Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Great Recipe with Banana Peppers

The first time I tasted this relish, I was just entranced, enchanted, excited and exuberant. Maybe enough alliteration? Still, this relish is just one of the best condiments. It is more versatile than almost anything I have tried. What is it? It is a mustard relish with banana peppers. 
Hot Peppers, banana peppers, Mustard, Relish
Hot Pepper Mustard Relish: good enough to eat by the spoonful!

I originally tasted a version of this relish at the house of my dearest friend, Chris. We have been friends from childhood on, though we are not in touch very much anymore. The time and distance do not dim the memories. I still consider her my best friend. Whenever Chris and I have been together as adults, I have always come away with more fantastic recipes to use. She loves to cook and bake as much as I. When I began looking into gluten-free baking, she was the first person I turned to for advice. She has been on a gluten free regimen for many years, out of choice. 

banana peppers, Mustard, Relish, recipe, canning
Last year's Relish
Getting back to this relish, it is known by many names. I don't know where it may have originated. I have seen similar recipes from "Amish Country" in Ohio, where I grew up. More currently, Michael Symon (also from Ohio, BTW), talks about a very similar mixture he calls "Sha Sha Sauce". The amounts of the ingredients may vary a little from one recipe to another, but it is the same basic thing...and it is GOOD!

This year, banana peppers have been very little in evidence. I have been waiting to see them at the Farmers' Market but have so far only seen a few. And now, we are dipping into the higher 30 degree range at night already this far north, and the Farmers' Market will soon be done for the year. Pumpkins and winter squash of all sorts have been out in force. And, some of the most gorgeous bell peppers I have ever seen were out last week. Maybe I will still have an opportunity to find more banana peppers, but for now, I did make one batch of this marvelously flavored relish using half banana peppers and half what appeared to be Anaheims. The Anahaim peppers were so beautiful and big. I had begun removing seeds and membranes before I remembered to get a photo, but you can see how large the Anaheim peppers were from the photo of them, halved, next to my Hammer Stahl Santoku knife with a 7.5-inch blade!

Banana Peppers, Anaheim Peppers, medium hot peppers
lighter color Banana Peppers left; larger, green Anaheim Peppers right

What is so fantastic about this relish?

You may be wondering why the raptures. Well, the relish is a little bit sweet, a little bit spicy (depending on the heat level of the particular peppers), nice and creamy and mustardy. Somehow, all those things combine into a most indescribably good flavor profile. Here are some of the many uses for this condiment:
  • spread on any sandwich; ham, BLT, leftover meatloaf; be creative
  • on tortillas for quesadillas
  • on toast to pair with eggs for breakfast
  • on buns for burgers or hot dogs
  • as a veggie dip
  • on crackers 
  • or just scoop out a spoonful, it is that good!
Until you've tasted it, this relish may not be top of mind. Once tasted, you won't forget it! I introduced it to my son Ken and his wonderful wife, Julia, last year when they came to visit. I sent them home with a jar. They asked for more. This year, just a week or so back, when again visiting, I sent them home with two jars. And that left me with none. I knew I would be making some very soon, so this was no problem.

banana peppers, Mustard, Relish, recipe
This year's batch of Hot Pepper Mustard Relish
A few days ago, while I had the Finnish Rye Bread rising, I set about making this relish again. I had made a few changes to the recipe Chris gave me. Still, when looking at the recipe again, I was thinking that not all peppers are created equal. Sometimes banana peppers are long and sometimes not quite so long. How much would the right amount be in cups, I wondered.  This time, while chopping all the peppers, I first weighed them, then cleaned and chopped them and measured the amount. This way there is less guesswork involved. 

When beginning work on the recipe, I thought maybe there were more peppers this year than last year, so I altered the amounts of vinegar, sugar and mustard to reflect this. I used about twice the onion, since the onion was large and fresh from the market also. So, a little more of this, a little more of that, and I had a little bit different a recipe than I started with. None of this changed the excellent flavor. This combination of ingredients just cannot be beat.

Hot Pepper Mustard Relish

Makes 8½ cups

1¾ pound banana peppers
2¼ cup white vinegar
2¼ cup yellow mustard
2¾ cup sugar
½ cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1¼ teaspoon Kosher or canning salt
1 large onion, finely chopped (about 2 cups)
2 - 4 cloves garlic, minced or through a garlic press

Chopped Peppers, recipe, mustard, relish
chopped peppers left, mixing the recipe right
Set a large canning pot at least halfway filled with water to boil. Set the clean canning jars and rings in the pot. Have lids handy.

Remove stem ends, seeds and membranes from the peppers, then chop into small pieces about ¼ inch in size. There should be about 4 cups. Set aside.

In an 8-quart pot, combine the vinegar, mustard and salt. In a bowl whisk together the flour and sugar and stir into the pot. Add in the onion and garlic and stir well. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring until the mixture thickens. Add the chopped peppers and continue to cook, maintaining a strong simmer and stirring often over medium low to low heat for 20 minutes.

Drop the lid sections of the canning jars into the boiling water with the jars and rings to heat through, but do not leave them for too long. Pack the relish into the sterile jars, top with lids and screw on the rings. Set the sealed jars into a boiling water bath to cover. If the water in the canning pot does not cover the jars, add water until it does. Bring to a boil and time for 20 minutes. Remove and wait from that wonderful sound of the "pop" as lids seal.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, continuing my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest.

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