A very common question I get asked and one I see on many ferment groups on Facebook is, “What is this stuff covering my pickles? Is it mold and do I need to throw them?”
No!!! Don’t throw them! It’s not mold. Mold needs oxygen to grow (which is why you see it on the outside of foods and not on the inside). If it’s under the brine, it ain’t mold.
So what it is? It’s yeast. Yeast is a natural part of a ferment and it will settle on the pickles and the bottom of the jar. It’s actually a good sign that your ferment is doing what it’s supposed to be doing. Yeast is microscopic but when enough of it gathers in one place, we can see it as a sediment. If you see a white sediment on your pickles, it worked!
If it bugs you, makes you squeamish, wipe it down, rinse it off, and enjoy.
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What’s better than homemade hot sauce? Homemade chipotle pepper hot sauce! Smokey hot goodness in a bottle.
Last year I sold various fermented items at my local farmers market and my hot sauces sold like wild fire. Even though I’m not selling at the market this year, I still have people asking begging for more hot sauce. It’s good stuff. My most popular sauce was this chipotle pepper hot sauce. It sold faster than I could make it.
It’s hard to keep up with demand up north here because peppers aren’t not the easiest thing to grow during our short warm season. This year has been especially trying since it’s been abnormally cold. So far, most of my ripe peppers have come from gardens with hoop houses and high tunnels. I ended up picking all of my peppers a couple weeks ago. We had 2 nights where it dropped to 32F killing my plants. I put the green peppers in paper bags and they’ve been ripening up just fine. Enough for me to make a few small batches of red pepper mash.
What Kind of Peppers Should I Use
You can use most any hot pepper to make hot sauce. Jalapeños are great because they are a very fleshy pepper and make a nice thick sauce. Thai peppers and similar smaller peppers don’t work quite as well because they have thin flesh. Using a mix of different peppers works great. Scotch Bonnets or Habaneros make a great sauce too (remove seeds for a less fiery sauce if you would like).
For the chipotle peppers, this is the kind I have, Frontier Whole Chipotle Peppers. They are whole, dried chipotle peppers. You can substitute chipotle chili powder or canned chipotle peppers just fine. Chipotle peppers are smoked red jalapeños. Because they are smoked, they have no live lactic acid bacteria on them to help the ferment get started. Because of this, you’ll want to make sure your pepper mash contains about 3/4 fresh peppers and only 1/4 smoked peppers. So if you want to scale the recipe up or down, keep that ratio in mind; 1/4 smoked peppers to 3/4 fresh.
How Much Salt?!
My pepper mash and chili sauce has more salt than most recipes I see out there. Peppers are much more prone to mold than other veggies so to keep mold at bay, you need more salt. And because there is so much more salt, it takes longer to ferment. You might not see the signs of fermentation that you normally see. The mash sometimes doesn’t heave and you might not see a lot of bubble activity.
The rule of thumb I use for pepper mash is 1 oz of salt per 1 lb of peppers. So if you have 2 lbs of peppers, use 2 oz of salt. Easy peasy. Now my recipe below might not be exactly 1 lb. Don’t shoot me. If you are concerned about the recipe being exact, weigh your fresh peppers with the rehydrated chipotle pepper. The potential difference in weight I felt wasn’t enough for me to adjust the recipe. Keep it simple.
1 oz unrefined salt (sea salt or himalayan salt is best)
3/4 lb hot peppers
About 4-6 dried chipotle peppers, rehydrated (can sub 2 tbsp chipotle chili powder)
boiling water, about 1 cup
Put on gloves. Don't forget the gloves!
Put chipotle peppers in a small bowl and add boiling water, just enough to cover them. Cover and let set until peppers have cooled back down to room temperature. Reserve the liquid.
Prepare you peppers by trimming off the stem. You can leave the tops on. For a more mild sauce, cut peppers in half and remove seeds and veins. You can adjust the heat of the sauce by add peppers with or without seeds. For a good medium sauce, use about 1/4 peppers with seeds, 3/4 without seeds.
Roughly chop peppers and rehydrated chipotle peppers and add to food processor with salt and reserved liquid from chipotle peppers. Process until smooth.
Pack pepper mash into an airtight jar (preferably with an airlock). There will a lot of air from the blending process so use a spatula to press it down, removing as much air as possible.
Seal jar, don't forget to add water to your airlock if using one. Let set at room temperature for about 7-10 days.
Move to cold storage, 32-55F.
Now the hard part. The best sauce has been allowed to age at least a year. You can use the pepper mash sooner than a year but I would suggest letting it age as long as you can stand.
Use pepper mash as is or run through a food mill to make chili sauce.
Sauce will keep for at least another year or so refrigerated.
It’s finally that time of year when the tomatoes are beginning to roll in. I’ve been harvesting tomatoes every 2-3 days and I bring back a big bucket full of them eat time. I love this time of year. We live pretty far north so we usually don’t get ripe tomatoes until August. This year has been particularly cool so we didn’t get any ripe yumminess until the end of the month. But they are finally ripening up.
Each year I garden, I do a little experimenting with methods. Last year I had vining tomatoes that I pruned religiously and tied up. One bed was a regular tilled garden bed and the other was a “lasagna garden” method that used layers of mulch. The tilled garden did ok but mulch garden produced significantly more. I was planning on expanding my mulch garden this year but time got away from me. We ended up planting an herb garden, strawberry garden, and asparagus garden (don’t worry gardening experts, the asparagus was not planted where the tomatoes were. I know that’s a no no) in the mulch bed instead. I ran out of room for my tomatoes.
