It’s In There

There are few things as pleasant as going out to my garden, picking fresh vegetables or herbs, then using them to make something delicious. I have been denied that pleasure for most of the season because our plants have suffered some serious setbacks.

The tomato plants were pretty blighted, every type.  We had Early Girl, San Marzano, Super San Marzano (that’s San Marzano plants wearing capes), Celebrity and maybe one or two other kinds.  Unfortunately, we bought the all of the plants from the same nursery and they all were blighted.

The deer ate several of my lovely, lovely pepper plants (and then kindly puked them up right next to the violated plants).  I have had many jalapenos and Hungarian hot peppers, which were in a different garden in my yard,  but my bell peppers, ancho peppers, serranos, and poblanos were hit hard.  I’ve had a few poblanos, several serranos, and one lonely ancho but the bell peppers never recovered.  Stupid deer.  They’re lucky I don’t know how to use a gun because I love venison in my spaghetti sauce.  And I’m sure some deer sausage would be good.

Two days ago, I decided I would try to make some hot sauce (since I practically drink the stuff.  Trappey’s Red Devil hot sauce, I love you).  So, I picked all the ripe hot peppers, removed the stems, coarsely chopped them, popped them in a large deli container with a couple of tablespoons of salt and let them sit in the fridge.  In a few days, I’ll throw it in the blender with vinegar.

As you can see, I left the seeds in (it’s supposed to be hot) and it’s a blend of peppers.  It’s mostly the jalapenos and Hungarian hots but I think there might be a poblano in there.  I didn’t add the ancho, I ate that one after I grilled it.  Yum, grilled hot peppers.

After I took this picture, I stuck my finger in there and got a few seeds to taste how things were going.  Oh my, delicious.  I can’t wait until I get to blend and then eat this.  I wish I had some habeneros; I love their earthy flavor but we didn’t plant any this year.

I finally made my first batch of spaghetti sauce with tomatoes from the garden.  Usually, by this time of year, I have half a freezer full of salsa and pasta sauce.  It’s just been such an awful year for our tomatoes.  But I did get one good batch.  I like to use the San Marzano tomatoes for sauce, they have the best flavor.  But, I had to mix any ripe tomatoes.

To make good spaghetti sauce, I start with good quality extra virgin olive oil then I add some garlic.  I’ve been lucky enough to have garlic from my grandmother’s garden this year.  I don’t grow my own.  I added fresh ground pepper and salt and let the garlic heat up to release the full flavor.  Then I add coarsely chopped tomatoes.  If you’re offended by skin, you can steam the tomatoes first to loosen the skin, then peel the tomatoes before use. I’m not offended by the skin but the family doesn’t like it so I will pick out obvious pieces of skin after it’s cooked for several hours.A couple of teaspoons of sugar is added and the sauce is allowed to cook for a few hours.

I added then oregano and basil from my garden and a healthy portion of burgundy (that I keep only for cooking spaghetti sauce and french onion soup).  Some browned ground meat and some lovely mushrooms are added and the sauce is allowed to cook for a few more hours (or overnight if you’re using a crock pot).  Then throw the sauce over some lovely pasta, or spaghetti squash or whatever makes you happy. – I cook like my grandmother, I very rarely measure anything out, I just know how much to add.  But I’ll say I think I used about 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 3 cloves of garlic, enough tomatoes to fill an 8 quart stock pot 3/4 of the way to the top, 10 basil leaves, 12 oregano leaves, 4 teaspoons of sugar, 2 teaspoons of salt, 1 tablespoon of pepper, 8 oz of mushrooms, 1 cup of burgundy, and a pound of ground beef.  I wholeheartedly recommend adjusting any quantities according to your taste.

And for my next trick, I just finished making some of my favorite hamburger patties.  I start by mincing one white button mushroom, one clove of garlic, several basil leaves, and a very small amount of onion.

It’s good to let the ingredients sit in a stainer for a bit to get rid of any excess moisture.

Two beaten eggs.

Some bread crumbs.  If you want to skip the fresh ingredients, you can use seasoned bread crumbs.

And, of course, some lean ground beef.  Sometimes, we grind our own beef because we can control how much fat gets into the grind.  I’ve also used ground turkey, ground chicken (which is really difficult to grind, it just gums up) and I’m not opposed to ground lamb or VENISON!

Mix it all together.

And start making patties.

I’ve wrapped mine up and stuck them in the fridge so that I can grill them tomorrow.  I would’ve minced a lovely hot pepper or two and added it to the mix, but my younger kids have not yet acquired my love for hot foods.  I’ll probably pick a bunch of ripe peppers and stick them on a skewer and grill them with the burgers, so I’ll get to have some nice heat anyway.

I don’t cook the hot peppers in the house anymore.  I sauteed up a big batch with some fresh garlic and chopped onion and the fumes were so bad that everyone started coughing.  I had to air out the house for an hour to get rid of the irritation the peppers had caused.  So now I grill them or just eat them raw.  I really hope the hot sauce turns out well, I’m so excited to have another way to use my peppers.

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