• Editor's Note Summer 2011

    Editor's Note Summer 2011

    It’s practically a requirement for any journalistic publication (such as this one) to keep tabs on what’s new and exciting in the field it covers. Not only is it the publication’s responsibility to keep readers up to date, it also makes for good copy. Journalists find it hard to write about “what hasn’t changed since yesterday,” even though the fact that something hasn’t changed is often, in its own quiet way, newsworthy. Journalists and editors get a frisson of excitement when something new(s) crosses their path.

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  • Set the Table with Hot Sauce

    Set the Table with Hot Sauce

    Vermont is known for many things, but spicy food is not one of them. Fortunately for the spice lovers among us, many local farmers have bucked the trend and have been cultivating delicious, spicy chilis for us to enjoy. Hot peppers need heat to grow, but with a good dose of sunlight and perhaps some black plastic over the soil, peppers can thrive in Vermont’s warm summers.

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  • Growing Backyard Mushrooms

    Growing Backyard Mushrooms

    Even for the most adventurous gardeners and avid wild mushroom foragers, the idea of growing one’s own gourmet mushrooms may seem mysterious. But there are a number of methods that gardeners and farmers use to incorporate gourmet mushrooms into their landscapes, and these methods are fairly easy for anyone to try at home.

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  • A 10-Year Stroll

    A 10-Year Stroll

    With hundreds of spectators lining Main Street in Brattleboro, the groomed and bedazzled heifers are led down the center of the street to the cheers of onlookers. Hundreds of cows preen for the delighted crowd, followed by more farm animals (bulls, goats, and horses), tractors (also decorated for the parade) floats, clowns, marching bands, street performers, and all manner of groups touting their various farm affiliations.

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  • After the Fire

    After the Fire

    Barn’s burnt down…now I can see the moon. –Chinese proverb

    Yet the converse is also true: Yes, we can see the moon, but it won’t shelter tractors, nor can vegetables be washed, packed, and stored inside its lovely glow. Oh, the moon is beautiful, but what can it do for food and a business after the fire is put out?

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  • Micro Milk

    Micro Milk

    Local food and slow food frequently mean small food: small farms, small producers, small quantities. The English language happens to provide a nice term for very small: micro. So it follows that the antidote to a huge, consolidated milk production system might be a micro dairy.

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  • Farm Stays

    Farm Stays

    A number of farms in Vermont double as B&B’s. The next time your relatives come to town, they can have a bucolic, back-to-the-land experience—or you can take a weekend and have one yourself! 

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  • A Charcuterie Cure

    A Charcuterie Cure

    Here in the kitchen of Pete Colman’s barn-apartment in Plainfield, a small banner on the wall bears the magnanimous face of the Italian priest and saint Padre Pio, with the words “Don’t worry, soon you will be cured.” In the context of this home—just steps away from a sparkling new meat-curing shop that shares the same barn—it’s hard to know just who the saint is addressing: the cook who lives there or…the pig.

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  • Farming in a Changing Climate

    Farming in a Changing Climate

    Seems like the weather’s been extreme in recent years: heat waves, ice storms, and floods. How is this related to climate change? The answer is, indirectly. Weather events are not a good tool for assessing the climate, since climate is made up of weather patterns over many decades. There are ups and downs within seasons, but the trends over time are what counts. They include both temperature and precipitation patterns, and these affect environmental conditions, which in turn affect plants, animals, and ecosystems.

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  • Farmers' Kitchen—Bella Basil

    Farmers' Kitchen—Bella Basil

    Pesto is summer. It is the bright flavor of fresh basil, the bite of raw garlic, and the smoothness of olive oil. Tasting pesto can bring the visceral sensations of warmth and sunlight to us, even in the darkest days of winter. At Bella Farm, my small crew and I grow eight varieties of basil, as well as seven varieties of garlic and many culinary herbs. We process the basil and garlic into our signature dairy-and nut-free pesto, called Bella Farm Organic Pesto.

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  • Summer Cartoon—Post Peak Oil

    Summer Cartoon—Post Peak Oil

    Scenes we'd like to see: Post Peak Oil

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  • One Wild Potluck

    One Wild Potluck

    The Peterson Field Guide Edible Wild Plants has a recipe for clovers that says clovers are not very digestible but can be soaked for hours in salty water to make them so. Christopher Nyerges book Guide to Wild Foods and Useful Plants tells you that the seeds of the plantain, a common weed around these parts, can be soaked in water until soft and then cooked up like rice. It goes on to say that the result is slightly “mucilaginous and bland.”

