The Woes of Hot Peppers, or How I Learned a Valuable Lesson

Okay, so as I mentioned, yesterday husband and I embarked upon a mission to can 14 quarts of tomatoes as well as a small batch of pickled hot peppers. I was going to post my show and tell photo yesterday, but due to some totally foreseeable and preventable circumstances that I will describe to you shortly, we were delayed slightly on our mission and didn’t pull the last jars out of the canner until after eleven. But we did manage to pull it off and get our self-imposed quota for the day completed –

Aren’t they gorgeous? There is an additional quart of hot peppers in the freezer too, since we purchased an even three pounds of Hungarian Wax hot peppers at the market yesterday, more than we needed for the pickling recipe we were following. And as per my usual experience, even though we tightly crammed the jars full of veg, we still got floaters. Every time! But they are perfectly sealed and processed so while some may say they are not as beautiful as they could be, they will still taste great and also probably not kill us. Bonus.

Now for the sadness. And the worst part is, I know better. There is nothing worse than putting yourself in a situation you know damned well that you could’ve and should’ve avoided. I know that you are supposed to wear gloves while working with hot peppers. I know this. Did I heed this well-known advice? No. No, I did not. Usually handling hot peppers with my bare hands doesn’t bother me at all. I just remember not to touch my eyes, and I’m good to go. Except I forgot that there was bound to be a difference in chopping up one jalepeno every once in a great while and chopping and seeding three entire pounds of Hungarian Wax hot peppers. And I also failed to account for the fact that my body is reacting very differently to things since I’ve been pregnant.

By the end of the batch I was feeling tingly, which I expected. Halfway through bottling the peppers for the canner I was leaning up to the sink choking back tears and refusing to take my hands out of the running water. And we still had fifty pounds of tomatoes to contend with. I spent the next few hours doing spurts of prep work on the tomatoes and plunging my hands into a bowl of ice water for relief. We tried washing my hands with soap and water and dousing them with alcohol, neither of which lessened the pain. Only the ice water dulled the ache. And apparently – prolonged my suffering. We finally figured this out, when I dumped the ice water and sat down in the dining room with husband to try the last remedy we had to make the burning stop – time. I literally felt like my hands were being held in a blue-hot fire for several hours at a stretch. I had a freak out session for the next hour and a half – pacing the living room, husband rubbing my back, ice pack on my neck to cool me down (because at this point I was so worked up I felt overheated, even though husband kept telling me I felt fine) and having husband tell me everything would be okay; with a little time the burning sensation would subside and I would be fine.

It was the longest hour and a half of my life. On the plus side, I feel a little more prepared for labor now. At least contractions start and stop and you get a break in between them. And hour and a half of straight, relentless pain is just unreal. And eventually the pain did lessen. Once I was back to slight burning and tingling, I took a nap for a half hour and then woke up the pain was gone. Of course, I was fine and the baby was fine. We hopped back into the tomato processing, but at this point daylight was a wasting. I avoided water like the plague, but of course when putting up food in the kitchen you can’t avoid it entirely. So I got some more burning in between batches when I had to wash tomatoes or my hands, but it wasn’t nearly as bad at the initial experience. I knew what to expect, what was causing it, and that it would end.

So, lessons for next year. Do not be cocky! Wear gloves when working with hot peppers! And if I’m doing hot peppers on the same day as something else, the hot peppers are the last batch of the day. That way if I do end up getting a hot pepper burn, at least I don’t have to work through another fifty pounds of whatever still and can just take a few Tylenol and go to bed. Learn from my ridiculous mistake, friends.

And, as turns out – this concludes this year’s dance with the canner. Despite my great ambitions and better intentions, we’re putting the waterbath canner to bed for the season. I wanted to squeeze in another 28 quarts of tomatoes this year, but frankly – husband and I are exhausted. He really sprang into action this year to make any canning at all possible and I think we did great. We’ve got 19 quarts of tomatoes and 5 pints of pickled hot peppers to show for our efforts, and I think that’s pretty good for a nine months pregnant lady with a broken ankle and a guy who’s never canned anything before in his life. I’m proud of what we turned out this year. And we’ve compiled an awesome list of things we want to do for next summer – since I won’t be pregnant and we hopefully won’t have any injuries or illnesses in the household, we’re excited about getting some more time next season to spread things out so it’s not so mad cap. And if all else fails, husband can take baby boy out to the park for a few hours every Saturday so Mama can super can without anyone underfoot.

This doesn’t mean our preserving is done for the season now that we have the freezer in the house. This weekend at the farmer’s market we plan on buying a couple dozen ears of what is likely the last sweet corn of the season to blanch and freeze. We’re also going to freeze some blueberries for pies and likely a couple of quarts of sweet peppers. And of course, I’m going to do some baking and cooking of freezer dinners in preparation for the baby’s arrival over the next weekend or two. So we’re not quite done. But I won’t lie and say we aren’t happy to put the lid on the canner for the season. 🙂

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8 thoughts on “The Woes of Hot Peppers, or How I Learned a Valuable Lesson

      • I don’t think she ever grew them in the garden again, and now whenever she works with any hot peppers – even just slicing up a single jalapeno – she puts gloves on!

  1. Oh I feel your pain! The very first time I canned hot peppers (a mix from last day of farm market clearance), I said “why would I need gloves?” and went about without them. It was some of the worst pain I’ve ever felt. To make it even worse was the fact that i was canning with my Mom so she got to throw in many “I told you so” during the process. I was so happy when the pain finally went away. Like you, I tried washing my hands, ice baths, and such but in the end only time would heal the burning. It’s amazing how we learn the hard way sometimes! Never again will I cut up peppers, even when it’s just one or two, without gloves!

  2. Once, only once… I think many people have done this one- but you only do it once. I too, used to not bother with gloves when cutting up only one or two peppers and never noticed a problem… until one time I was taking out my contacts later in the evening… I’ll leave the rest up to your imagination. THAT is an amazing sensation!!! and NOT pleasant.

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