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They call ’em cowboy candy and they’re loaded with sweet heat and a bit of crunch–along with that element of surprise: how hot will this one be? Seems the heat level can vary even within different bites of the same pepper. I ate a particularly spicy ring last summer, experienced an all-over “I’m melting” sensation, then fainted and literally hit the wall. For a while, I was afraid to eat more of them, but I soon got over it and ate the rest because a) they’re damn tasty and b) Yankee thrift prevents me from throwing away perfectly great food. 🙂

What to do with them? Whether you eat ’em like candy, perch them atop a spicy margarita or add them as a garnish for tacos, they’re a welcome guest at a variety of sweet or savory parties. And, as a bonus, the by-product is a fiery syrup you can use to make kicked-up margaritas. I even made my own spicy sugar for dipping the glasses–there goes that Yankee thrift action again. Let’s heat things up, amici!

CANDIED JALAPEÑO RINGS: COWBOY CANDY
And a spicy syrup by-product to boot!

6 jalapeños, cut into thick rings
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground chile (I used 1/4 tsp. chipotle and 1/4 tsp. ancho)
additional 1/2 cup sugar for dipping
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Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.
Dissolve water, spices and half cup of sugar in a small saucepan. Stir over medium high heat till it boils. Add jalapeños and reduce heat to medium low. Simmer for 3-4 minutes. Using a toothpick, dip each jalapeno ring into granulated sugar. Coat the rings generously. Place on foil-lined cookie sheet.
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Bake sugared rings at 200 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes. Let them cool and air-dry for several hours. You can even leave them uncovered for a day or two.

But wait! Save that syrup and stick it in the fridge–it contributes to a mean margarita.

You’ll see you have a bit of leftover sugar from dipping the rings–to that, add 1/4 teaspoon of the syrup. To make it pretty, add about 7 drops of food coloring. Stir thoroughly to combine. Now you can dip each margarita glass (dip first in a shallow dish of tequila or run a wedge of lime around the top) in the spicy sugar to make a colorful presentation.

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Be sure to have some tortillas or bread or crackers on hand just in case you need to rescue yourself from the ring of fire. 🙂 Cheers!
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Do you roll on the spicy side of the street? Give your margaritas the heat treatment with jalapeno puree! Just buzz up jalapenos with agave syrup to pump up your favorite ‘rita with an extra kick! It’s so good and so easy…and the spiciness is subtle.

JALAPENO PUREE

3 jalapenos, seeded and cut into chunks
2 tablespoons agave syrup (I use light organic blue agave from Wholesome Sweeteners)

Add to mini food processor and grind away! On day one, it will look all sorts of frothy like this.

Then it will settle down into this vibrant green color:

How much does it make? Why, a whole skull-ful! That’s just under 1/3 of a cup.

How much to use per drink? Try 3/4 of a teaspoon and see what you think!

How long does it keep? I have no idea, so call your friends, make plenty of margaritas and drink up! All the other kids with the pumped up kicks are on the jalapeno train–you should get on board, too! WOO WOO!