Methinks I may have become a little obsessed with removing myself from consumer culture. Anybody could have seen this coming, I suppose, with my recent adventures in making hot sauce and homemade baking powder and blackberry jam and, um, homeschooling my kids, but lately I've gone a bit cuckoo with it all.
I quit using commercial shampoo, conditioner and styling products about a month ago, and have mostly loved the results. This is not a new concept, mind you, and there is ample anecdotal evidence to be found on using baking soda, vinegar & coconut oil for hair care, but I suspected I would be falling down the rabbit hole if I got started on this myself.
And I did. Fall down the rabbit hole, that is. It turns out that the avoidance of commercial products can become a bit addictive. In a good way, of course, because, as it turns out, my decidedly not-a-hippie hairstylist is so excited about the state of my hair now that she wants to help me spread the word about avoiding sulfates and silicone-derivates. And, bless her pretty little heart, she even barters with me so that money rarely changes hands between us.
I consider it a good week indeed when I can bathe using all homemade products, trade out some financial services for a haircut & highlights, buy milk & cheese from a nearby farm, help my mother preserve 300 ears of corn and get sent home with ample amounts to last my family through the next winter, pick blueberries for free on a neighbor's property, wear clothing passed down from friends or purchased at a consignment shop, educate my children using books purchased for next-to-nothing at yard sales, and construct dinner almost entirely out of ingredients from my garden and my mother's and grandmother's gardens as well.
It all sounds a bit cult-like, doesn't it? I would be urging everyone else to drink the Kool-Aid, too, except that none of this is anything new. American life existed much this way until the pseudo-modern age of the past 50 years, and I am certainly not a pioneer in the movement to recapture some of that way of life. But it is fun nonetheless, and I do love that self-satisfying, sock-it-to-the-man feeling of finding ways to live outside of corporate culture.
That, and I'm reading Radical Homemakers right now, which is only encouraging my Laura Ingalls Wilder behaviors. Now if only I could wean myself off central air conditioning and cable television...
I blame my mother for much of this. She was a child of the sixties, and was rather young when she had me, so some of these hippie-ish tendencies just came pre-installed on my model, if you know what I mean. And since I have spent the past thirty-something years following her around her gardens and giving her shopping lists for her yard-sale forays, I benefit from her self-sufficiency largesse.
Yes, there is such a thing.
Last week, when her hot peppers started coming in, and she made her first batch of Fire Hot Pepper Sauce of the season, she sent me home with a quart-full just in time to placate The Carnivore's urgent request for hot sauce (it has, after all, been entirely too long since I whipped up a batch of my Burn Sauce). Big Mama's Fire Hot Pepper Sauce is a true hot sauce, and is not vinegar-based like Tabasco or the other commercial bottled brands. She makes hers almost entirely from jalapeno peppers, though a few Anaheims made their way into this last batch, and she and her kids go through gallons of the stuff every year.
Note: it is called 'Fire Hot' for a reason. This isn't the kind of thing a normal person might douse their eggs with, and caution is in order. Depending on rainfall, heat, and other factors, hot peppers vary in intensity, and every batch of this sauce is ever-so-slightly different. I don't think I have ever dumped a spoonful of pepper sauce on a taco without first dipping a finger in to test for palate-burning capacity. A little can go a long way.
I finally slowed Mom down yesterday, and got her to focus on one task (and one task only) for a couple minutes so I could write down her formula for making this sauce. Enough of her readers have requested it now that it would only be fair to share, after all. You can thank me later, if you haven't burned a hole in your tongue, that is.
FIRE HOT PEPPER SAUCE, from Big Mama (makes about 1 quart)
Disclaimer: a mixture of peppers could be used, and vinegar could be added (1 Tbs at a time) to add tanginess if so desired, but then it would not be Big Mama's recipe any longer, and she would disapprove, and she would not be afraid to express said disapproval, even in public.
- 4 cups whole jalapeno peppers
- In a medium saucepan, add the peppers and enough water to cover.
- Bring to a boil, and continue boiling for about 5 minutes, until peppers can be easily pierced with a fork.
- Drain peppers, reserving the cooking water.
- Remove and discard the stems, leaving the seeds and ribs intact.
- Place stemmed peppers in a food processor or blender, and add about 1 cup of the cooking water along with a generous pinch of salt.
- Pulse mixture until peppers are minced or fully pulverized, depending on how you prefer, adding more water if needed to achieve desired consistency.
- Taste and adjust salt if needed.