canning peppers

Perfect Pizza Topping

As a budding Italian (I married into the family), I continually strive to improve my culinary talents with regard to all things Italian. Tomato sauce, gnocchi, homemade pasta, pizza dough… There is an art to creating these dishes and of course, success depends on which Italian is tasting the final results. Never one to shy away from a challenge, I’ll admit that pizza dough is tough one. It’s an endeavor my daughter and I tackled a few years back and the finished product looked good…

pizza!

But it wasn’t my favorite. The red sauce was delicious, the crust only so-so. And if you’ve ever met an Italian, they are VERY particular about the pizza dough they prefer. Everything else is simply sub-par. Hmph.

One recipe we have been working to perfect is our peppers. Mixed with oil and spices, these are wonderful served on a slice of fresh bread or–as I prefer–on pizza.

fill pepper jars to the brim

Normally I grow Hungarian Wax peppers for this purpose, however, lately we’ve expanded our selection to Sunset peppers. They look the same, taste nearly identical and work like a charm when it comes to pizza topping. Now there are some who will turn their nose away at my detour from the classic Hungarian style pepper, but me? I go with what works, what’s available, and what tastes good. I’m easy that way!

And canning peppers is easy. All you do is harvest, rinse, slice and remove seeds, cover with salt overnight to dehydrate the peppers, then rinse and dry the next morning, fill your jars, seal your tops, boil for 15 minutes and allow to cool. Done! For complete instructions, check my recipe page for Hungarian Wax Peppers.

Hungarian Wax Peppers, be canned!

We’ve done it!  We canned our first peppers (Old Italian tradition) and it worked!  It’s very exciting, this getting back to basics thing.  Not only am I saving the abundant harvest from my garden, but I feel like a pioneer — sans the outhouse.

Now I realize our grandparents probably canned, my senior aged grocery bag fellow at the supermarket is proof positive, doling out helpful advice as he rolled groceries to my car, so pioneer may be a stretch.  But there’s something nostalgic about the wild old days that speaks to me.  Granted, I don’t harbor visions of crossing the Great Rockies with horse and carriage, but living off the land, roaming fields of flowers, lounging by a rolling stream…this sounds appealing.  I was thinking somewhere out west, perhaps Wyoming — before the great cross.  Not in Florida, mind you.  It’s much too hot to exist here without air-conditioning, let alone roam the fields, lounge by the beaches.  And don’t get me started on the alligators.

But I digress.  The kids and I canned our first peppers — for Daddy, as none of us actually eat the things — and it was not only a success, but fun to boot.  We didn’t use a pressure canner, rather opted for the old-fashioned method.  Remember, I need to know how to accomplish this task if I find myself without the power of modern convenience.  I can build a fire and heat a big pot of water to boiling if I had to — not so with that pressure canner.

And really that’s all you do.  You harvest your peppers, drying them extremely well — a crucial key to the process — then flavor accordingly, filling the jars just prior to boiling.  (See my recipe for full instructions.)  For our small jars, we boiled for about 10 minutes and — voila!  — they were done.  I even heard the top pop on one of the jars, which was pretty neat.  My son gave one to his teacher as a gift; something for which he was quite proud, and the other we kept for Daddy.  If not, we may have had an Italian mutiny on our hands.

With one success under our aprons, we intend to try pickled beets (for my mother) and pickles (for ourselves!).  Should be fun, if not tasty!