Saturday, August 24, 2013

Small Batch Canning: Cowboy Candy

Alternate titles I considered for my post were "How to Pepper Spray Yourself" and "Help! My Stove is on Fire and So Are My Lungs"

(And I apologize for the lack of my personal  pictures--none of the batteries for my camera were charged)

So adventures in canning--I have them. LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES PEOPLE! haha

It began innocently enough-as it always does-with me perusing PINTEREST looking for recipes and ideas for hot peppers. There were like a kazillion pins for Cowboy Candy. Intrigued, I began to click on links to learn more. Curse you Pinterest (shakes fist)

Once I identified the object of my obsession, there was the invariable self conversation.

Me: I am so gonna make this!
Self: "Um this involves hot peppers."
Me: Yeah, so what?
Self: "Um you DO realize you are a walking disaster, right?"
Me: Hey! Don't judge me because I am life challenged!
Me: Shut up-I am doing this!
Self: "Oh Boy, this is not going to end well!"
Me: Hmmm, MAYBE it is time I see the Dr. for some quiet pills?
Self: (silence)
Me: HA!

So after my trip down insane lane, I got busy prepping my peppers. I had about a pound of mixed peppers  from my garden of jalapenos, cayenne and red thai. And for the love of gawd--WEAR GLOVES! These suckers burn. So unless you want to be curled in the fetal position crying for your Momma, wear the dang gloves!

I removed the stems, shaved the tip, rinsed and sliced the peppers into 1/4 inch slices. These were tossed into a lidded plastic container with 3 cups of water and 1/3 cup canning salt. They were stored in the fridge overnight...okay more like 32 hours because I forgot about them. And when I finally remembered, I was too tired to mess with it.

I rinsed the peppers several times to remove the brine then let them drain.The majority of the seeds and pith had fallen out of the slices. For those that didn't, I used a toothpick to knock out the seeds and pith. Another quick rinse and while the peppers were draining I made the syrup.

Into a non reactive pot combine:
1 cup of apple cider vinegar (no caramel coloring)
2 cups of white granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon mustard seed
1/2 teaspoon dehydrated minced onion

Bring to a boil for 2 minutes. Reduce heat and add pepper rings. Simmer for 8 minutes. Now here is where you gotta pay attention! All peppers have a compound known as capsicum. Depending on the Scoville unit (hot factor) of the peppers species determines how much capsicum is in the pepper. Also capsicum is the active ingredient used for hot pepper spray--MACE. Yep-the stuff used to neutralize the bad guys. Now 2 things are gonna happen. 1) The peppers have been fermenting in a brine (in my case 32 hours) and they are going to outgas the capsicum. If you breathe these fumes you are gonna be bawling like a baby. 2) When the capsicum outgasses from the peppers, they will displace the volume of the sugar syrup in your pan. Meaning it will froth and boil over. If it boils over the liquid will evaporate and the sugar will char. If the burner is hot enough it could catch on fire. GO ahead--ask me how I know!

Now I realize you are saying 1 of 2 things right now."Yeah, yeah whatever"  or "oh gawd you really are a dumbass".  You would be correct on the last statement.

I admit it--I was distracted. I was a chemist for 20 years. I am aware of the properties of capsicum ( hot peppers). I have been canning for a year now. I know what I am SUPPOSED to do. But I didn't. I didn't pay attention. My pan boiled over. Sugar was on fire on my burner and I inhaled a big ol' snootful of vinegar-hot pepper  fumes when trying to move/ clean everything. OH MY GAWD! I thought I was gonna die!

I ran to the sink to run cold water. I practically submerged my me head to splash my face and rinse my eyes. I held a wet towel over my mouth and nose to breath . It took close to a half hour before I no longer felt like I was gonna pass out. Hoooo Boy! So I am gonna make a suggestion,  when making the syrup, you might want to consider using a pot that is twice the volume of what you are making. 

Once I came back from my fire breathing brush with death, I finished my batch. I hot packed the pepper rings in syrup into quarter pint jars, left a 1/4 inch headspace, wiped the rims, sealed and water bathed for 10  minutes. There was no sense breaking out my big canning pot so I used my old bean pot and a collapsible steamer tray which worked perfectly. My yield was 4 of the quarter pint jars.

My quarter pint jars are "quilted" and I wasn't able to get a detailed picture... bummer

I googled to see how these were served and it varied. Some people serve it as an appetizer on cream cheese topped crackers

on a burger
Lori from The Kitchen Whisperer uses them on her chocolate chili cupcake. Wow-does that look good! I am just not sure I am brave enough to eat it, haha.

Other than my dumbass fiasco this truly was an easy recipe. I plan on making this again when I have more hot peppers AND when I am less distracted!

What y'all think?


  1. I can't wait to try this in a few year when I actually have enough peppers!

    1. No need to wait. I bet the local farm market has lots of peppers!

  2. I thought this was the funniest post ever. I don't think I'm gonna try the recipe. As a person who walks about in a constant state of confusion, I'm not taking the chance on ANYTHING that can sear my lungs/eyes/hands. But I did get a heck of a laugh out of this. Glad you made it out alive!!!

    1. LOL-Thanks! You know my "voice" warned me it wasn't a good idea but I still HAD to do it... I kinda freaked myself out when it happened. It was almost slow motion with foam oozing over the sides of the pot, me running and yelling NNNOOOOOOOOO, then there was smoke and little flames. I ruined the burner by the way. Thank goodness for an SOS pad to scrub the outside of pot. 2 days later and my nose is still running like a faucet. At least no one was around to witness my humiliation. Although the good news is my smoke detectors work just fine!

  3. I will first say, I'm glad everything is ok....and now I'll say, THAT WAS HILARIOUS! I can totally picture that in my head. I had actually seen this recipe (one similar) and I was wanting to try it. You scared the crap outta me with that story, LOL!

    1. LOL! Well my self voice tried to warn me! And truthfully had I not been rushing or distracted, I am sure it would have been ok. I am also positive the reason my peppers were so reactive was because of the brining. Or over brining in my case because they had started to ferment. Gases are are released during the fermentation process (oxygen for one) so my stuff was extra frothy.

      When making these it falls into 2 camps. Those who brine and those who don't. I typically brine just about everything first 1) it displaces water from the membranes resulting in a crisper product 2) It helps on terms of bacteria. Even though I wash everything and "cook" it, it is an extra layer of protection to prevent spoilage.

      Don't be afraid to make these. Just wear gloves, use your stove exhaust and use a pan 2x the size of the batch. Knowing what to expect goes a long way to making it successfully!


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