Ever have one of those days where you really have no idea what to do with yourself? Well since my grandma passed away, I’ve had a lot.
Needless to say, that’s me & my nana, Nov. 1981
We were very close, and I took care of her above & beyond what most grandkids do, so it’s been very hard on me. I must say, people have been wonderful. Incredible. We’ve received such an amazing & overwhelming outpouring of love & support. Every day since July 16th we’ve had tons of phone calls, not to mention all the flowers & cards delivered every day (plus one hugely fantastic Harry & David candy/cookie basket) and almost every day there’s an e-mail in my inbox or a voicemail on my cell phone of people giving their condolences, asking if I’m okay, or just people saying “If there’s anything I can do.” And that’s sweet, and so appreciated.
But the bottom line is, unless you work miracles & can erase the past few weeks- there ain’t shit you can do. Don’t get me wrong: I love the fact that we’re thought of, and that everyone thought so much of her that they’ve been donating money in her memory or sending things in her memory, etc. I love that people care about us. But basically, I have to fend for myself, and figure out how to live with the grief and cope with this on my own, and nobody can help me with that. I found it was best to keep myself busy, and the best way to do that was to do my favorite thing since I’m a child: create. However this time I chose culinary creations; I baked very little, since it was over 100° degrees most days & the sweat poured off my forehead just from watering my garden. So I made tons of pickles, jams, jellies. I immersed myself in homemade sauces, salsas and curds. I read an old cookbook of hers that my grandmother had just given me at Christmas, called The American Woman’s Cookbook, and devoured the section on relishes & chutney’s. I read Food in Jars religiously & scoured Punk Domestics for ideas. I had nothing else to do. My heart was broken (*and still is) and I had no idea how to cope other than to keep my hands & mind busy & to just fill my fridge & cabinets, and everyone else’s, with homemade goods. I went through case after case of jars & lids & bottles of vinegar like it was nobody’s business. I should’ve bought stock in Heinz since my recycling bin was overflowing with Heinz vinegar jugs & bottles. I made so many pickles & jams that I have enough to keep us going through a nuclear war, & gave so many away I showed up at my aunt’s house with a shopping bag of jars & sent my father home with another. Then I just ran out of ideas.
This is all maybe half of what I’ve done. Did you doubt my insanity?
I remembered that my friend Chrisie had sent me her grandma’s recipe for hot Italian peppers in oil. I thought, what better way to give tribute to both our grandma’s who’ve passed away; hers whose recipe it was & mine who loved everything I made & was so proud of it, than to make a few jars of them. Besides, my mother was taking it so hard, obviously, and I knew she loved hot peppers in oil on a sandwich or even a snack. So I made some for her. There are no specific measurements, but it’s easy enough to figure out how much you’ll need. Just buy your peppers first, then figure everything else out as you go. I also had another recipe bookmarked, which I included here, that’s very similar.
I wasn’t going to come back and start writing posts. I wasn’t going to do anything normal for a while. I wasn’t planning on doing any of this. But I really do find it helps me… to write, to create, to do things like everything is normal. I’m not an expert. I did not get a degree in this (or baking), and honestly, if you’re coming here for perfection or all the answers you’re barking up the wrong tree anyway. I find this makes me feel somewhat normal right now, so peperoncini it is.
Peperoncini (or pepperoncini), common names Tuscan peppers, sweet Italian peppers and golden Greek peppers, are a variety of the species Capsicum annuum. While called peperoncini in American English, in Italy these particular kind of peppers are called friggitello (plural friggitelli) or more generally peperone (plural peperoni) like other sweet varieties of peppers, while the term peperoncini (singular peperoncino) is used for hotter varieties of chili peppers. The Greek varieties are sweeter and less bitter than the Italian varieties grown in Tuscany. Peperoncini are mild with a slight heat and a hint of bitterness, and are commonly pickled and sold packaged in jars.
These may not be made with actual peperoncini, but for lack of a better term it’s a suitable enough name. Or you could just say ‘peppers in oil.’ That’s easy enough.
Taken immediately after canning… red, yellow & orange bell pepper strips; left & right, and stuffed long hot peppers; middle
CHRISIE’S GRANDMA’S HOT ITALIAN PEPPERS
- red, green (or a mixture of both) hot Italian peppers, free of brown spots or bruises (this recipe can also work with jalapenos, sweet or hot banana peppers or chili peppers)
- white vinegar
- good olive oil
- 1 clove of garlic per jar (optional, my addition)
- seasoned breadcrumbs or anchovies (optional, for stuffing)
- First, wash peppers remove seeds. If you want to keep them very hot, this step isn’t necessary.
