Chili Pepper Madness with a Dash of Smoke

It was a busy weekend up by the garden. Most of the plants, especially the tomatoes, are winding down. I expect to get a few more tomatoes over the next couple of weeks but nothing like the past few weeks. The two things that are not winding down are the tomatillos and hot peppers – serrano and habanero chili peppers.

We refer to the area where we planted the tomatillos and the serrano, habanero, and poblano peppers as “the salsa garden”, because, you guessed right, most of the harvest goes into salsa. This weekend we harvested 8 pounds of ripe tomatillos. That was enough for three batches, nine pints, of canned salsa verde –  garden ripened goodness in jars that will be most welcome when winter sets in and fresh produce will be coming only from the store. The recipe we used is from William-Sonona’s The Art of Preserving. The major differences between the recipe and what we did are that we roasted about 40% of the tomatillos and hot peppers and we substituted serrano peppers for most of the jalapeno peppers (for the three batches we used 9 serrano peppers and 4 jalapeno peppers), leaving the seeds and veins in most of them. We also processed the jars for 21 minutes because the house is at about 5,800 feet above sea level. This resulted in our best to-date salsa verde – nice and spicy while maintaining the sweet flavors of the roasted tomatillos and peppers. Most of the ingredients came from the garden, the notable exceptions being the Anaheim peppers and cilantro (I’ll work on that for next year).

Salsa verde was not the only salsa we made. The tomatoes from last week were getting a bit too ripe so we made a tomato salsa also. This was very easy since we already had all the ingredients. It was tomatoes, salt, serrano peppers, cilantro, onions, dried oregano from our garden, and onions from the garden. Everything was rough chopped then thrown in the food processor and adjusted to taste. This salsa is not canned so it will have to be eaten quickly; somehow I doubt that will be an issue or hardship.

Seeing as it is one of the last weekends at the farmers’ market we also decided it was time to buy our annual supply of peppers to supplement our garden’s poblano peppers for roasting. We bought 7 pounds of chili peppers  and harvested 2 pounds of poblano peppers. We roasted these up like we did in Chili Meditation. They are now resting in the freezer waiting for their big moment.

The salmon we smoked a couple of weeks ago came out so well we smoked a steelhead trout over the weekend. I followed the same basic recipe as I did for the salmon with a couple of notable changes. I substituted about 1/2 cup of honey for the sugar and I placed the fillets skin-side down; I usually place them skin-side up so the flesh can absorb, so I thought, more smoke. The trout is the best looking smoked fish I think I have done so far.

Because the trout did not fill all three racks in the smoker I decided to smoke some jalapeno and serrano peppers. They took on a nice smokey flavor and do not seem to have lost any of their spiciness. I am still debating with myself whether I will try making hot peppers in adobo sauce or just freeze them. The adobo sauce seems like quite the production.

It is also that time of year to start cutting the herbs to dry for later use. We started cutting the lavender for culinary and other uses, the oregano is ready to cut, as are the rosemary and thyme. We’ll cut and dry more in the next week or so but this is a start. The lemon verbena will also be ready to pick leaves from to add a nice citrus flavor or scent to things during the winter.


10 thoughts on “Chili Pepper Madness with a Dash of Smoke

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