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Porch Pickled Peppers

10 Oct

Porch pickled peppers

The growing season on our terrace was an uneven one. Most of the spring was very cool and wet. By the end of June and early July we entered a brief period of extreme heat followed by an abnormally cool late summer concluding with a warm, dry early fall. The tomatoes didn’t fare so well, but the chili peppers were abundant and as of this writing continue to thrive.

Last year I grew “Portugal Hots,” and “Fresno,” peppers. They too were prolific and, as chronicled in these pages, I used the excess to make pepper sauces. See A Pair of Pepper Sauces.

This year I mixed it up a little planting hot cherry peppers and cayenne’s. As always, I freeze most of the crop and use them when needed; adding the peppers to soups, sauces, Asian or Indian stir fried dishes or anything else I’m cooking that could use a spice kick. But there is always much more than I will need to last a year. So what to do with the excess?

Some of the cherry pepper crop.

Some of the cherry pepper crop.

This year I decided to pickle the peppers. There is nothing like a few slices of hot vinegar cherry peppers on an Italian hero or chopped into an antipasto or baccala salad, so instead of buying a store brand, I figured with all I had, I could make my own.

I deliberated over what then to do with the cayenne peppers. I was very tempted just to make another pepper sauce, maybe something very much like Tabasco, which uses cayenne peppers. Instead I took a much easier path deciding to chop up the fiery red peppers, squeeze them into decorative jars, add hot white vinegar and let the vinegar infuse in the spice of the chilies.

My estimation is that after two weeks, I’ll be able to sprinkle the vinegar on collard greens, Swiss chard, rice and beans or anything else that might welcome the combination flavors of hot and sour. Check back with me later on that prognosis.

Here are the very simple recipes for both.

Pickled hot cherry peppers

Cherry Peppers

1lb of red cherry peppers

2 cloves of peeled garlic

2 bay leaves

20 black peppercorns

2 cups of white vinegar

¼ cup of water

1 tablespoon of sugar

½ teaspoon of salt

Add the vinegar, water, sugar and salt to a saucepan and bring to a boil.

In the meantime, make a few incisions near the stem of the cherry peppers.

Make sure the jars and tops are sterilized by boiling them or putting them in the dishwasher.

In each jar (how many you use depends on the size of your jars) add one whole peeled clove of garlic, a bay leaf and a bunch of the peppercorns.

Stuff in the cherry peppers tightly.

Cherry Peppers

When the brine has boiled and the sugar and salt has dissolved, pour the liquid into the jars covering the cherry peppers leaving about ¼ inch of the jar empty.

Seal the jars tightly.

Can in a water bath for about 15 minutes.*

A cherry pepper water bath.

A cherry pepper water bath.

Remove the jars and if you hear that pop signifying that the jar has been vacuumed-sealed or you see that the lid is slightly indented, chances are very good that your pickled cherry tomatoes are properly sealed.

*I had never done the water bath thing before. I have always been wary of improperly sealing the jars thus imperiling my loved ones with contaminated food. This time I took a chance and all the signs seem to indicate that the canning was successful. Again, check back with me later on that.

Cayenne Pepper Vinegar

Cayenne peppers

Cayenne peppers

White vinegar

Chop up the peppers, making sure to use gloves before handling them.

Bring the vinegar to a boil. How much you use depends on how many peppers you have, and how big or also how many jars you intend to make.

Stuff the chopped peppers into your jars. I used a decorative salad oil/vinegar receptacle.

Using a funnel, unless the top of your jar is wide enough, pour the hot vinegar over the peppers leaving ¼ inch of space from the top.

Cayenne pepper vinegar

Put the top on and store in a cool dry place for at least two weeks before using.

Because you’ve made vinegar, a natural preservative, there is no need to seal these jars. The vinegar should last months, if not years, but you will probably finish it before you’ll have to worry about such things.

Porch pickled peppers

The Sloppy Joe Account

2 May

Back in 1968, when, according to the imagination of television’s Mad Men creator, Matthew Weiner,  groups of Mad men were competing for the Heinz ketchup advertising account, the Sloppy Joe was a staple of my suburban diet. Usually it was made from a wet mix in a can or dehydrated in a little packet. All you had to do was add the can of wet to the ground beef and cook it up. With the dry, you added water and tomato paste.  The mess was always served on a hamburger roll. Though pretty much long gone from my menu, the Sloppy Joe taste, slightly sweet, along with the salty ground beef, a touch of acid from the tomatoes, the crunch of onion, the sauce drenching the roll was unique and one I still vividly recall.

As it was in 1968, it is today.

As it was in 1968, it is today.

I hadn’t thought of the Sloppy Joe until I noticed a recipe for it on the back of a plastic Heinz ketchup bottle. That recipe and the iconic condiment: Heinz ketchup, the account of which was bitterly fought over by the fictional Mad men of Mad Men inspired me to revive that childhood classic knowing very well that childhood taste recall doesn’t always live up to the memory hype. My kids now are about the same age I was when my mother made it a monthly regular in our family’s menu. Would they feel the same way about the Sloppy Joe I did? I couldn’t imagine they wouldn’t, but who knew?

Nice try, Peg.

“ketchup…not catsup.”

Even without the using dry seasonings or the “Manwich” version, the recipe looked simple, as it should be. But once I began preparations, I noticed a potential problem: the recipe called for one and half cups of ketchup plus two tablespoons of brown sugar. The brown sugar combined with the “high fructose corn syrup” already in the ketchup was going to make this a sweet Sloppy Joe. Maybe it was always too sweet and, as a kid with a serious sweet tooth, I just didn’t realize it. Now as an adult with a somewhat mellower sweet tooth, would the Sloppy Joe be too saccharin for my taste? Should I go with my instincts and alter the recipe eliminating either half or all of the brown sugar. I decided not to do anything and if needed, I would do damage control after the fact.

