Sometimes, due to weather conditions, the season actually is shorter. Like this year, for instance. Dry conditions in the early summer stunted our peppers; they grew, but didn’t blossom. Once the rains found us and the plants started producing, it was almost too late. The tomatoes and other things didn’t fare so badly; we ate fresh tomatoes from early July up to the first part of October. But the jalapeno season was late coming and flew past with alarming speed.
Personally, I’m not a fan of hot foods, but Craig is addicted to capsaicin, the chemical compound in hot peppers that makes your mouth burn. He’s always loved hot foods, but his dependence on them intensified after our oldest daughter gave him a bottle of Melinda’s Naga Jolokia sauce for Christmas in 2010. It’s made from the naga bhut jolokia chili pepper, also called ghost pepper or cobra chili. Boasting over 1 million Scoville heat units (SHU), it’s said to be the hottest in the world. (In comparison, jalapenos run between 3000 and 8000 SHU.) Others, like the Trinidadian scorpion pepper, claim to be hotter. But let’s not quibble. Hot is hot. I don’t care which is the scorchiest; they’re all too hot for me.
In less than a month, the level in Craig’s jolokia sauce was getting low, and we went on the hunt for more. Couldn’t find any locally, so we ordered a case from the manufacturer. I’m not kidding. He loves it that much. The bottle in the picture is the last one in the case, and we’ve broken into a new case that we recently ordered.
Meanwhile, though he no longer finds jalapenos hot enough to satisfy, he still enjoys the flavor. As you can see from the first picture in this post, we canned a few this summer for eating with his nachos (which he’ll liberally sprinkle with Melinda’s sauce) throughout the year. But one of our favorite ways to use the jalapenos can only be done when they’re fresh: pizza poppers. Even I eat them.
Years ago, a friend (hi, Maxine!) gave us a recipe for pepper poppers, and we’ve adapted it to its present form. We made the last batch of the year a couple days ago. It’ll be a long time until we can make them again, so we’re savoring them.
In case you’re wondering: yes, we have tried making them from store-bought peppers. But they’re just not the same. When you’re used to the best, nothing less satisfies.
1-1/2 lb. jalapeno peppers — cut them in half lengthwise and remove seeds.
Mix: 8 oz. cream cheese (softened) – 8 oz. (2 cups) shredded Mozarella cheese – 2 oz. pepperoni, finely diced – 1/4 t. chili powder – 1/4 t. granulated garlic
Stuff the hollowed-out peppers with the cheese mixture. Press them, cheese-side down, into fine breadcrumbs to coat them evenly. Lay them on a baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees for 30 minutes. Serve drizzled with warm pizza sauce.
Note: Since Craig can’t eat wheat gluten, I use gluten-free breadcrumbs. (First I make the bread; then I dry it and process it in a blender.)
Also: since these aren’t hot enough for him anymore, I sprinkle the cavity of some of them with a high-powered cayenne (70,000 SHU) powder before filling with the cheese. I sprinkle the tops of the super-hot ones with paprika so I can tell the difference.
These are best eaten fresh, as they tend to get a little soggy when they’re warmed over. But the recipe makes too much to eat all at once, so we live with the soggy. We have a few left from the batch in the picture. When we eat the last ones, we’ll officially go into mourning.
Thus goes the last jalapeno. Down the hatch!