Sunday, November 8, 2009

Summer Peppers and Onions for Delicious Winter Recipes


It's that time of year, post first light frost and pre-killing freeze, when I'm scurrying around the garden pulling plants and taking last harvests.  Thanks to floating row covers, here in Virginia Beach I'm only now harvesting the last of the big, sweet Italian peppers and some summer annual and perennial herbs (dill, tarragon, lemon verbena).  The house is filled with the lovely smells of herbs drying in the dehydrator. Dill takes almost no time at all and always surprises me with what a clean-smelling "potpourri" it makes as it dries.

For years, I hit the final harvest jackpot with armloads of veggies that exceeded our family's immediate needs so I gave them away - even tossed a few that were forgotten and left to shrivel - only to find myself a few weeks into winter stuck at the supermarket BUYING the same veggies, either fresh or frozen.  It was frustrating! Here I was, Little Miss Buy Fresh Buy Local, spending money on peppers flown a thousand miles to get to me - or bagged for an unknown length of time in a freezer section.  I was determined to find a change.


Now we save the end of season pepper harvest in a number of ways.  My favorite method is to gather a good selection of red and green bell and sweet peppers, including the wonderful Carmagnolo Rosso red Italian peppers and the huge, red Giant Marconi stuffing peppers (for seeds, head to http://www.growitalian.com/).  At season's end, there are plenty of peppers fully red and also lots of green/orange young peppers still trying to ripen. I chop all of these into quarter inch bits and combine with an equal amount of well-chopped onions. Although our onions keep well through the winter, it is so terrific to have the onion/pepper combo frozen and ready - this was one of those "pre-made" items I used to grab in the grocery store.  No blanching is needed.  A cup of the pepper/onion mix fits perfectly into a snack-sized, zip&store baggie.  Once frozen, a good "whack" on the counter loosens all the pieces so you can grab a pinch or the entire cup easily.  We use them on pizza, omeletes, soups, casseroles....  The going price on the one cup containers or pre-chopped peppers/onions in the grocery store is about $2.50 and rising.  I save about 45 of these in our freezer in very little space. Savings?  About $112.00.

We also slice the peppers into long strips about 1/2" wide.  Toss the strips with a little good olive oil and some herbs (rosemary, basil, garlic, oregano) and roast them in a low oven (about 300) for an hour or so until the herbs have baked in.  Some cooks like to broil them for a second to get a blackened edge. I don't peel mine, our pepper varieties don't have a very thick skin.  These are then frozen in snack-sized bags and saved for recipes that specify roasted peppers.  Delicious!

So, what other creative ideas have other gardeners come up with for the last, precious summer veggie harvests?

3 comments:

  1. I just found out how much I like pickled peppers! I mix sweet and hot peppers together, add a garlic clove, and pickle them with white vinegar, sugar, and salt in a water bath.

    Only problem is my wife loves them too - my nine pints aren't going to last long.

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  2. Whoa! That sounds delicious. Is it like the sweet/hot pickled peppers they put on Subway subs? Can you post the recipe you use here or on the google discussion group? I still have a few peppers to use up!

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  3. I just used the guidlines from the Colorado State Extension - http://www.ext.colostate.edu/PUBS/FOODNUT/09314.html

    I found mixing the hot and sweet makes takes some of the bite out of the hot and adds it to the sweet. Aging them helps to get the garlic flavor infused too. I also made one batch without the water bath to keep in the fridge - they are more crispy that way.

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