Whisk together in a saucepan:
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder, sifted
This has been a very exciting week for the garden. Not so much in what grew there or what was picked or planted there, but in the potential for next year. Compost delivery!
A first-year garden is nothing to brag about. Usually, the soil is poor and you, the gardener, don’t have a clue. You don’t know how much tomato hornworms can eat before you even notice their presence. You don’t know that those beautiful yellow cabbage butterflies are capable of producing thousands of offspring that love everything from kale to cabbage. You don’t know what the best drought- and heat-tolerant plants are (or depending on where you live, what plants can stand up to a lot of rain).
In essence, unless you have done absurd amounts of homework, there will be a thousand little things you won’t know until it’s too late. But that’s okay. I actually think it’s better to learn as you go. There’s just no way to predestine what problematic insects you’ll run into or what you might need to know about your soil type. Consider the first year a learning period. Don’t be lazy about things, but don’t work too hard. Just let your garden teach you. Be responsive to problems and read about them as you go rather than trying to study everything that was ever written about vegetables in one sitting.
The importance of protecting against those pretty cabbage butterflies doesn’t hit you until you lose an entire crop of something, but next season you’re on the defensive. Of course, it’s always a good idea to invest in a good gardening book (I’m still looking for a good organic gardening book to be honest--if you have a recommendation, let me know) and read up. And don’t forget to talk to people who actually garden. They usually have a few good tricks to share.
But in spite of poor growing conditions and a phenomenal lack of knowledge, there are some crops that just do well no matter what. Peppers are a good for-instance. Not only did they thrive in poor soil, full-sun, drought, and intense heat, but they did so without much watering at all. They were at the far end of the garden, and I confess to being lazy about watering during those 95 degree-plus weeks, so by the time I got to the pepper plants…well, let’s just say that I let them fend for themselves.
It turns out there’s a reason why spicy foods tend to be found in hot, humid climate regions. Because pepper plants are beasts! We’ve had a bumper crop of jalapeños, poblanos, and habaneros this year, which is great. But really, how many hot peppers can you use? The poblanos haven’t been a problem—throw them in a pan with potatoes and onions, and you’re set. But those pesky jalapeños seem to linger in the fridge for too long even after countless batches of salsa fresca.
And then I had one of those moments. Like when you find out where your boyfriend is ticklish or that salad dressing can be made in a Mason jar. Chipotles en adobo! As a huge fan of black beans, chipotles en adobo have a prominent place in my pantry. They’re ability to season is beyond the average condiment. Rice, beans, panfried potatoes, chicken soup…they all seem to benefit from a spoonful of chipotle magic.
I did some research, found a pretty good recipe, and made it better. More spices, freshly smoked jalapeños, and extra garlic. The only tricky thing about this recipe is that, unless you buy chipotles (which you can easily do at lots of grocery stores or your local tienda), you’ll have to smoke your own jalapeños. I think the usual way to make chipotles en adobo is to use dried, smoked jalapeños, but I just smoked mine until they wrinkled. We are fortunate enough to have a wood pellet smoker, but you can rig a kettle grill to do almost the same thing.
Then, a slow, steady simmer will yield a rich sauce and juicy chipotles. I didn’t process mine in a water bath or pressure canner, so they live in my fridge, but I would imagine that an experienced canner could easily figure this problem out. I won’t recommend any action in this instance, simply because botulism is scary.
Finally, do not be horrified, ye purists, by the inclusion of ketchup in this recipe. I suppose you can always make homemade ketchup and then make this recipe, but I advise against it. I find “organic” ketchup, which does not include corn syrup, has a much better flavor, so splurge a little. It’s worth it.
Combine in a heavy, covered saucepan and simmer until the liquid is reduced to one cup, about 1 hour:
12 smoked jalapeno peppers or dried chipotle peppers
6 tablespoons organic tomato ketchup
1 onion, finely diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
Meanwhile, sterilize a pint jar by boiling it in water for 5 minutes. Remove the jar from the water and allow to dry. Sterilize the lid and jar ring by pouring boiling water over them. Spoon the chipotles en adobo into the sterilized jar. Cool and refrigerate.