Tag Archives: can you eat heart

Preserving Hot Peppers

 

Peppers are probably the kind of plant which has most wow-ed me with its prolific seeds. Every time I crack open a bell pepper to make stuffed peppers, or hollow a jalapeno to make poppers, there are mounds of seeds inside. Even in the tiniest pepper, there are likely more seeds than you can count on just your hands.

Pro tip: you can save these seeds and dry them out, and then plant your own pepper garden! Just one jalapeno may produce dozens of plants. Yes, even peppers you buy at the grocery store. Just cut the stem side off, scrape the seeds away from the ribs inside, and dry them on a piece of paper. Store in a cool dark place until you’re ready to plant outside or in a container.

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Another thing that is amazing about peppers is the sheer variety. From the mild sweet bell pepper to the jalapeno, habanero, or even the ghost chili, there are literally thousands of varieties. Peppers can spontaneously mutate, so even if you save seeds year to year, you can get new color patterns or heat levels. The amount of water and sun, location and type of soil can also affect the peppers.

I’ve been trying, for the past few years, to get more brave about cooking and eating spicier foods. The chemical that makes peppers taste hot & spicy is most often capsaicin. This compound irritates mucous membranes and causes inflammation, and pain if in too high a dose. However, capsaicin also has many health benefits for your heart, blood pressure, anti-diabetes, and more.

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One of the ways I’ve found to incorporate more spicy foods into my cooking is by using jarred jalapenos. These little guys store forever, and add a bit kick to pizza, salads, sandwiches, chili, pasta, and more. I’ve bought jalapenos in a jar at the store, but this year I had access to an heirloom Italian jalapeno variety, as well as several others like cayenne, poblano, and red cherry peppers.

Thus, I needed a way to use them all up. As state, peppers are very prolific. On one plant, I’ve seen nearly 100 peppers, if the fruit is tiny. No joke.

So given all the health benefits, and the fact that I cannot use them up fast enough before they spoil, jarring seemed like the best way to preserve the summer’s spicy bounty. Turns out, they are ridiculously easy to make. Just look on a jar of peppers at the store, you will see there is likely fewer than ten ingredients. This homemade version needs three.

You can of course can hot or regular peppers, but you must use a pressure canner, not a water bath. There are significant botulism risks if you do not use a pressure canner. However, by adding vinegar, you are effectively pickling the peppers. This prevents harmful bacterias and other nasties from growing. I also store mine right in the fridge.

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Ingredients (this makes about a pint):

  • 1-2 cups of peppers (all one kind or a variety)
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1 tbsp sea salt

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Step 1: Cut the tops off the peppers, then cut down the side ribs and pull out the seeds. Leave the seeds in if you want it extra spicy. Also, it is highly recommended to wear gloves while cutting hot peppers! I made the mistake of not wearing gloves the first time, and my hands were on fire for days.

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Step 2: Shove all your pepper rings into the jar. Cover with the vinegar about 2/3 full. Pour on the sea salt.

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Step 3: Add distilled water to the top of the jar, then close it and shake it up, until the salt dissolves. You can of course actually can them, using glass mason jars and steam or pressure canning methods. These processed jars can be stored at room temperature for a longer period of time.

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Put the jar in the fridge, and it will be there until you’re ready to use them!

These peppers can make a great little gift, especially if you layer multi-colored peppers in a clear jar. They are quite pretty. These peppers can be eaten as is, on pizza, in soups or chili, and more. It will keep in the refrigerator for several months.

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For a great way to bring back the warm thoughts of summer during the bitter cold of winter, try planning out your garden for spring! Go to websites like Pepper Joe’s Gardening Tips, Hot Pepper Seeds, or the Almanac to find answers to questions, tips on what types of species grow best where you live, organic and heirloom seeds, and more.

 

Beef Heart & Zucchini Stir Fry

 

Yup you read that right.

For my 400th (!!!) post, we are talking about beef heart. As in the thing that keeps the cow alive. (Sorry if that is a bit too real for you.) And also because I love all you readers who keep this fun for me! I can’t believe I have posted four hundred recipes and random ramblings, and y’all keep coming back for more…

But heart is really good! I promise. Just like chicken liver makes a great pasta sauce, give this organ a chance to impress. Organ meats are part of the whole animal, and humans have a very long history of using every bit. Only recently have our palates become pickier, such that regular pieces like bones, tail, tongue, and liver are no longer the norm, and are even looked at askance.

Organ meats can be tremendously beneficial for your health, supplying tons of iron, selenium, and other trace and important minerals. They can of course, also wreck your health, if eaten from tainted sources or too frequently. Organ meats do tend to include higher than muscle levels of cholesterol.

Kelly the Kitchen Kop has a great article containing many common objections to organ meats, along with the true facts. Beef heart is a great organ meat to start with, because it’s flavorful, surprisingly lean, and inexpensive. On average, a serving costs half of a comparable serving of beef chuck roast, and the taste is much milder than liver (for those having nightmares of “liver and onions” right now).

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A 3-ounce serving of beef heart has just 95 calories and 15 grams of protein, and only contains 3 grams of total fat in a 3-ounce serving, which is only slightly more than the same portion of chicken breast. Beef heart is a rich source of all the B vitamins except folate, but it’s especially high in vitamin B-12. Three ounces provide more than 200 percent of the recommended daily intake.

Many cultures which still enjoy organ meats use beef heart, such as anticuchos, a beef heart kebab which is the most popular dish in Peru. Argentina is a large beef producer, and nearly all the hearts are shipped to Peru because of such high demand. Beef heart takes well both to fast, high-heat searing and long, slow low-cooking. You can even ask your butcher to grind it up, and mix it into your lean ground beef. Bet you wouldn’t even notice a difference!

In this recipe, I combined very inexpensive, pre-cut heart with seasonally abundant zucchini for a ridiculously low-cost-per-plate meal, served with a simple sauce over rice. The beef (2lb) was $1.44, the zucchini was free from the garden, but let’s say you bought it at the store for about $1.00, an onion & some mushrooms would be about $1.00, and the 2 cups of rice maybe another $0.50 or so. A few tbsp of soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce adds a couple more pennies.

That brings the total for two meals to about $3, or $1.50 per serving. Beat that, fast food!

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 2 pounds beef heart cut into chunks or strips
  • 1/2 white onion, cut into thin strips
  • 1/2 pint mushrooms, sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce (or fish sauce)
  • 1/4 cup Worchestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp vegetable or olive oil

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Step 1: Dice the onion, mushrooms, and zucchini. In a frying pan, add 1 tbsp oil and the veggies. Cover and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring, until onion is translucent and the zucchini is softened.

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Step 2: If you didn’t buy pre-cut heart, cut the fat and tendons off the meat, then cut into chunks or strips. Add the meat and the sauces to the pan. Cook on medium heat 5-7 minutes, stirring, until meat is thoroughly cooked.

Step 3: In a separate pot or rice cooker, cook 1-2 cups of rice. Serve half the mixture over half the rice on two plates. You could also serve this over couscous, quinoa, barley, brown rice, on its own, or in pita pockets.