What to Grow So I Can Add to the Pantry

Every year I add a different item to the list of vegetables that I grow.  In order to determine just what to add comes down to what I don’t want to buy at the store.  You ‘all have seen my pantry  pictures, it is pretty big, but what you don’t see is what I have in my kitchen cupboard; the items that I have purchased from the grocery store.  It usually consists of pasta, rice, olives, oil, tapioca, flour, and sugar, but it also includes whole and diced green chilis, Frank’s hot sauce, and cans of Sloppy Joe sauce.  While there are a few items I still, and will always have to buy, I think to myself, what can I grow so I don’t have to buy that anymore.

So, this year I am going to grow the ingredients so I can can the green chilis, make the hot sauce,  and can homemade Sloppy Joe sauce.  Canned whole and diced chilis are either poblano, Anaheim or pasillo chilis, so I am adding all three to the grow list this year.  The Sloppy Joe sauce is a combination of tomatoes, peppers, onions and garlic, and things I already grow, all I have to do is come up with a good copy-cat recipe and use it to make and can the sauce.  Frank’s hot sauce is aged cayenne peppers, garlic powder and vinegar, it shouldn’t be too hard to make this, we already grow and make the garlic powder. 

Just a few plants started in our kitchen window:
Peppers, tomatoes, horseradish, cucumbers, sweet potato slips, and Brussel sprouts.

We have more pepper plants growing in the south facing windows of our dining room and parlor.


Because we live in an area that has a short growing season, (zone 5b, NW PA), we have to start growing the pepper plants in the house.  Last count I was up to 29 individual plants. It seems like a lot, but we are growing 8 different varieties of peppers this year: Anaheim, poblano, pasillo, jalapeno, sweet peppers, cayenne, Cajun bell, and bell peppers.  Last year I added cowboy candy to the pantry, but I did not can nearly enough, so this year I want to can enough for the whole year, not to mention the hot pepper jelly, which is the base for my BBQ sauce.  If you haven’t tried cowboy candy, you really should, it is so addicting!

                                                              Cowboy Candy

3 lbs. of jalapenos, fresh and firm                                              2 cups cider vinegar

6 cups granulated sugar                                                              1/2 teaspoon dried turmeric powder

1/2 teaspoon celery seed                                                             3 teaspoons granulated garlic

1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

Wearing gloves:

Wash and slice the peppers into 1/4” thick slices. Set aside. In a large pot, bring cider vinegar, white sugar, turmeric, celery seed, granulated garlic, and cayenne pepper to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the pepper slices and simmer for exactly 4 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the peppers only, funnel into small clean, sterilized canning jars leaving 1/4” headspace. Turn the  heat up under the pot with the syrup and bring to a full rolling boil. Boil hard for 6 minutes to make a thicker syrup. Use a ladle to pour the boiling syrup into the jars over the jalapeno slices. Remove any trapped pockets of air with a non-metallic stick.  Adjust the level of the syrup if necessary. Wipe the rims of the jars with a clean, damp paper towel and put on new canning jar lids and rings to finger-tip tightness. You will probably have leftover syrup,  you can can it in half-pint or pint jars, too. It tastes great if you add it to your potato salad dressing or brushed over a pork roast, just don’t throw it out!  Place jars in a water  bath canner, cover with water by 2-inches. Bring the water to a full rolling boil. When it reaches a full rolling boil, set the timer for 10 minutes for half-pints or 15 minutes for pints. When timer goes off, use canning tongs to transfer the jars to a cooling rack. Leave them to cool, undisturbed, for 24 hours. When fully cooled, wipe them with a clean, damp washcloth then label.  Allow the jars to rest/mature for at least two weeks, but preferably a month before eating, it gets better with a little age on the jars. 

Serve with your favorite chips or crackers, it tastes really, really good with softened cream cheese too, or added to a hamburger or meatloaf, or just by the spoonful…..

Stand in front of your kitchen pantry, look to see what you can grow and make/can yourself.  Get away from the highly processed, GMO and pesticide ridden foods you have been buying.  Try to replace at least one or two items each year; your body will thank you!!

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