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Ground Hot Pepper Vinegar
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    Ground Hot Pepper Vinegar

    Select firm peppers that are as fresh and unblemished as possible. Green and/or red ones work equally well. Cayennes are probably the least hot and the most flavorful, but you can substitute Tabasco, jalapeno, bird's eye, or other fresh peppers, or any combination. Eldon grinds or minces his peppers, but if you prefer you can chop them.

    Ground Hot Pepper Vinegar is used as a condiment -- for example, with gumbos, jambalayas, and dried-bean dishes -- but it's also wonderful cooked into sauces and other foods, used as a marinade, and added to salad dressing [definitely -- CMT]. Experiment with it!

    1 1/4 lbs cayenne or other hop peppers, washed thoroughly, trimmed of stems, not seeded 2 1/2 cups white distilled vinegar* 1 Tablespoon salt

    *[Note: For safety reasons, be sure to use undiluted vinegar, be sure to use WHITE distilled vinegar, and do not decrease the amount of vinegar.]

    Assemble all utensils before starting. You will need a water-bath canner with a rack and lid or a very deep pot with rack and lid. It must be deep enough to cover the upright jars (sitting on the rack) with 1 to 2 inches of water and still allow space for brisk boiling once the pan is covered. And you'll need 2 freshly scrubbed pint-size canning jars, metal rings, brand-new self- sealinglids, and a few clean dish towels.

    Fill the canner or pot with water and bring to a near boil (this takes quite a bit of time!) before beginning to fill the jars. Have extra boiling water ready in case yo need to add more water to the canner once the jars are in it. Submerge the clean jars (you will need two pint jars for the amount made in a single recipe given here) in water and sterilize by boiling as directed by the manufacturer, but for a minimum of 15 to 20 minutes. Leave jars in the hot water until ready to fill. Wash and boil lids and rings according to manufacturer's directions. Trim any bruises, decay, or other imperfections from the peppers. Process the peppers in a food processor a few seconds until minced. Set aside.

    Bring the vinegar to a boil in a 1-quart saucepan over high heat. [NOTE: I DO NOT recommend bringing the vinegar to a boil. Most of my canning books warn against such a practice since this reduces the anti-bacterial effectiveness of the vinegar. Instead, bring the vinegar to JUST BELOW a boil. -- CMT] Meanwhile, spoon half the minced peppers into each of the very hot jars up to no higher than 1 1/2 inches from the rims, without packing peppers down tightly. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons salt to each jar [I use a scant 1 teaspoon myself -- CMT], then pour the boiling vinegar over the peppers, leaving headspace of 1/2 inch from the rim; if not, add more. Then promptly wipe rims well with a clean, damp cloth and place hot lids on top with sealing compound (i.e. rubber edges) down; screw on metal rings firmly but not too tightly. Immediately place filled jars upright on a rack in the water=bath canner, or deep pot, filled with hot but not boiling water. Arrange jars so they don't touch each other or sides of pot. If necessary, add boiling water around but not on jars to cover jar tops by 1 to 2 inches. cover pan and bring water to a rolling boil over high heat. Then boil 10 minutes for pints (correct this for high-altitudes if you live at 1,000-ft or higher altitude). Immediately remove jars with canning tongs and place upright and at least 2 inches apart on a wooden surface or on folded dish towels to cool at room temperature, away from drafts. Do not cover. Once jars are completely cooled, test for an airtight seal by pressing down center of each lid. Lid should stay down. Label and date jars, then store upright in a cool, dark, and dry room or pantry. Store at least 48 hours, preferably 2 weeks, before using. Refrigerate after opening.

    From: The Prudhomme Family Cookbook
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