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I experienced an interesting problem this week. I had Jalapenos coming out of my ears! Okay, maybe not literally out of my ears but I had a bunch and I needed to figure out what purpose they held.
As you may have read, over the last week I’ve done a bunch of work in the garden to not only harvest one last time but also to winterize our garden in preparation for Spring. Those of you who grow a garden as a way to provide for your family understand when I say the work never stops! Even as the frigid temps start to arrive in November, I’m thinking about what I need to do to prepare for April when it comes to my garden!
I pulled an entire bucket of jalapenos out of the garden before we turned it over for the winter and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with them all. My family really isn’t all that big on jalapenos as we don’t typically eat spicy foods. And let me tell y’all. . .I grow some spicy jalapenos. Not 100% sure sure why but my jalapenos grow out super spicy! According to a friend of mine’s husband – they are baby wipe kind of spicy. Maybe that’s TMI?
Anyways, I didn’t want all of these jalapenos going to waste and I knew we wouldn’t be using them any time soon in anything so I had to come up with a plan. And then it struck me. I knew exactly what I was going to do with all those jalapenos. I was gonna make Cowboy Candy! Have you ever had Cowboy Candy? If not, you need to try it! Even if you aren’t big on jalapenos, you still need to try cowboy candy. It’s this incredible mixture of sweetness and spiciness. Kind of like me! ha ha . . .
I tried to take some photos of the process as I made the Cowboy Candy but it was proving somewhat difficult since I was trying to slice up these super spicy jalapenos without getting their jalapeno spice transferred to everything else in my kitchen.
If you’re going to make Cowboy Candy or process jalapenos of any sort, there’s something you have to know. You have to make sure you wear rubber gloves when you are processing jalapenos. In my book, it’s not just a good idea, it’s required. Jalapenos contain a component known as Capsaicin which is what makes them taste spicy. That’s also what makes them burn your skin. Did you know that Capsaicin is the burning agent in pepper spray and animal repellent? Therefore, it only makes sense that you wouldn’t really want to take the risk of handling the jalapenos, getting that capsaicin on your hands and then potentially rubbing parts of your face. Painful stuff! Ask me how I know. . .*sigh*.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get onto the fun stuff. . .making up some cowboy candy!
You’ll want to wash your jalapenos and get them nice and clean. Discard any that have rotten spots or blemishes. Ain’t nobody got time for that!
Grab those gloves. . . .I’m not kidding around here! Wear.the.gloves.
Next, you’ll set to slicing up your jalapenos. I trim the top off and discard in a bowl that I usually have sitting close by.
I recommend slicing the jalapenos fairly thick (1/4 inch?) if you plan on using them as a snacking food or maybe to top nachos. If your vision includes using the end product in recipes, you may want to slice them thinner. Up to you!
Keep slicing away until you’ve gotten them all sliced up. Stand back and admire your handy work. Look at all those pretty jalapeno slices!
**Note: if you’re like me and you don’t always appreciate the extra spice that comes along with jalapenos, you can temper some of the spice by removing the inner membrane and seeds as you slice them. I did this with a portion of the jalapenos that I used to make this recipe as I plan on giving them as a gift to someone who isn’t into super spicy things. While I just pushed the “innards” out with my finger, you can also get this jalapeno corer which will do the job a little bit quicker and likely with less mess. Additionally, soaking your jalapenos in ice water for about 30 minutes after they are sliced will help to remove some of the spice.
After you have everything sliced up, you’ll want to get your syrup cooking. Combine the apple cider vinegar, white sugar, brown sugar, tumeric, garlic powder, and celery seed together in a large pot. Bring to a boil. Watch it carefully because as the mixture begins to come up to temperature, it may begin to bubble up and can bubble over very quickly. I’ve made that mistake once and trust me, you don’t ever want to try to clean that mixture out of your stove grates!
Once mixture reaches boiling temp, reduce temperature to low and let simmer for 5 minutes. Use that 5 minutes (while still keeping a close eye on your mixture to make sure it doesn’t boil over) and get your jars ready. Since we’ll be using the hot pack method when canning these, you want to make sure your jars are warm and sterilized when you fill them or else the hot jalapenos and boiling syrup mixtures could cause cold jars to crack or shatter. There are a couple of ways that you could both warm & sterilize your jars. I typically either boil them in a large pot of boiling water while I’m preparing the rest of my recipe or run them through a hot cycle in the dishwasher (no soap). I used the dishwasher for this particular round.
