As much as I hate that summer is coming to an end, this time of year does bring back a fond childhood memory. No, not back to school… but my Papa’s Hot Peppers.
Banana peppers harvest in late summer, and my grandfather and great-uncle had an expansive garden that would produce baskets full of these hearty, flavorful peppers. We would then spend hours in the kitchen turning them into my families go-to condiment: hot peppers and onions.
Each member of my large, Italian family eagerly awaits for their annual, 2-to-4 jar allotment (depending on the size of that year’s crop), and we carefully plan out how we will use our ration for the year. Some dive in and use them all soon after their gifting, thus having to live a portion of the year without them. Others (like my dad) would actually hide a few jars from the rest of the family until spring, bringing them out only when necessary to ensure we would not go any season without some of these jewels. Now that I am no longer a car ride away, and cannot carry my jar onto the plane due to liquid laws – I am reduced to enjoying these lovely sandwich toppers, pasta mix-ins, sausage accompianments, multi-use gems, only when I was back east at a family gathering.
This summer, however, I decided to attempt to make them on my own. With a patio not much larger than a closest, I dedicated 2 of my potted plants to peppers and hoped for the best. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with my outcome, having already gotten at least 10 peppers off of each plant and still a few more coming in.
I called my grandfather for the recipe and learned just how easy this ‘family secret’ has been all-along:
- Remove the seeds.
- Cut both peppers and onions to desired size.
- Cover in olive oil and simmer until soft, about an hour.
There are also some key tips to keep in mind:
- If you want them hotter, leave some of the seeds in.
- Be careful not to touch your face or eyes until washing your hands thoroughly a few times upon completion.
- You’ll probably end up using a bit more olive oil than you expected.
So, an hour or so of work yields to a year or so of goodness. I know my small batch won’t last me nearly as long as a year, but I’m going to enjoy every bite (and memory of home) that comes along with it!
What makes these peppers easier than most canning projects is that there doesn’t need to be a sealing and preservation process. There is so much oil involved that it acts as natural preservative, preventing spoilage by isolating the food from air, providing its own seal that can delay oxidation, deterioration and molding simply by ensuring that oil is completely covering your peppers when stored.
This is not to say that the canning and preserving of other items isn’t totally cool and something I want to learn how to do with my other summer harvests, but for a busy (or lazy) girl like myself who still likes to eat like they do in the ‘old country’, my homeland Italy – these peppers are the easiest way to go. I bet they’d pair nicely with any menu item from The Chopping Block's upcoming Old School Italian cooking class. Mangia!