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Set the Table with Hot Sauce

Hot Peppers

Written By

Claire Fitts Georges

Written on

June 01 , 2011

Vermont is known for many things, but spicy food is not one of them. Fortunately for the spice lovers among us, many local farmers have bucked the trend and have been cultivating delicious, spicy chilis for us to enjoy. Hot peppers need heat to grow, but with a good dose of sunlight and perhaps some black plastic over the soil, peppers can thrive in Vermont’s warm summers.

If you grow your own peppers, you might have noticed that when the growing is good, it’s great. Much like zucchini, once a pepper plant starts producing, it has little interest in stopping. Fortunately there are many good ways to put up hot peppers for the winter. Salsa is an obvious pick, especially if you grow tomatoes. But hot sauce is a yummy condiment that most people don’t think of making themselves, even though basic hot sauce is fantastically easy and can really show off the flavors of your garden or local farmers’ market.

While chili peppers, as we know them, originated in the New World, their bright flavors quickly made them popular everywhere else, and different cultures have developed different styles of hot sauce. Louisiana style, which can be made with most any chili, is the type that we in the U.S. most commonly think of. It has a high vinegar content and gives a splash of intense flavor to any dish. Mexican hot sauces use very little vinegar and generally have a more complex flavor. In China, chilis are usually ground into pastes and then incorporated into other sauces. In the West Indies, fruits often shine with the tropical taste of habanero peppers. And American audiences have recently discovered the joys of Thai-style sriracha, a sweet garlic-and-vinegar hot sauce that can be found in many restaurants and salad bars here in Vermont.

Choosing the appropriate pepper for your hot sauce can be the most confusing part. Most of the names we use for chili peppers come from Mexico, where people use different names for the different stages of a pepper’s life; an unripe pepper might be called a different name than the ripe, dried, or smoked version of the same pepper. For example, a chipotle is a smoked jalapeno and an ancho is a dried poblano. Making matters even more confusing, a poblano is called a pasilla in California (even though poblanos and pasillas are completely different), but is called an ancho here in Vermont. Your best bet when buying peppers is to choose what looks like the pepper you want and then take a little taste.

Peppers vary in heat depending on a variety of factors. Heat from the sun is a big one. Generally, the more heat they get, the more heat they will produce. It also matters what they are grown near. A cayenne grown next to a bell pepper will be less spicy than one grown next to a habanero. And contrary to popular belief, the seeds are not the spiciest part of a pepper. In fact, they are the least spicy part! The membrane that attaches the seeds to the flesh is the spiciest part. You can cut out the membrane if you want to tone down the spice of a pepper, but you will also be removing some of the tastiest parts.
Hotter, smaller peppers generally make better hot sauces, but all peppers (even bells) can be blended in to create a distinct flavor. When making hot sauce for the first time, it helps to start with a basic recipe of just vinegar, peppers, and salt (1 cup, 3 oz., 1 tsp., respectively). You can then get an idea for which vinegars combine best with the flavors of different peppers. Apple cider vinegar has a flavor that often combines well with fruitier peppers, such as habaneros and red anaheims. Lemon and lime juice also make delicious acidic additions to hot sauce, especially ones using jalapenos or serranos.

Vermont grows a lot of produce that combines well with peppers, such as onions and carrots. Blueberries make a flavorful seasonal addition, as does basil. Maple syrup goes wonderfully with just about anything, and hot sauce is no exception.

Following are some of my favorite homegrown hot sauce recipes. They incorporate the chilis most commonly found in Vermont: habaneros, jalapenos, serranos, and cayennes. (Poblanos and anaheims are also popular here.) These recipes are for small batches, but are easily multipliable if you’re looking to put away enough peppers to have ample hot sauce to keep you warm all winter.

About the Author

Claire Fitts Georges

Claire Fitts Georges

Claire Fitts Georges is a recipe developer for corporations and publications, as well as the owner of Butterfly Bakery of Vermont.

Check out her recipe blog at Goodgrub.ButterflyBakeryVT.com.

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Vermont's Local Banquet Magazine illuminates the connections between local food and Vermont communities. Our stories, interviews, and essays reveal how Vermont residents are building their local food systems, how farmers are faring in a time of great opportunity and challenge, and how Vermont’s agricultural landscape is changing as the localvore movement shapes what is grown and raised here.

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