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Hot Pepper Vinegar

hotPepperVin

MAKES 1 PINT

INGREDIENTS

6 ounces fresh hot peppers
1–2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup distilled white vinegar
½ cup apple cider vinegar
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne (optional)

PREPARATION

Before you begin: Sterilize a one-pint glass canning jar and lid in boiling water for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and let jar and lid sit in hot water until ready to fill. (Jar should be filled while still hot.)

Fill your sterilized jar with hot peppers and garlic. In a small pot over high heat, bring both vinegars and salt to a boil, stirring until salt is dissolved. Remove from heat, stir in cayenne, and ladle mixture over peppers.

Seal jar with sterilized lid. Let pepper vinegar stand at room temperature at least 3 weeks to marry the flavors. Refrigerate after opening.

PEPPERS

Summer is the time to grow and enjoy an abundance of hot peppers—any variety you like! I love the rainbow of hues you get with colorful Santa Fe Grandes and Chinese Five Color. Or spice things up with the classics: serrano, jalapeño, and habanero. For sweet peppers, the disease-resistant Carolina Wonder and heirloom Marconi bell peppers remain my go-to varieties.

When hot pepper production peaks, I go into production in the kitchen, bottling up a tangy-spicy hot pepper vinegar that is super simple to make. In case your Southern roots don’t run as deep as mine, here are a few ways you can use it: Drizzle it over cooked greens (like collards or mustard) and rice dishes; mix it into spicy cocktails, like a Bloody Mary; dash it onto eggs, pasta, fried fish, and roasted veggies; stir it into soup; or splash some on a salad!

TOMATOES

Grow a wide variety of tomatoes and you’ll be seeing red (and orange, purple, pink, yellow, and green) all summer! My favorite varieties include large Cherokee Purples; clusters of Riesentraube grapes; pink, flavorful Arkansas Travelers; basic, red Amish Pastes (great for sauce); mild Yellow Pears (lovely in salad); intensely flavored Red and Golden Currants; and I’m crazy for wild Everglades tomatoes, which are native to Florida and produce in abundance all summer long.

In my summer kitchen, tomatoes are simmered into sauces, sliced onto sandwiches, scrambled into eggs, slow roasted on trays, chunked onto salads (or sometimes they are the salad), melted onto grilled fish, and, at least once a week, puréed into a cool, no-fuss gazpacho.

BEANS

If you haven’t tasted homegrown beans lately, you don’t know what you’re missing (stop on by!). Fresh from the vine they are sweet and crisp, and when steamed they taste almost creamy. Pole beans, bush beans, and yardlong beans climb bamboo structures in both my front and back yards. Though we enjoy them mostly steamed or grilled, I also really love having a couple cans of dilly beans on hand to punch up a salad, or for an easy cold side dish or snack on a long, hot day.

The following recipe was contributed by the lovely Lisa at the Bradenton-based Sunshine Canning (sunshinecanning.com).

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