Category Archives: Natural Farming

Attention Adventurous Southern Illinois Small Farmers!

Darn Hot Peppers is growing up and we are planning on a much larger crop of specialty peppers this year. We invite you to be part of this adventure. If you agree to grow peppers like the Mirasol, Guajillo, Chile de Arbol, Cayenne, Habanero, Poblano, Tepin and Pequin, and they meet our quality standards, when you are ready to sell them we would be interested in buying them from you.

If you’re interested in growing and selling your crop, lets reach an agreement before you grow your peppers. You can send me an email message , or call us at 618-893-1443 or if you are close stop by the farm.

– Buen Provecho, Jerry

Photo by Peter Lee

A beautiful menu from our friends at She Brews Good Ale.

As part of their monthly 24, 24, 24 series, Foodbuzz had She Brews Good Ale create a 3-course beer-paired meal entirely composed of ingredients from the state of Illinois or within 180 miles of Carbondale. We were fortunate enough to be included.

See the entire menu here and our inclusions below.

Welcome Cordial

Ricotta Toasts with Wildflower Honey served with Schlafly Biere de Garde

  • 3 whole wheat buns (from Juan & Tammy’s Puerto Rican Carry Outs, purchased at Family Friendly Farm, Cape Girardeau, MO)
  • 2 heads garlic (from Green Ridge Farm, purchased at the Neighborhood Co-Op, Carbondale, IL)
  • 2 cups ricotta (from J. Viviano & Sons in St. Louis, MO)
  • Bacon (from Oberle Meats, Ste. Genevieve, MO)
  • Natural Herb Shaker (from Darn Hot Peppers, purchased from the Makanda Country Store in Makanda, IL)
  • Freshly ground pepper (peppercorns from Darn Hot Peppers)
  • Wildflower honey (from Master’s Touch, purchased at the Neighborhood Co-Op)

Fry a 1-inch slice of bacon fat in a pan until the juices emerge. Cut the tops off of both heads of garlic and drizzle the rendered bacon fat over the top (less than a quarter tsp each). Powder with chili seasoning, cover with foil, and bake in the oven at 400 degrees for 50 minutes. Take the garlic out and let cool for a few minutes.

Cut the buns in half and toast in the oven. Spread the garlic over the top (about two heads per toast), add a healthy dollop of ricotta, sprinkle with fresh ground pepper, and drizzle honey over the top. Serve warm.

The Schlafly Biere de Garde is a light but complex farmhouse ale. It is effervescent, fruity, has a bit of yeasty funk, and is a great beer for appetizers. I served a 750 mL bottle, in flutes when people arrived–perfect for 6. The flute helped concentrate aromas to the nose and was lovely against both the creaminess of the ricotta, the sweetness of the honey and the little bit of spice from the garlic and pepper.


First Course

5-Hour Chili

  • 2 lbs beef (from Lick Creek Beef, purchased at the Neighborhood Co-Op)
  • 1/2 lb bacon (from Oberle Meats, Ste. Genevieve, MO)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper (from Darn Hot Peppers)
  • 2 tbsp Ozark seasoning (from Three Willows Farm, purchased at Local Harvest Grocery, St. Louis, MO)
  • 3 tbsp seasoning from Darn Hot Peppers’ Natural Herb Shaker (from Darn Hot Peppers)
  • 1/4 tsp of Arne’s Hot Pepper Sauce (from Arne’s Hot Peppers, Dogtown, MO, purchased at Local Harvest Grocery)
  • 1 bottle Crown Valley Porter (purchased at the Show Me Shop, Ste. Genevieve, MO)
  • 3/4 bottle Schlafly Coffee Stout (from Schlafly Bottleworks, St. Louis, MO)
  • 1/2 cup water (tap)
  • 6-inch horseradish root (from Schlafly Gardenworks, St. Louis, MO)
  • 5 cloves minced garlic (from Green Ridge Farm)
  • Grated cheddar cheese (from Ropp Jersey Cheese in Normal, IL, purchased from Kindling in Carterville)

Combine chili seasoning, cayenne pepper and Ozark seasoning in a bowl. Toast in a pan on medium heat, stirring so it doesn’t burn, for about 3-5 minutes. Set aside.

Cut bacon into chunks and fry in a large frying pan, until cooked and just starting to turn golden. Remove from pan and set aside. Brown beef in bacon juices until cooked through. Transfer to stockpot.

Add spices to beef in stockpot and cook for about 2-3 minutes, until spices are well distributed.

In the meantime, add garlic to pan and fry on medium for two minutes. Add 1 cup of Crown Valley Porter to deglaze the pan. Let boil for about two minutes, then transfer contents of pan to stockpot. Add 1 cup of Schlafly Coffee Stout, 1/2 cup of water, and hot pepper sauce, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn the heat to low, cover and let simmer for 2 hours.

