Summer is finally winding down, even in the hot, dirty South. And I’ll admit that it gives me a little ache in my heart to see it go, just the same as every year that came before this one. I am a girl of summer in every sense – born during the warm season, and still completely in love with it. The tomato plants in the garden are putting out their very last fruits, and the squash and basil are ready to be harvested. Only the italian kale is showing no signs of letting up (and boy, am I glad for that!)
Details aside, autumn is a time for taking pause to feel the earth begin to swing back around in its comfortable little orbit around the sun in this vast universe of ours. It’s a time to note the days growing shorter, and a time for harvesting the fruits of the spring and summer’s labor. This Friday actually marks the autumnal equinox this year – the day when the amount of daylight and night-time hangs in perfect balance for a moment before darkness reigns for the next six months.
With all the incredible bounty of the garden’s swan song this time of year, the issue of food storage and preservation becomes a focus of singular obsession for the thrifty gardener. Cook, can, blanch, freeze, pickle, store, dry, dehydrate…any way you cut it, there are so many different (and delicious) ways to preserve the summer garden produce so you can still enjoy it during the upcoming months of fleeting days and long, cold nights. And if you don’t have a garden with bumper crops of summer veggies to preserve, no worries! Just find a local roadside farmer’s stand where you can stock up on your favorite fruits and veggies to preserve…most likely all stuff with flavor and prices you won’t find comparison for in grocery stores.
While I was visiting the place I still call home last month (upstate New York), my uncle introduced me to an easy recipe for making sweet pickled peppers that I want to share with y’all. It’s a great way to preserve peppers for a few weeks (in the fridge) or right through ’til next summer (if you decide to can them). The peppers end up sweet, sour, and a bit salty…the perfect combination for adding the zest of summer to sandwiches, omelettes, quiches, fritattas, stir-fry, or sauces as we trudge somewhat reluctantly into the fall and winter seasons.
- A pile of sweet bell peppers (green, yellow, red, and purple are all great for this, though my favorites are red and purple)
- 1 quart white vinegar (5% acidity)
- 1 quart water
- 3 cups sugar
- 1/2 tbsp noniodized salt (sea salt or kosher salt works)
- Wash and core the peppers, then cut them into strips
- Blanch the peppers in boiling water (they’re ready to take out when the water reaches a boil again)
- Put the peppers into a large glass jar
- Combine the vinegar, water, sugar and salt, and stir the mixture until the sugar and salt are dissolved
- Pour the pickling mixture over the peppers until they’re completely immersed
- Leave the peppers to cool, if needed, and then you can store them covered in the fridge for several weeks. The peppers are perfectly fine to use after a day or two, but they taste the best after about a week of soaking in the pickling mixture.
(Note: absolutely consult specialized canning instructions if you’d like to can your own peppers; this recipe is for fridge storage only.)
And there you have it. Beautiful, sunny, pickled peppers! Keep them in the fridge for weeks at a time, or grab your trusty canning manual and use a similar recipe to put some delicious peppers up in the pantry. Enjoy, and be well!