- Then blanch peppers in boiling white vinegar. After 2-3 mins in the vinegar, remove immediately. If you choose to stuff them, allow them to cool enough and stuff them tightly with either anchovies or seasoned breadcrumbs, pushing the stuffing down so it’s packed.
- Tightly pack the peppers into jars and pour olive oil in leaving a ½ inch headspace. Close jars and use the hot water bath method to create a vacuum seal, processing for 15 minutes for a pint jar, 20 minutes for a quart.
- Once sealed, allow jars to cool completely, place in a cool, dark place, and allow 2 weeks before eating. Refrigerate after opening.
CANNED PEPPERS IN OIL
- 2 ¼ pounds fresh, blemish-free peppers of the kind you prefer (I used Bell peppers in orange, yellow and red)
- 1 cup white vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sea salt or kosher salt (or other salt without additives)
- an onion, peeled and finely sliced (optional, I didn’t use one)
- olive oil (see note)
- enough jars with lids to contain your peppers, cleaned and sterilized (I used wide mouth pints)
- Wash the peppers and pat them dry. Next, stem them, split them open lengthwise, seed them, rib them, and cut them into strips (if desired).
- Put the vinegar, salt and onion (if you are using it) in a pot over a brisk flame. Add the peppers and heat until the vinegar comes to a boil. Boil the peppers for 3-5 minutes, stirring them about gently. Drain them and dry them — I lined a cookie sheet with paper towels and heated them in a slow oven for about 10 minutes. Pack the peppers in your clean jars and fill them with olive oil, shaking the jars and tapping at their sides to dislodge air bubbles.
- Seal the jars, and put them on a rack in a sterilizer (or a large pot) with cold water to cover. Bring the pot to a boil and simmer the peppers for 20 minutes to sterilize them. Let the pot cool, and when you can safely dip a hand into the water remove the jars. Check the seals of the lids, and put the jars in a cool dark place. They’ll be ready in a couple of weeks, and will keep for a year.
Immediately after the waterbath
I used some hot long green peppers (which I stuffed) and some red, yellow and orange peppers (which I cut into strips). I made one jar of stuffed, two of the strips. But you could do a jar of a sort of mixed bag of peppers, too, whatever you like. I used a clove of garlic in with the long peppers and I also stuffed them with breadcrumbs. The strips are more for sandwich purposes, the other are more of a “snack.” I’d recommend waiting at least two weeks before opening for both recipes to optimize the flavor. The oil remaining in the jars is supposedly excellent drizzled on anything. Imagine a garlic bread made with this oil?
Please wear gloves when working with hot peppers. I don’t want anyone to lose an eye or end up in the ER because they wanted to make hot peppers in oil and rubbed their eye – or heaven forbid- their no-no parts with hands that had capsacin on them. And please be aware that the risk of botulism is very high when using oil for canning. DO NOT skip the vinegar step, blanch the peppers in water or rinse them after the vinegar. You need that acidity in the vinegar to keep the spores of nasty stuff out or kill them. The USDA would probably say this is only safe for pressure canning, not water bath canning. Obviously, don’t plan on storing these for a long time. They should be used fairly quickly. And yes, there are going to be people who get crazy over this & tell me I’m going to die if I eat them. But I’m going to go with the fact that as long as I don’t plan on saving them for use as sustenance during the Zombie Apocalypse, I’ll be okay. Also, don’t bother using really high-quality fancy schmancy good-tasting olive oil, the flavor of the peppers will overwhelm any subtle nuances in the olive flavor. Just use a good-quality basic virgin oil, as opposed to extra virgin. If you use Bell peppers cut in strips or small peppers, then you can use half-pint jars just as well without wasting larger jars. I chose to use pint jars for the strips myself but it’s really up to you- hell, you could certainly make a quart or two if you felt like it.
After a few days of “settling”, how gorgeous do those look? Like floating jewels…
This is a really easy idea to build on. You could use whole peppers, sliced peppers, stuffed peppers, hot peppers, sweet peppers, mild peppers, etc. You could even roast the peppers first, before or after blanching them, to give a smokier flavor, or add a dash of liquid smoke to the jar. Add garlic, onion, anchovy… whatever. Go nuts.
I promise the cupcakes will be back soon. Just as soon as the weather gives me a break. I can’t wait to bake something.