Thursday, October 11, 2012

Gearing up for the Holidays

Been pretty busy lately, but trying to make more time to blog.  I've gotten a part time job, and have begun gathering supplies in anticipation of the holidays coming.  As a special Halloween treat for the people who actually read my blog, I will be offering free shipping on any item when you enter the coupon code: JACK0LANTERN

Monday, September 24, 2012

How much is a peck of peppers?

On September 7th 2012, I attended the 17th annual Chili Pepper Festival, in Bowers PA. I had a great time listening to live music, browsing and sampling the pepper related wares of the vendors, trying unusual foods containing peppers, and picking my own peppers. I came home with several pounds of peppers, 2 pepper plants, a bottle of strawberry jalapeno wine, and a bag of cayenne pepper peanut brittle. I will definitely be going back next year, but I will plan better.
The highlight of the pepper festival was picking my own peppers on the field excursion at Meadow View Farm. There were thousands of pepper plants, and over 200 varieties, it was a bit overwhelming. With so many beautifully colorful peppers, it was difficult to choose which ones to pick, I wanted them all. There were sheets available listing the names of the peppers, where in the field to find them, their heat rating, and their price. The prices were great, $1.00 a pound for heavy or large hot peppers, $3.00 a pound for all other hot peppers.

My main reason I wanted to go to the pepper festival was to get peppers to make pepper jams and jellies. The recipes that I had been looking at called for jalapenos and habaneros, so that was mostly what I picked, but since the ghost pepper is supposed to be the hottest pepper in the world, I felt the need to get a few of those, as well as some peppers that caught my attention because they were especially pretty, or the name was interesting. When I saw the Medusa peppers I felt like I needed to get some, mostly because I liked the name, I also found the plants to be very interesting. I was able to take a few pictures before my phone died. Even though I got there on Friday, some of the pepper plants were already picked clean. I overheard other pepper pickers, who I assume were veterans of the festival, say that you have to get there early to get the best pick, and on the second day the fields will be pretty much picked clean.

The live entertainment that I experienced at the pepper festival was a bunch of fiddle players, a guy on a keyboard, and a DJ. I wasn’t into this that much, they played some polka and classic rock type music, it wasn’t bad, just not my thing. I feel like a good festival should have music, and the music seemed to fit the scene.

The first thing I purchased at the festival was some pepper plants! I don’t remember who was selling them, but they were selling many different varieties of pepper plants, all edible, and all $15.00 each. I got two, a peach habanero, and a mystery plant that I felt like I needed because it’s so colorful! I should really figure out what the mystery plant is, they told me, but I forgot. The people selling the plants said that they will continue to grow and produce peppers throughout the year, and for many years to come, as long as I keep them indoors when it’s cold. I very excited about having peppers all year long!
There were many unusual foods, most of them containing peppers. There was pepper ice cream, pepper peanut brittle, many different kinds of stuffed peppers, jalapeno cheddar pirogies, a lot a chili, and so many more that I just can’t remember them all. I tried a couple different things, kielbasa chili, crabby stuffed peppers, and zucchini carrot pancakes, and some cayenne pepper peanut brittle. The kielbasa chili was very good, probably my favorite of all the foods there, but it was a bit more like a soup than a chili. Of course it was full of peppers, onions, beans, and usual chili spices, but contained pieces of sliced kielbasa in like a hot spicy chunky tomato base. I found the crappy stuffed peppers a bit disappointing. They were expensive for what you got, you got one small jalapeno pepper for $3.00, it was stuffed with cream cheese and crab meat, and smoked. The smoky flavor overpowered all of the other flavors, and I felt like there was too much cream cheese, and it was cold. I liked the zucchini carrot pancake a lot. It was like a potato pancake, but made with carrot and zucchini instead of potato. I purchased some cayenne pepper peanut brittle to take home, it’s not overpoweringly spicy like some of the things there were. I’m going to try to make some similar peanut brittle of my own.
There were many vendors at the festival, but my favorites were the ones selling wine, jam and honey. Cardinal Hollow Winery was giving out free samples of their beverages. I tried the honey jalapeno mead, and the strawberry jalapeno wine. I liked the mead, it was a bit harsh on the first sip, but by the time I got down to the end of the shot glass/Dixie cup that they gave me, it seemed very sweet and didn’t burn much anymore. The strawberry jalapeno wine was also good, much milder tasting in comparison to the mead. It was like sweet strawberries with just a bit of a kick from the jalapenos as an aftertaste. I got a bottle of the strawberry, and my dad got a bottle of the mead. I like that Cardinal Hollow has a website that you can order from, (if you live in PA) it might be a good place to order Christmas presents. There were many vendors selling different types of honey, the wasps and flies seemed to like them. I would have considered buying some, or at least trying them, if they weren’t covered in wasps. Maybe next year I will be brave.

I will definitely be attending the pepper festival next year, and hopefully I will be more organized. I am going to make a list of what varieties of peppers, and the quantity of each that I will be purchasing. I ended up making a whole bunch of jams and jellies, (I will be putting up pictures and recipes later) and drying whatever was leftover. Oh, and next year I’m bringing a real camera, fully charged.