Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Hot Pepper Jelly

Reading a New Yorker article written by Ian Frazier about the Dutch artist Theo Jansen, creator of StrandBeests – or wind animals this morning, and loved this description which reminds me of many gardeners I know. "He is the unusual kind of adult who can do something he used to do when he was nine and not have it seem at all out of place.”

These words guide me as I stack the first of my six cords of firewood and divide my time between the kitchen, the garden and the computer – all things I love to do. Savoring the tail end of summer is essential, and every morning I make the rounds to admire the powerful long stems and dainty white flowers of the Cimicifugia which has reached a staggering height despite the howling wind and rain of the past week. Fall asters are beginning to show color, a surprisingly bright shade of pink in contrast to the billowy hydrangea pompoms that still attract a bevy of bees and butterflies.

While harvesting leeks and onions, I discovered a cache of ripe Cayenne peppers which are now simmering on the stove top, filling the kitchen with a hot, spicy aroma. Hot pepper jelly is not for the timid, nor for toast. Try it as a spicy sweet condiment over a mild cheese or add a spoonful to stir fry for a powerful punch of heat.

Hot and Sweet Pepper jelly

Makes 6 pint jars

12 mixed hot peppers (about 1 cup chopped) a mixture of cayenne, habernero, serrano, and jalepenos

4 sweet bell peppers, (about 1 cup chopped) yellow, green or red

2 cups cider vinegar

6 cups sugar

1 six- ounce package of Certo pectin

1. Trim the tops off the hot and sweet peppers, remove the seed and coarsely chop into small pieces. Place in the container of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse gently, leaving small chunks. Transfer back into a measuring cup along with any juice to measure out 3 cups.

2. In a deep kettle, combine the vinegar and sugar and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the peppers and bring to a full rolling boil. Stir in the liquid pectin, and bring back to a rolling boil, and stir for one full minute.

3. Remove from the heat. Pour into sterilized jars, leaving about ¼ inch room at the top. Wipe the tops clean and seal the jars. Flip upside down to seal and allow to cool. Label and store in a cool, dark place until ready to use.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Nature and Nurture

The morning glory arbor blew over again last night, sunflowers uprooted and the wheelbarrow is filled with rain water. Hearing the rain pummel the roof was once a welcome sound, but too much of a good thing is devastating. People are helping people across Vermont, dig, rebuild, feed their farm animals, and bring emotional comfort. To lose a house, land and everything familiar that has been built with love is unfathomable. It is hard not to feel betrayed when a violent storms hit.

I’ve been reading Coming to Land in a troubled world, essays by Peter Forbes and others. There is a chapter titled Lifting the Veil, in which he quotes Aldo Leopold, Scott Nearing, Rachel Carson and others to make the point that our connection to the land is vital to our human spirit. “ If there is ever to be a change in culture that might save our species, it will need to come out of the pull, joy, and restoration of healthy human life rather than the push of fear. No change will come out of any force that is not fundamentally grounded in ethos of restoration. Restoration, or the reconnection of our lives to the health of the land, is parable for healthy human future."

Reading this, I see my role as a gardener, one who is deeply connected to the landscape, recognize ways to step out of the comfort of my own garden to help rebuild. I’ve donated my books with garden design consultations to several charity auctions, yet it seems frivolous in the midst of such a catastrophe. Once the debris is cleared, it will be easier to see how I can help restore and replant with the hopes of creating a nurturing environment that will help to heal and restore faith that nature is here to help.

In the meantime, I think preparing a good meal for my neighbors is in order.