While simmering, cut the fat from the bacon. Save the fat for another use. The remaining meat will be added to the chili after it has been simmering for one hour. At the same time, cut the horseradish root in half and add to simmering chili. At the two hour mark, remove the horseradish root, add another 1/2 cup of the Coffee Stout, mix, and allow to simmer uncovered for two more hours. At the four hour mark, cover again and let simmer for one more hour.

Serve with cheddar cheese.

I had hoped to get a smoked porter for this dish, so the Schlafly was a propitious last minute pairing. I considered pairing the coffee stout or Crown Valley Porter, but the coffee stout tasted too much of coffee and I only had one bottle left of the Crown Valley Porter, which went into my dish. The Extra Stout, however, was the perfect pair; it is a dry beer, but next to what ended up being quite a spicy chili, it was solid, toasty and malty, and even a bit smoky.  Because of the unavailability of tomatoes and onions this time of year, this chili has no tomatoes, onions (or beans, for that matter). It is thus a rather dark chili, especially since it cooks in dark beers, however it is extremely flavorful. I would recommend the Extra Stout with other chilis of this kind, although it might not be the right pair for a chili that relies more on acidic tomatoes.

Why I love Pepperfest and think you should too!

This year Union Co.’s very own  Pepperfest will be held on September 4th from 11AM -5PM at Rancho Bella Vista, 827 Vines Rd Cobden Illinois.

If you are not familiar, Darn Hot Peppers is a mom-and-pop shop, owned and run by Jerry and Carol Jimenez, specializing in, you guessed it, hot peppers. Every year this time they pull out all the stops and put on what has grown into a huge event with over 200 people attending for the last few years.

Pepperfest has quickly become a favorite gathering for chile heads and hot pepper fans throughout the Midwest, with some people coming from as far as Washington DC and Seattle Washington. Ok those folks traveling such far distances are and my brother and myself + our families so this may be a bit of a yarn.  However, the fact that this family business pulls out all the stops every year in September is what makes Pepperfest so great and why this year we expect nearly 300 people to attend the festival.

The festival will have all the Jimenéz clan working from sun-up to sun-down, picking peppers, making fresh salsa and homemade jams jellies and processed chile pepper products, stringing up ristras, giving cooking classes, walking tours of the pepper fields to show folks the many varieties of hot peppers in bloom. Also attendees will be able to meet other local vendors who have a passion for cooking and growing peppers and see who makes the best hot/spicy food.

The festival got started about 6 or 7 years ago, i forget which, when Mom and Dad took their love for the rolling hills of Southern Illinois, sustainable agriculture and clean living and combined it with Mom’s homemade salsa and other recipes. Since then the business has grown and grown to the point that this year we’ve added a new building specifically to showcase our products and provide a welcoming place for people to enjoy our food while visiting the farm.

What can you expect if you come to visit the farm? Well, expect it to be hot! September is also a good time because many of the plants will be in full bloom, offering a beautiful, colorful and fragrant display for your senses. Bring your boots or tennis shoes too, cuz you’ll want to grab a basket and get out in the fields to pick your own peppers.

This is one of the most truly “all-natural” farms in the area. Rancho Bella Vista is committed to using traditional farming methods and doing things the old-fashioned way meaning we employ ONLY sustainable agriculture methods which exclude all use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, plant growth regulators, and livestock feed additives. We rely on crop rotation, crop residues, animal manures and mechanical cultivation to maintain soil productivity and tilth to supply plant nutrients, and to control weeds, insects and other pests.

While other farms seemed to have jumped on the “sustainable” bandwagon, clean sustainable living has been a passion for this family for generations. Growing up in a family of migrant farm workers, dad has done his fair share of working in the fields with his brothers and sisters and other migrants.

Back in the day the fields were sprayed constantly with herbicides and pesticides and after watching people get sick over and over again, dad decided to do something about it and thus began a nearly 40 year career in public service. At the end of his career what he wanted more than anything was to complete his circle of life and that’s what he can do every day now.

In the morning he loves to just walk into the fields, see a good pepper, pick it up, take a bite and know for a fact that this is the best pepper on the earth because he grew it, and with that confidence he is totally charged up every time he loads up the truck because he wants everyone to get a chance to enjoy this treat knowing full well that they are eating clean, fresh and healthy peppers that have not been sprayed.

I could go on and on, but you should just come and experience this for yourself. hope to see you in September.

Buen Provecho

Xavier Jimenez


In the past few weeks we’ve welcomed several new customers who love our products. And this one says it best,….E.S. ( a new customer and fellow pepper grower) thinks that our “salsa is Hot, but amazingly flavorful” and further, he feels “it’s great to know there are small companies in the US that still have that HOME TOWN attitude!”

We thank you heartily, E.S.. What a way to kick off the 2010 pepper season! Those seedlings are even now growing well and just about ready to put into the ground.
Hoping for some Mother Nature moderation in the amount of rainfall in order to do this soon.
Our 21 varieties plus our Herb Garden is coming along well. Hope to see many of our newly attracted customers, if they are within local traveling distance, to call up and reserve a date for a group of friends to visit the farm for our Tours which Start in July. See you there?