Peppers make the garden brighter. The glistening greens of the leaves and the rainbow of colors of the ripening peppers – red, yellow, orange, green, brown or purple – all mark the rows where peppers are growing. The attractive plants make everything around them look better, healthier, and tastier.
Besides their appearance, there’s another reward from peppers. Sweet bell peppers go well with just about anything and are wonderful eaten right out of the garden, while the hotter varieties spice up many recipes. Some pepper varieties add color as well as flavor: pimiento strips in stuffed olives or stuffed eggs with a dusting of paprika on top, for example. (Paprika is made from dried peppers.) Stuffed peppers, pickled peppers, fried peppers, all types of peppers fit in everywhere.
Prehistoric remains in Peru show that peppers existed then and they were cultivated in Central and South America in very early times. Columbus brought them to Europe in 1493 and they were quickly adopted and cultivated. In fact, it was the Europeans that gave peppers their name. The only pepper they had known until that time was the black and white spice we still sprinkle out of our pepper shakers. When Columbus brought dried peppers back from the West Indies, Europeans said the fruit was”hotter than the pepper of the Caucasus,” the familiar table spice. The name”pepper” stuck and we’ve been using it ever since.
In spite of sharing the same name, our table pepper and the sweet and hot peppers we grow in the garden are not related.
The Scoville Heat Index, invented by Wilbur Scoville, ranks peppers in order from mildest to hottest. It starts with zero being the mildest and goes over 1,000,000 to indicate the hottest peppers. Use a pair of non-latex gloves to protect your hands when handling peppers. Some individuals are more sensitive to the irritants in peppers than others.
Pepperoncini (Tuscan Peppers) are another kind of chili pepper that is green when young and red when fully mature. Unlike the Italian sweet peppers, pepperoncini have a wrinkly skin and are crunchy, slightly bitter and somewhat spicy. They grow from 2 inches to 4 inches long and are a popular Italian appetizer. They are also often served pickled, which gives them a light salty taste.
Pepperoncini were originally grown in Tuscany, so they are also called Tuscan Peppers.
Pickled Pepperoncini Without Canning
Pepperoncini are not as spicy as many other peppers, so they are a good choice for those who do not enjoy extremely spicy food. You can stuff them, add them to soups and sandwiches, incorporate them into soups and stews or eat them as a pickle. Pepperoncini are most often pickled rather than used plain. Pickling your own pepperoncini is a relatively simple process and you enjoy these peppers for months to come.
1 lb. fresh pepperoncini peppers
2-1/2 cups water
3 cups vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons pickling salt
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
4 garlic cloves
Wash the peppers with cold water and allow them to dry.
Put water, vinegar, sugar and salt into a soup pot. Bring to a boil over medium high heat and stir until the sugar and salt have completely dissolved. Reduce the heat to medium and add bay leaves, whole coriander seeds and black peppercorns. Chop the garlic into small chunks and add it to the pot. Allow this to simmer for five minutes.
Leave peppers whole and pierce their sides three to four times. Place the peppers into storage jars and leave about 1 inch of head space.
Pour the hot liquid into the jars containing the peppers, screw on their lids and allow the jars to cool before placing them in the refrigerator. Let the peppers marinade for at least a week before using. The pickle flavor will be stronger the longer they sit.
Tips: The pickles will keep for several months in the refrigerator. Do not use if pressure develops in the jars or if the liquid becomes really cloudy and begins to smell. This can be a sign of contamination and the pickles are not safe to eat.
Recipe from www.JovinacooksItalian.com