Cayenne Pepper

My mother suffered with stomach ulcers a good portion of her adult life.  She could not tolerate black or white pepper seasoning in her food as it would bring excrutiating pain.  If we went out to a restaurant, she would tell the waiter or waitress that she could not have anything with black or white pepper.  They, then, would have to check with the chef to see what fit the bill and then she would choose from her limited selection.

After many years of living this way in pain, she was just about at wit’s end.  We went to a local health food store one day and she asked the woman who worked with herbal supplements if there was anything she could suggest for ulcers.  The woman looked at my mother and said, “I know this will sound strange, but I’ve heard that cayenne pepper is very soothing and healing for ulcers.”  I thought, “Right, my mother is going to take cayenne pepper for her ulcers…that would kill her for sure.”p 022-35

To my surprise, my mother responded to the woman that she had heard this from other sources and that she was ready to give it a try.  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing!

The woman suggested that my mother sprinkle a teaspoon of cayenne in a cup of very warm water and drink it down.  I had visions of my mother curled up in a ball on the floor writhing in pain. 

So we went home and she warmed up water and proceeded to place a teaspoon of cayenne in a cup and pour the warm water over it.  She drank it all down in pretty much one gulp.  I was standing there waiting to catch her as she fell.  I watched and waited. A few minutes later she said “I feel this wonderful soothing warmth in my stomach.  The pain has lessened.  The cayenne has definitely helped.”

And that was it.  That was the beginning of her life with cayenne and my life with cayenne.  We sprinkled cayenne on just about everything we ate.  I liked spicy food anyhow, so using cayenne was a natural for me.

I learned that black and white pepper were spices, but cayenne pepper was of the genus capsicum and from a pepper plant.  All chili peppers had healing properties, supposedly.p 014-35

Now when we went out to restaurants, she’d still go through the black and white pepper routine, and then when she was served her meal, she’d take out her own personal little shaker full of cayenne and sprinkle it all over her food…sometime with the befuddled waiter watching.  And that was pretty much the end of her ulcer problems.

For a while we lived in a house with a yard that was rocky, well drained and very sunny.  We planted a pepper patch that had just about every type of hot pepper imaginable.  We even had the super hot Habenero but we treated that one with much respect.

We made hot pepper jelly, hot pepper strawberry jam, hot pepper relish…you name it, we made it.  We had vanilla ice cream with hot pepper strawberry sauce on it…incredibly delicious.  We made peanut butter bars with hot pepper jelly swirled through them…yum.  We combined sauteed hot peppers with pickle relish and put it on hamburgers, hot dogs and just about every sandwich.  Hot peppers were always added to spaghetti sauce and many other main dishes.

To this day, I put cayenne on my food.  If I have a twinge of stomach pain, I boil some water and put a healthy shake of cayenne in it and drink it down…it always helps.  What’s funny is that even though I rinse out my mug after drinking down that cayenne water, some residue remains and the next morning my coffee has a cayenne pepper kick to it.  And you know what?  I like it!  Definitely a good way to get your heart pumping and the blood flowing!

Following is a recipe for strawberry hot pepper jam.  This recipe is made with gelatin and not pectin.  It has way less sugar than average pectin jam recipes.  Those recipes call for multiple cups of sugar…this one has 1/2 cup.p 010-35 

 Strawberry Hot Pepper Low Sugar Freezer Jam

3 cups strawberries, washed, hulled, roughly cut up
3  jalapeno peppers or variety of hot peppers, finely chopped
1/2 cup sugar
1 envelope unflavored Knox gelatin
1/3 cup cold tap water
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Sprinkle the strawberries with sugar and let sit for 30 minutes. (Note: this amount of sugar is for relatively sweet strawberries; if your strawberries are not that sweet, you may want to add more sugar.)  While the strawberries are macerating, place the finely chopped peppers in a tiny bit of oil over low heat in a saucepan just to soften.  (Note:  When you chop the peppers, either wear rubber gloves or wash your hands very thoroughly afterward and don’t rub your eyes!)  After the 30 minutes have elapsed, mash the strawberries with a potato masher or pulse several times in a food processor.  Leave some small chunks for texture. Place the strawberries and accumulated juices in the saucepan with the peppers and raise heat to medium.

While the strawberries are heating, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and set it aside to soften.

When the strawberries come to a full boil, continue cooking and stirring for 3 minutes to soften and release more of the juice. Turn the heat down to low and stir in the gelatin mixture until it dissolves. Stir for another three minutes over low heat. Off the heat, stir in the lemon juice.  Let cool slightly.

Place the mixture into clean freezer containers and freeze for several hours before using.  I keep this jam in the freezer and take out small amounts for use.  Keeps up to 6 months in the freezer.

Now I don’t have sweets or desserts that often (really!)  But on special occasions I like to serve this strawberry jam with vanilla custard and chocolate orange brownies for dipping. Yum!  This jam is wonderful on a good quality bread; (Pepperidge Farm’s Farmhouse Oatmeal is delicious) with just a little unsalted butter topped with the jam.  Wispride on crackers topped with a dollop of this jam is great too!

So, back to chocolate / orange…. The first time I had the chocolate / orange combination was in Stockbridge, Massachusetts where there was then a gourmet ice cream store on Main Street.  I had a cone with this combo and wham…fell in love.  These brownies are fudgy with a crisp topping and ridiculously easy to make…don’t even have to grease the pan.

Orange Chocolate Brownies

3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 teaspoon orange extract
2 teaspoons grated orange zest

Combine, mix all ingredients well and spread into an ungreased 8 x 8 or 9 x 9 inch cake pan.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes.  Cool for about 10 to 15 minutes before cutting and removing from pan.

The following vanilla custard recipe is actually a recipe for the filling in a Boston Cream Pie.  It is not overly sweet (but is rich) and works really well with these brownies (and, of course, the strawberry hot pepper jam).

Vanilla Custard

3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup milk
3 large eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon good quality vanilla extract
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

In a saucepan whisk together the cornstarch, sugar and milk.  Then add the eggs, heavy cream and salt and whisk until smooth.  Whisk in vanilla.  Bring the custard to a boil over moderate heat, whisking  constantly.  Boil the custard, whisking for 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and whisk in butter.  Let cool completely, whisking occasionally.  When cool, place in refrigeratore with plastic wrap directly on surface of custard.

Vanilla Custard, Hot Pepper Strawberry Jam and Orange Chocolate Brownie

Vanilla Custard, Hot Pepper Strawberry Jam and Orange Chocolate Brownie

Just Google “cayenne healing” to see how wonderful cayenne pepper is for you!

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