Kau Kau Kitchen
by Leilehua Yuen

Christmas

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Gifts from the Kitchen

~ by Leilehua Yuen

A while back, a lady friend gave me one of those pretty herb vinegar sets - the kind with the beautiful herbs carefully arranged in the bottle and the vinegar poured in over them.
The vinegar is pretty good, actually, so I had been happily using the set in my cooking, which was nice, because it reminded me of her, and so in addition to the taste of the good food, I could revel in the aroma of sweet memories.

Well, one morning, I decided to make a pickled vegetable salad for a special pot luck. I put a big bag of mixed frozen veggies in a huge bowl, dumped in a large bottle of pepperoncini, including the vinegar, and started eyeing the rest of the goodies in the kitchen.

AH! The pretty bottles of vinegar! The pearl onions and long slender red peppers in them would be PERFECT!Hmmmmmmmm - they must really jam those puppies in there when they pack the stuff. NO WAY did any of the goodies want to come out.



Well, the more they resisted shaking out, the more I wanted them in the salad. I re-filled the bottles with a different spiced vinegar, shook them, inverted them, shook them up and down, side to side, and in circles - tried swirling and twirling – and made aerobics unnecessary for the evening.

A long chopstick helped get some of the goodies out - albeit in a rather macerated form. At last the "plug," an exceptionally robust red pepper, burst, filling the mix with seeds, and some of the other peppers slithered out. AH! Victory!

With every fourth or tenth mighty shake, another tender morsel of herbal goodness slithered down the long neck of the bottle. As they joined the incipient salad, I though to myself, "Good thing I figured this out! What a waste if I had to throw away this bottle with all the goodies still inside!" For, you see, as a Hawaiian, it is a cardinal sin to waste food. Food is a gift of the gods, and must NEVER be disrespected. One of our sayings reminds us, "If you waste food, some day it will laugh at you." This means that if one is wasteful, some day, when there is nothing, you will think back on all the food that had been wasted. 
To think of the near-disaster I had averted! Whew!

So, I happily shook harder, and the first pearl onion slipped forth. Eventually, another plug developed. Again, the careful insertion of a chopstick produced results, though this time, as the remaining condiments were more solid in character, it was rather like playing one of those arcade games from small-kid time, chasing a huge toy about a glass case, armed with nothing but a stick carved with an insufficient hook.

At last, all of the peppers had joined the carrots, squashes, cauliflower, broccoli, and other vegetables in my stainless steel bowl. Most of the pearl onions had, as well.  But, five remained. Five BAMBUCHA pearl onions. Five succulent, juicy onions, swollen with the delicately flavored vinegar. Obviously, they were the tastiest. I shook harder. My arms were getting sore! The onions merrily bounced about.Then, a lightbulb flashed on. A short in the kitchen wiring? No! If I were to insert a slender knife up the long neck of the bottle, I could carve the outer layers of the onions off! Then they would at last join my prized salad!

This I did. The onions gleefully skittered away from the knife. BUT, by resuming my frenzied shaking, I was able to cause enough havoc to tear the outer layers off the onions. I removed the knife, and with a mighty shake the onions were at last free!
They burst from the long slender neck of the bottle and bounced across the salad to land squarely in the dishpan of soapy water.

Following are some recipes for gifts you can make in the kitchen, but if you need to give a gift of flavored vinegars and preserved condiments to a Hawaiian, I ask that you please give them in a wide-mouthed jar!


Seasonings Greetings

Either mix the peppers, garlic, and onions together and pour into the jars, or layer them into the jars. Insert thre bay leaves per jar, arranging against the glass so they are pretty. Add the pearl onion juice to the vinegar. Pour the mix into the jars to cover the other ingredients. Seal jars and refrigerate overnight. Give as gifts, saving at least one for yourself!



I’ve often been asked what my recipe is for chili pepper water. It’s pretty simple:


Chili Peppah Watah

Bring lightly salted water to boil in a saucepan. Toss in cleaned and washed chili peppers. Both red and green are pretty and festive for Christmas giving. Red is sweeter. Remove water from heat and allow to cool. Pour into jars, including a few peppers in each jar. There are no amounts given, as this is such an individual “to-taste.” Everyone has their own favorite proportions. (My own – 8 peppers per cup water, 1 pinch salt.)


Extra Ono Chili Peppah Watah

Chili Peppah Vinagah

Pack a jar with cleaned and washed chili peppers. Add vinegar until covered. Add a pinch of salt if desired.


Fancy-Kine Chili Peppah Vinagah
Here is a version of "Chili Peppah Wata" with some vinaigrette heritage, making a salad dressing that is oil free - perfect for those wanting to cut back on calories, unlike the classic vinaigrette, which is made with 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar. 

Put everything in your blender jar. Buzz it a couple of times, but leave some texture. Serve immediately, or chill overnight to miko (let flavors blend).
Happy holidays!

Super Easy Chili Pepper Jelly

1 cup Hawaiian chili peppers
4 cups apple jelly

Mince the peppers. Heat the jelly until it liquifies. Stir in the peppers. Pour into jelly glasses and let cool. To avoid cracking the glasses, you'll want to be sure they are well washed and then kept in hot water until you are ready to pour in the jelly. Store in the refrigerator.