes 3 to 4 pint jars
3 pounds jalapeños, washed and sliced
1 ½ teas salt
2 ½ cups cider vinegar
6 cups white sugar
1 teas turmeric
½ teas celery seed
½ teas ginger
You can slice the peppers about ¼-inch thick with a knife or whatever slicer you prefer. (I recently bought an inexpensive mandolin. After looking at it, I chickened out and decided to get rid of it.) I have a hand-crank slicer, but a food processor would work well if you have one.
Add all the ingredients except the jalapeños to a large saucepan and bring the mixture to boiling. Stir. When the sugar is dissolved, add the jalapeños. Turn the heat down and simmer for 15 minutes. The jalapeños will look somewhat shriveled, but they will plump up as they sit in the jars after canning.
After you ladle peppers into the hot jars, add hot brine and leave ½-inch headspace. Run a knife or chopstick around the inside to remove bubbles, then make sure to carefully clean the top of the jar. Screw the lids on fingertip tight. Put the jars into the canner, cover, and process for 20 minutes. The Ball recipe says 15 minutes, but we add 5 minutes to that because of Nebraska’s elevation.
After the 20 minutes, remove the lid, turn off the burner and let the jars stand for 5 minutes. Then use a jar lifter to remove the hot jars and place on a towel or rack on a counter that is away from drafts. Do not disturb the jars for 12 to 24 hours. At the end of the time, check the lids for seals. Refrigerate any jars that are not sealed. Store the rest in a cool, dark place.
Several sources suggest that these jars not be opened for several weeks to give the peppers time to cure in the jar. It might be hard to wait that long.
Cowboy Candy can be canned in pint jars, but I usually go with half and quarter pints since most of us don’t use a huge amount of a hot condiment on a serving of food.
If you want another idea for jalapeños, the Sure-Jell packet insert has a recipe for Hot Pepper Relish. It’s a good recipe that calls for bell peppers and jalapeños. When I make it, I use at least half jalapeños, but I do remove the seeds.
Summer’s coming! Let’s hope in the coming months we can raise or purchase good, local produce. . .and that we can preserve it for all year long.
By Alexandra McClanahan
***Not all of our recipes are “USDA APPROVED” We highly recommend that you follow the USDA guidelines when canning and cooking. Our recipes are all “tried and true”….some are recipes our families have passed down for generations, some are just made up from the joy of cooking and canning, some of the recipes that we use are straight from the USDA Canning Book and some are passed along by our dear readers. With all of that being said – can and cook at your own risk. If you feel that a recipe is “unsafe”, simply overlook it and move on. None of us are, “Canning Police” and we all should respect others. Safe in your kitchen and safe in my kitchen – two different things….We won’t criticize your recipes please don’t criticize ours :).
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