Even with hoophouse protection, pepper season is over. It was a great year for peppers in our garden, probably the best pepper season in the past five years, but all good things must come to an end. We had our first killing frost last night, and the temperatures dropped low enough to blitz the last of the peppers and tomatoes that had been barely hanging on in our unheated high tunnel.
So it was time to pick the rest of the fruits, lay the unripe ones out to finish ripening on the kitchen table in the sun, and preserve the rest. I usually fall back on my tried-and-true Sweet Pepper Hash recipe for preserving peppers, but I had already put away such a tremendous stockpile of Sweet Pepper Hash this year that it was time to diversify.
I tried out two new pickled peppers recipes, both of which look very promising. Both recipes are based on ones I found in "Stocking Up," a classic Rodale publication by Carol Hupping Stoner of which I have a treasured 1977 edition. (The entire book is amazingly available online here: Stocking Up: How to Preserve the Foods You Grow Naturally, Carol Hupping Stoner, Rodale Press, 1977.)
Here are the recipes:
Pepper Pickling Method #1:
Pickled Whole Peppers
- 4 quarts whole, ripe long peppers (these can be hot peppers like Hungarian or Banana, or sweet frying peppers - I used Jimmy Nardellos)
- 1 1/2 cups salt
- 4 quarts plus 2 cups water
- 2 Tbs prepared horseradish
- 4 cloves garlic
- 10 cups apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup honey
Jimmy Nardellos after soaking in salt water for 18 hours, ready for packing into jars.
- Cut two small slits along the long sides of each pepper
- Dissolve salt in 4 quarts of water. Pour the salt water over the peppers and let stand for 12 to 18 hours in a cool place, covered.
- Drain, rinse, and drain again thoroughly.
- Combine 2 cups water and all remaining ingredients except the honey and bring to a simmer. Add honey.
- Pack peppers into hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Pour boiling pickling liquid over peppers, ensuring that the 1/4 inch headspace remains. Adjust sterilized lids and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
Whole pickled peppers after processing
Pepper Pickling Method #2:
Pickled Sweet Pepper Strips
Wash, stem, and core peppers, and slice lengthwise into strips. Steam blanch the strips for 2 minutes, then plunge them into ice water to cool. Drain.
Pack the cooled strips into hot, sterilized pint or half-pint jars. Cover them with a boiling syrup made from 1/2 part honey to 2 parts apple cider vinegar. Leave 1/4 inch headspace. Cap with sterilized lids and process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
Red bell pepper strips ready for steam blanching, canning pot boiling on the woodstove
The finished product
The second recipe is much quicker, easier, and less involved than the first, so if you're looking for a speedy way to deal with a pepper onslaught, I recommend pickling them in strips. It turns out looking really lovely, too, especially when you mix red, orange, and yellow peppers. The pickled whole peppers didn't turn out looking as glamorous as I thought they would, I think because the horseradish makes for a little cloudiness. I'm sure the horseradish could be left out for a clear, pickling liquid that better shows off the pretty peppers.
We grew about 20 varieties of heirloom and open-pollinated sweet peppers this year, plus a few seasoning peppers and hot peppers mixed in. My long-time favorite sweet peppers are Jimmy Nardello, Corno di Toro, and Kevin's Early Orange, and they did not disappoint. But Chocolate Bell and Quadratto di Asti Rosso were standouts this year too, and we will grow them again.
Peppers are a great lesson in patience in the garden, starting out from seeds indoors as early as February and only really coming into their prime in September or even early October. The big, ripe bells always feel like treasures to me after all the months of waiting.
Having enough peppers to preserve for the winter feels like such abundance. Store-bought out of season peppers are such a luxury item, pricey both in terms of cost to the customer and cost to the planet. To have a few jars of peppers stashed away on the shelf feels like real wealth--what better riches than beautiful, bright, sweet peppers on a dark winter day!