This year, we did go back to planting tomatoes in the tilled garden bed but instead of vining tomatoes (indeterminate), I bought bush tomatoes (determinate). I didn’t mean to buy all bushes. I just mixed up the terms indeterminate and determinate. Why can’t they just say vining or bush? I never get it right. So I planted bush tomatoes which ended up being a blessing because they need less care than vining tomatoes. This summer ended up being busier than I anticipated and I didn’t have as much time as I did last year to devote to gardening. With the bush variety, I didn’t have to worry about pruning as much. The only trimming I did was in August .I just plucked off all the flowers because I knew there wouldn’t be time for them to turn into berries and ripen before the frost. The plants were then able to put more energy into the fruit they had on the vine. I also took off a few leaves so the sun could reach more of the tomatoes.
My plants are heavy laden with large beautiful tomatoes that are ripening at a steady rate. I think this will be my best yield yet.
Next year I plan on trying out a few beds using the straw bale gardening technique from this book Straw Bale Gardening.
Enough gardening talk. On to the recipe!
This is one of my favorite ways to eat paste tomatoes. A fleshy paste tomato like Roma, Amish Paste or San Marzano works the best for this recipe. I’ve tried it with the round tomatoes and they just end up a wet mess. They still taste good but the paste tomatoes hold up their shape better and the cheese is less likely to slide off since they lay fairly flat.
This is a ridiculously easy recipe, I almost feel silly writing it up. You can switch it up by using different cheeses. Cheddar and Swiss are great. I made these with gouda once and they were a big hit. Most any fresh or dried herbs work as well, oregano, basil, thyme, marjoram…
One of my favorite past times is walking through our pasture and figuring out what all the wild plants are that are growing and then finding out if they are edible or not. This last walk, we found wild mint, hops, rosehips, and milk weed.
Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca and Asclepias speciosa are the edible species we have here) is one of my favorite edible “weeds” (it really is only a weed if it’s growing where you don’t want it to grow). It’s a beautiful plant with large fragrant flowers and it grows everywhere here. I’m in milkweed heaven. We live fairly far north so our season is a little later than most of the US. If you still have milkweed in bloom, awesome. If not, sorry, save this for next year. If you are just past the bloom and have pods, check out this recipe from Common Sense Homesteading for sautéed milkweed pods. Once I find some pods, we’ll be making this. **Please make sure you identify the plant correctly, see note below.**
Cautions: Not all milk weed species are edible. Use only those species and plant parts specified as edible and cook them according to the directions given for each plant part. Until they are cooked, even the edible species of milkweed contain chemicals toxic to people and other mammals – never eat any part of milkweed raw… Furthermore, milkweed juice can irritate the skin; wear cloves for picking or wash hands thoroughly.
Make certain that you have the right plant – some poisonous plants, such as the dogbanes (Apocynum species), closely resemble the edible milkweeds, especially at the shoot stage. Unless confident that you can tell these plants apart…ask an expert for help. Your county extension service or local weed board can provide information about the specific plants in you area.
…Take care not to disturb monarch butterfly caterpillars that may be feeding on the milkweed leaves. In recent years the number of these butterflies has greatly decreased due to the destruction of wilderness areas in Mexico where they overwinter – it would be a shame to cause them harm in their summer range as well.
~“Wild Seasons: Gathering and Cooking Wild Plants of the Great Plains” by Kay Young
I made these fritters last year and my family has just been waiting and waiting for the flowers to bloom this summer. It’s a once a year treat that we relish. I actually hemmed and hawed about making them this year, I don’t like getting the fryer out when it’s so hot. My husband took the initiative this year and made them while I told him what to do. I guess I had forgotten how good they were. They are worth heating the kitchen up for. We make a big batch using at least 20 flowers. 4 boys can pack away a lot of fritters. The recipe cuts in half just fine if you don’t want to make so many.
Note: A reader pointed out to me that monarch butterflies depend on milkweed. Just use common sense and don’t pluck every flower you see. Save some for the butterflies. (Milkweed does reproduce through their roots as well as seeds produced from the flowers).
1/2 cup flour (gluten free all-purpose flour works great)
1/2 cup arrowroot flower (or cornstarch)
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp sugar (we use sucanat)
1/2 tsp sea salt
Sugar and cinnamon to sprinkle on finished fritters
Frying oil (I use lard, tallow or palm oil in my fryer)
Place 2 egg whites in a 2 cup measuring cup. Add enough water to make 2 cups. In a bowl, whisk until frothy.
In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Whisk in egg white mixture and stir until just blended.
Cover and let sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour, up to 8 hours.
Be sure you flowers are from the edible varieties stated above Prepare milkweed flowers by rinsing in water, getting any bugs off. We used about 20 milkweed flowers. Cut stem off right up to the flower so none of the stem remains.
Cut the flower in half by snipping it at the base.
Lay on a towel to air dry.
After the batter has sat for an hour or so, heat up oil to about 375F.
Dip flowers in the batter and fry until browned.
Remove from oil and place on a paper towel to absorb excess oil.