As you’ve noted from reading this blog we do a lot of foraging around here. The surrounding brushlands provide us with plenty of food and the addition of a garden gives us fresh greens and fruits on a yearly basis. Over the next few weeks we’ll focus on edible plants that are available during the spring and early summer months. (For you knife lovers there’ll also be a couple or three knife posts.) There’s an old saying that South Texas is a land of perpetual drought interrupted by an occasional monsoon. Those monsoons usually come in the way of tropical storms or even hurricanes. Right now people who are old enough to remember are talking about the summer of 1967 when Deep South Texas received an abundance of rain to the point that the ground was saturated. Then in mid-September a hurricane named Beulah steered a course directly up the Rio Grande and within a few hours had dumped close to 30 inches of rain. And then it continued to rain for a month afterwards. If you were a waterfowl watcher or duck hunter you were in paradise for about two months. If you were a farmer you bellyached for three months. If you were a rancher you gave thanks for the abundant grass. If you were a deer hunter you were thrilled by the rich foliage and the fat deer. If you were a city boy you complained about the trillions of mosquitoes. And if you were a kid you had the time of your life swimming and wading and splashing around in all those freshly made ponds. Well folks, this year is looking a lot like 1967. We’ve had rain since about mid-January and though the forecasters are saying we’re going to have about two or three weeks without rain it looks like they might be wrong since the clouds are thickening up as I write these notes.
With all this rain the chile del monte (chile pequin) is growing abundantly all around us. My two youngest sons make forays into the woods and come back with a bag full of chile every morning. Some of the chile is eaten raw with lunch or supper but most of it gets canned. Here’s how we can chile del monte:
1) Wash the chile thoroughly.
2) We use pint size Kerr jars and we sterilize the jars before canning.
The Ingredients are as follows.
½ cup chile del monte (chile pequin)
Red onion ring chopped into four pieces
Four thin carrot slices
A small garlic clove
½ of a bay leaf
About a half cup of white distilled vinegar
One or two teaspoons of sugar
1/4 teaspoon of salt
In addition to washing the chile you want to wash the onion, carrot and garlic.
Pour the vinegar, sugar and salt into a saucepan and heat, stirring constantly, until it comes to a boil. My son, Matthew, layers the ingredients in this order: Peppers, garlic, onion and carrots and then repeat the process adding the garlic and bay leaf until the jar is full. After all the ingredients are nicely layered he pours in the cooled vinegar solution and then places the jar in the refrigerator. My family loves chile del monte prepared this way but I’m more of a purist and when I feel like spicing up my food I’ll eat a pepper (that’s all I can take) raw. Bon appetite.