Recipe courtesy of the H.J Heinz Company.

Recipe courtesy of the H.J Heinz Company.

Making the Sloppy Joe really was about as easy as it gets. I followed the directions, cooking the peppers and onions, adding the beef, skimming off the fat, and then pouring in the ketchup, the brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper and then cooking it on medium heat for about ten minutes until it thickened.

Just ten minutes and it's done.

Just ten minutes and it’s done.

Finally I tasted it. This was most definitely the Sloppy Joe of my memory, yet a very sweet one. I sprinkled in chili powder and added a few drops of hot sauce. That took the sweetness down a few notches, but not enough. The damage could not be undone. It was just too sweet for my tastes. Next time—and there would be a next time—I planned on either eliminating the ketchup altogether and substituting tomato paste with a teaspoon of brown sugar or maybe combining ketchup and tomato paste but nixing the sugar.

Sloppy Joe spillage.

Sloppy Joe spillage.

But after witnessing both of my boys licking from their fingers what had spilled from their buns, I realized that maybe I was thinking too much of myself. Why should I impose my so-called adult taste on them? Maybe, I thought, I should just leave well enough alone and let them have their own sweet Sloppy Joe memories.

Neck Bones’ Condiment Hall of Fame: Pickapeppa Sauce

11 Jan







The New York Times listed this year’s baseball Hall of Fame inductees in their paper yesterday. The page was a blank. No one received over 75 percent of the vote necessary to gain entry. To compensate for the lack of 2013 baseball Hall of Famers, I’m creating my own Hall of Fame, but not for baseball players. Mine will be for the most deserving condiments on the planet. And they don’t need over 75 percent of anyone else’s vote. For now, I’m the only judge for this award, and I swear I won’t hold it against a condiment if they might be, or once were, pumped with steroids or anything else chemical or artificial. I know in the world of condiments, there is no such thing as a level playing field.

So, the inaugural inductee to the Neck Bones Condiment Hall of Fame is that Jamaican treasure: Pickapeppa  Sauce.

Pickappa Sauce

Pickapeppa originated in 1921 and still is produced in Jamaica, in a place called Shooter’s Hill. I once drove past the Pickapeppa factory many years ago, but foolishly didn’t stop to wander the facilities to learn how such a unique sauce is concocted. So I can only go on what it says on the label of the bottle which tells me that the ingredients include mangoes, tamarind, tomatoes, onions, sugar cane vinegar, raisins, and “spices.” And then, like good Jamaican rum, the sauce is aged in oak barrels for a year before it is sold to the public.

In Jamaica, Pickapeppa became famous as an accompaniment to cream cheese. I can honestly declare that I have never contemplated topping a bagel and cream cheese with Pickapeppa sauce, but maybe I’m missing something.  Pickapeppa is also commonly used an added ingredient to marinades for barbecues, a baste for fish or meat, and stirred into gravies for a tangy kick. I’ve used it as a dip for samosas , tempuras, and fried fish, to lively up a dull or dry piece of meat, or sprinkled on scrambled eggs.

On the website; there are a number of recipes including one for a Creole bloody mary that looked intriguing. In fact, I’ve heard that the sauce has become a favorite new source for  creative Caribbean mixologists.

As a tribute to Pickapeppa, I cooked up one of the recipes on the website: Pickapeppa Pulled Chicken. I’ve tweaked it somewhat, but otherwise, I present it here, pretty much intact.


2-3lbs of skinless chicken breasts, rib intact

1 large onion, chopped

3 cloves of garlic, chopped.

3 ounces, or three quarters of a 5 ounce bottle of Pickapeppa Sauce*

1 tbs of Jerk sauce (I used Walkerswood, another candidate for a future edition of the Neck Bones Hall of Fame)

3 dashes of hot sauce.

2/3s  of a 12 ounce bottle of ginger beer.

*The website’s recipe calls for a 15 ounce bottle of Pickapeppa sauce to be used. I’ve never seen a bottle larger than the traditional 5 ounce bottle, so I’m not sure if it was a typo or not. Either way, Three ounces of the rich sauce seemed more than enough for me.

Pickapeppa with two potential Hall of Fame inductees.

Pickapeppa with two potential Hall of Fame inductees.

Combine the Pickapeppa Sauce, jerk sauce, hot sauce, and olive oil in a small bowl and mix.

Coat the chicken breasts with the sauce and let sit at room temperature for a half hour.


Add the chopped onions and garlic to a crock pot or slow cooker and then pour in 2/3s of a bottle of the ginger beer. You could toss in the whole bottle, but I saved a third to use in a well deserved Dark  & Stormy that I figured would be the perfect pairing with the pulled chicken.

Ginger beer going in.

Ginger beer going in.

Add the chicken breasts, cover and cook on low for four to six hours.

In the crock pot.

In the crock pot.

Pickapeppa pulled chicken

Pickapeppa pulled chicken six hours later

When done, shred the chicken breasts, be careful to remove any bones, and add in a few tablespoons of the cooking liquid to moisten. Serve on rolls or not, and top with any remaining Pickapeppa sauce you might have.

The beverage of choice to accompany Pickapeppa pulled chicken: Dark and Stormy.

The beverage of choice to accompany Pickapeppa pulled chicken: Dark and Stormy.

If you have any personal tributes to Pickapeppa on this, it’s Hall of Fame induction day, please don’t hesitate to include them in the comments section below.



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