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Real Food

Savor the flavors of everyday real food, fresh from the garden or stored on your pantry shelves.

Peppers to Keep You Warm and a 30-Minute Chili Recipe

Drying and Roasting Peppers

While I’ve never tried that old foot-warmer recipe of adding hot chili powder to my shoes, I can attest to the heat some peppers can rub off on us. I found this out the hard way a couple of decades ago.

I grew some jalapenos next to my sweet bell peppers. I’d been improperly informed that they wouldn’t cross-pollinate. The truth hit my bare hands when I was chopping a tainted green bell for some fresh salsa and ended up with my hands burning until the next morning. Suffice it to say, I have not repeated that particular mistake. My sweet peppers are now always grown some distance from any containing heat.

I have friends and relatives who swear their appetite for hot peppers keeps them healthy. They insist no germ in its right mind will reside in the same body as one cleansed with heat. While I’m not sure there is science to back this up, I do vividly remember my dad downing a bowl of jalapenos every time we went out for Mexican food. I also remember him turning bright red with sweat beading up on his forehead every single time.

I remain unconvinced that I would enjoy such an experience. For me, eating is for pleasure and savoring taste sensations. I also believe our shared healthy constitutions are more due to strong genes, not necessarily his consumption of jalapenos.

Because I love to taste the textures and flavors of my food, I tend to walk away from the heat of peppers that obliterate everything else in the dish. This preference for steering clear of spicy heat is what made our youngest ask me throughout this past season why I grew several varieties of hot pepper that I refused to try. Laughingly, I explained that it was to see if I could. I also like the challenge of figuring out what to do with them once harvested.

I gave many away to friends and family who love hot peppers. I also dried them (see top photo, left side), and ground them into powders for future usage (bottom photo, middle row, jars). I roasted some for freezing, though those pictured (top right) are sweet, red cupid peppers. And I tried something new for me—I fermented them. By the way, you may notice blue painters tape in some of the photos. This is absolutely my go-to item for labeling because it can be moved from container to container during the fermenting process.

I served the fermented, super-hot Scotch Bonnet pepper sauce with our appetizer tamales at ThanksGaia (the name I use for Thanksgiving). There were a few brave souls who tested it — some deemed it too hot, others took some home. I didn’t touch the stuff.

Side note (yet more repurposing, covered in last week’s blog post): I also save my pepper seeds, drying them on old, expandable window screens (if you look carefully, you can see one as background of the right side of the bottom photo). I keep them carefully separated and labeled, then package them with labels until it’s time to start my seedlings—and the cycle begins again.

30-Minute Chili

I wanted to work up a recipe to share that was quick, easy, and used some of my new pepper creations. When ending a busy and productive day, I love a recipe with healthy ingredients that can be thrown together and ready to eat in minutes.

I am definitely one who likes to use what I have on hand rather than having to find and ferret away some obscure, fancy ingredient that exists only in specialty stores in big cities or online. I urge you to substitute at will if you haven’t preserved your own hot peppers this past year.

30-Minute Chili Recipe

1. Brown and crumble in your pot:
• 3 sausage patties (optional)
• 1/2-1 lb lean ground beef

2. Add, saute, and stir in completely:
• 2 tsp garlic, chopped (a couple of cloves… more if you prefer)
• 2 tsp granulated onion (or ½ fresh chopped onion… more if you prefer)

3. Add and warm through on simmer (about ten minutes):
• 2-15oz cans of beans (I love using one can of organic black beans)
• 15 oz can tomato sauce
• 1 pint salsa (this was my homemade mild salsa... if you’re using store-bought, I suggest using a brand without added sugar)
• 1/4 cup fermented Numex pepper sauce (I used my own slightly hot sauce, a can of diced chiles or jalapenos could be substituted)

Salt, pepper, and chili pepper to taste

Serves 2

1. Top with grated cheese, sour cream, dab of salsa, and sprig of cilantro or sliced avocado
2. Serve with cornbread—I make a gluten-free version, but that’s another story
3. Great paired with Oktoberfest beer

If you are so inclined, use this article as a reason to venture into an area of gardening or cooking that you haven’t yet tried. I know I’ll be fermenting peppers again. I also have a few new varieties to check out, thanks to participating in the seed exchange. Bring on the fun and adventure!

Photos by Blythe Pelham

Blythe Pelham is an artist that aims to enable others to find their grounding through energy work. She is in the midst of writing a cookbook and will occasionally share bits in her blogging here. She writes, gardens and cooks in Ohio. Find her online at Humings and Being Blythe, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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