While I can arrange to have an animal killed and haul it to the freezer, I leave tutorials in the outdoor arts like shooting and fishing to my brother Dale. Recently, it was Atticus and Romeo I hauled over to the east side of Washington for “Uncle Dee Camp.” This consisted of their dressing in camouflage, riding in something called a “Mud Whomper” around the “Duck Club,” shooting guns longer than Mo is wide, and hooking some monster-sized trout. It sounded fun to me, too. I really wanted to go fishing. But while I was allowed to make them pancakes in the morning, my presence during activity time was deemed verboten by my brother. I still don’t know if it was my being a (their) mom or being a girl that would have ruined it. I do know that the boys are still having conversations that sound like this:
“Remember the kick on that .38?”
“Boy howdy, do I!”
While the boys were off doing their thing, my mom, my sister-in-law, and I headed out even farther into the Yakima Valley to Wapato, home of the near-mythical Kreuger Pepper Gardens. My mom used to try to drag me there when I was a surly adolescent fairly uninterested in gardening, or plants of any kind. The new me, however, suggested going to Kreuger’s. Not only have they gone organic but they also grow over 80 varieties of peppers. In short: I wanted to make hot sauce.
It was hot that Saturday. Wapato was a big dust bowl straight out of a John Steinbeck novel with tiny signs for Kreuger’s pointing in tantalizing and seemingly opposing directions. I admit we encountered grave difficulty finding the pepper farm (I told you it was near-mythical), the result of directions being given by Dale, written down by my mother, and read aloud by me (no fault should be given Kreuger’s in this scenario). After a half hour of turning into random dusty driveways, we finally found the Holy Grail of pepper farms. We also then discovered that they are closed on Saturdays, a tidbit that I will share with you in case you decide to search them out for yourself.
I satisfied my pepper urge at Imperial’s Garden, a farmstand fixture in the valley for nearly a quarter of a century. They grow peppers, too, including some striking, elegant cayennes and tiny little yellow numbers that were labeled simply “hot.” They weren’t joking. Together, they made some rather fine hot sauce. Since I combined with them Yakima peaches from Johnson Orchard and my brother Jeff’s garden tomatoes, I dubbed it simply “Yakima Sauce.” And next year, I know just where to find Kreuger’s. On a Sunday.
Makes about 8 1/2 pint jars
3 – 5 Yakima peaches, peeled, pitted and crushed
1/2 cup sugar
6 – 8 medium Yakima tomatoes, cored and chopped
1 Walla Walla Sweet onion, peeled and roughly chopped
6 – 8 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
20 hot chilies, stemmed and chopped
1 cup white vinegar
Place peaches and sugar in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring to combine. Cook until thick, about fifteen minutes. Reserve.
In a large, heavy saucepan place onion with a splash of water over medium heat. Cover and sweat until onions are translucent. Add tomatoes, garlic, and chilies along with a couple good pinches of salt. Cook over medium, stirring, until vegetables are soft, about 10-15 minutes. Add about 3/4 of the peach jam and the vinegar and stir to combine. Blend to a smooth puree with a wand blender and taste. It should be a little sweet, with enough vinegar to carry the flavor and the heat should linger and burn. Make sure you add enough salt. If it’s too sweet, add more vinegar or maybe a dash of salt. Add more chilies if you dare. Too spicy, add more peach jam. Once the puree has the flavor balance you like, process in half-pint jars with 1/8-inch headroom for 15 minutes.