Once the mixture has simmered for 5 minutes, it’s time to add your jalapenos. Throw them all in the hot syrup mixture and use a slotted spoon to make sure they all get covered. Turn the heat up to medium and simmer for exactly 4 minutes.
Now that the 4 minutes are up, you’ll want to transfer the jalapenos to warm canning jars by using a slotted spoon. We are intentionally transferring only the jalapenos to the jars, at this point. I use a wide mouth canning funnel for this as I find it to be a lot easier than trying to spoon foods into my jars. Makes it less messy and anything you can do to minimize the mess while canning is a great thing!
When I”m making my cowboy candy, I fill my jars up to the lowest ridge on the jar with the jalapenos. If they aren’t packing nicely, you can take a spoon and lightly pack them down a bit to make more room. You don’t want to smash them all in like sardines or else you’ll cause your end product to look all smashy. Appearances are important!
Once jars are all packed, you’ll turn your attention back to the syrup left in the pot. Turn the heat up until the mixture boils again. This time, stir constantly while the syrup boils for 6 minutes. This is where the syrup becomes that syrupy deliciousness that brings out all the goodness in the “candy”.
Then, ladle syrup into jars with jalapenos leaving 1/4 inch of head space at the top of the jars. Not sure how to tell if you’re leaving 1/4 inch headspace? Use this handy dandy tool which not only has a mechanism for measuring head space but it also does double duty can can be used to remove air bubbles from your jars before you put them in your canner. Air bubbles are bad. Tools to get air bubbles out are good.
Once all syrup is ladled and air bubbles are eradicated, wipe the rims of your jars with a wet paper towel or cloth. This is to remove any of the sticky syrup residue which would interfere with getting a nice seal when the jars are being canned. It is imperative that you not skip this step is you want to increase your likelihood of all jars sealing like they should.
You will likely have leftover syrup after you’ve filled all of the jars. DO NOT throw it out! You can either pour it into a jar and can it with the rest of your jars, put it in the fridge or even let it cool and put into ziploc bags and stick it in the freezer. Either way, you want to keep this stuff. It is excellent brushed on meat as it’s grilling or even as a marinade for chicken.
Screw on your lids and rings to fingertip tight (essentially, tighten them with your fingertips and you won’t tighten them too much) and they are ready for canning! Since this recipe is adequately acidic, it can be canned via water bath vs. having to be pressure canned. This always makes me do a little bit of a happy dance since I’ve found that pressure canned recipes tend to take more time from start-to-finish. I appreciate when I can get in, get to business and get out!
I unfortunately didn’t get any pictures of my jars in the water bath but you’ll want to place jars into boiling water in a water bath canner and process for 10 minutes for half-pint jars and 15 minutes for pint jars. At the end of the processing time, lift jars from the canner using a jar lifter (this is very important as those jars are hot, hot, hot!) and place on a folded towel to cool for 12 – 24 hours or until jars are cool to the touch.
As hard as it might be to resist, it’s best to let jars sit in the pantry and “mellow” for a few weeks but it’s fine to go ahead and dig in right away, if you must. However, letting them sit for at least 3-4 weeks is what brings out the true loveliness that is cowboy candy. Your patience will be rewarded, just trust me on this.
Additionally, if you don’t want to go through the process of canning or you do not yet have the proper tools, you may store your cowboy candy in jars in the refrigerator for about 3 months. However, by canning them via water bath, they will be shelf stable (i.e. in your pantry or cupboard) for about a year.
If I don’t end giving my entire stash of cowboy candy away as gifts, we use them to top nachos (OMGeeee, delish!) or as an easy & quick appetizer to take to gatherings: cracker smeared with cream cheese & topped with a slice of cowboy candy. Oh so quick, oh so easy, oh so FRUGAL, and oooooh sooooo delicious!
If you try this recipe, please come back and tell me how much you love it!