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The Chicago style hot dog is never complete without a sport pepper or two (or five).

If you’ve ever spent a Saturday morning watching the Food Network or the Travel channel, as my wife and I so often have, you will eventually come across some variation of the Chicago style hotdog.  Being a Jersey native, I find the Chicago hot dog to be a confused midwestern attempt at some strange salad wiener displaying very few colors that occur in nature.  Of course, I’m also a chile head, so when i saw that interesting looking pepper sitting atop this technicolor monstrosity, I knew I had to add it to my growing list for this summer and I am certainly glad I did.  This is one generous pepper.

Originally from Mexico, this pepper made its way to the southern states as a common table condiment (used mostly for the vinegar that preserves the peppers).  Eventually some mustachioed polish Chicago Bears fan stole a jar from a restaurant in Biloxi, Mississippi and the rest is history.  OK, I made that last part up but it’s just as believable as the 20 other ridiculous tales I’ve read or heard about how this traditional hot dog topper made its way to the second city.

Growing

I purchased just one Sport chile plant this spring at Cross Country Nurseries in Stockton, NJ.  The plant started bearing small upward growing pods in mid June.  I have this plant in a 4 gallon bucket filled with my own organic potting mix and fertilized twice a month with either organic beet extract or blood meal.  I also treat the plant with an Epsom salt solution on alternate weeks.  If left on the plant to mature, these pods will grow to around two inches and will eventually turn red.  I suggest only letting a few of these pods turn red for the sake of experimentation, otherwise these peppers should always be picked while still green if planning to be used as a pickled pepper.  This plant is now a bush…….a bush of good times.

Harvesting

From my single Sport chile plant, I have picked 176 peppers! I am boldly predicting that by season’s end, I will have doubled that amount because this plant will not slow down.  The great advantage to any pepper that is preferably harvested while green is that picking them often will just give you more peppers.   Another advantage to this overbearing plant is that plans have already been made for their fate (which I can’t say about half of the peppers I’m going to harvest this month).  These peppers are all getting pickled.

I threw in a biker billy jalapeno for good measure. Not pictured: white vinegar.

Cooking with the Sport Chile

The beauty of the sport chile is that once you’ve taken the brief amount of time to pickle them, they are always ready and last about 6 months in the fridge if using a regular jar.  These pickled pods taste great on sandwiches or sliced into turkey tacos. I’ve had these on hand for a month and I have yet to put them on a hot dog.  I do have a personal favorite method of delivering these peppers to my gullet….

I call it my "Amuse Douche"

I developed this simple recipe one night while I was cooking dinner for my wife and myself and realized it was going to take a lot longer to serve than I had originally estimated.  I decided to make an appetizer. I knew I wanted to incorporate the sport peppers that had been marinating in vinegar and pickling salt for about a week in my fridge.  Knowing my wife has been limiting the amount of guilty pleasures in which she indulges, I wanted something light but satisfying.  The Amuse Douche accomplished both, as well as being very easy and really cheap. I’ll even grace you with the recipe below.

Ingredients:

  • Pickled sport peppers (you could substitute pepperoncini, if you’re too lazy to start your own organic pepper garden and surprise your wife one day with a random pickling operation taking place in the kitchen or just order them from here)
  • Wedges of Laughing Cow Original Creamy Swiss
  • Wheat crackers

Directions:

Look at the picture up there and figure it out.

Give this pepper to civilians?

Absolutely.  You’ll have to give jars of these away if you’re growing multiple plants.  These tasty peppers are very hot but not offensive.  They are slightly hotter than pepperoncini but not as hot as Tabasco. They can be easily handled by anyone who puts hot sauce on their eggs or eats buffalo wings. I’m not talking about boneless wings.  Boneless wings are for little girls.

See you on Sunday for “Just the Tip”

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