Thursday, November 13, 2008

Daryl's Hot Peppers

This spring my friend Daryl gave me some seeds from a pepper he had wrapped up in tinfoil. He had been to a restaurant for dinner and complimented the chef on the meal and particularly the peppers. Well, the peppers were imported from Italy and he gave Daryl an actual pepper (hence the tinfoil wrapping). Well, Daryl knows I like to grow things and he was very excited at the prospect that he was going to be able to end up with bunches of these delicious peppers. I sprouted the seeds in the windowsill, transplanted them in the garden and they were growing steadily, getting big and green and bushy when I had a Japanese beetle invasion, so I lost a number of the plants. Fortunately I had kept some plants in pots on the porch and I didn’t lose all the pepper plants in the garden, one disaster averted. I watered them, I talked to them, and I picked the bugs off their leaves. At the end of the season I had a fair number of interesting looking, long, multi-colored (some green, some yellow, some orange) peppers to harvest.

The next step was to figure out exactly how to preserve them. I wanted to do Italian style preservation in what I assumed would be just olive oil, but every recipe I found was more towards pickling. I had all kinds of friends and relatives looking high and low for recipes on preserving peppers. Finally I modified one recipe from many. Then I looked at our “harvest” and I worried that if the recipe was bad I’d have no peppers to give Daryl. I assembled all my ingredients on the counter, picked out some jars for packing, got out the pots and pans; then I started getting really nervous, actually I had a panic attack. So I went and rearranged the pantry shelves and drank a couple beers while I was doing that. Then I looked at the pepper plants lined up in front of the windows. I rearranged all my pepper preserving materials on the counter again because they were in the wrong order. I called my girlfriend Suzanne who reviewed the recipe with me and gave me a pep talk. After hanging up the phone I circled the counter a few times and then looked at the clock and decided it was too late to put by peppers. I went to bed.

After a fitful night of tossing and turning and dreaming about all the horrible things that could go wrong, I got up a the crack of dawn, picked a peck of peppers, washed them off in the sink, rearranged all my stuff on the counter and decided to make myself a fortifying cup of tea. After feeding the piggies and circling the counter numerous times I yelled, “F**k It, it’s just damn PEPPERS!”, and I jumped in. I did one small batch and snuck them into Daryl’s fridge when he wasn’t looking. Then I went out for a few cocktails and put the whole experience out of my mind. I figured if Daryl didn’t like them I’d try something different, and if he liked them, well then it was worth all the worrying wasn’t it.

Guess what – he liked them, he really, really liked them. He told Paul (my better half) that they were good and he was looking forward to getting more. Needless to say the recipe has now become my “secret” Daryl’s Hot Peppers recipe. Here’s what it looked like when I put the rest of the peppers up. I saved a few that are drying for the seeds and I’m already looking forward to next year’s crop.