To me, pickin’ a peck of pickled peppers isn’t just a tongue twister; it’s an annual event. At the end of summer, I always have these beautiful red and green peppers weighing down the plants in my garden. There are so many, I hardly know what to do with ‘em all, but I’m not one to let things go to waste—especially something I’ve spent so much time and energy growing! Course, it’s always time and energy well spent. Going into my garden is like stepping into a magical place. It’s where I go to de-stress and think, mostly about nothing at all besides how rewarding it is to bring fresh produce to my kitchen from my own backyard.
And even though homegrown fruits and vegetables are seasonal, you can preserve just about anything past its prime, and the process is super simple.
For my peppers, I boil up some vinegar—think of it as the “collagen filler” of the vegetable world, keeping those beauties bright and plump—and pour it into a pretty bottle filled with a colorful variety of red and green peppers and a few cloves of garlic. Not only does the vinegar preserve the shape and rich color of the peppers, making for a beautiful dressing on any countertop, but, depending on what kind of peppers you use, it also transforms those little devils into a hot pepper sauce that is to die for.
Y’all, I use my pepper sauce like most kids use ketchup; I put it on everything. That heat combined with the sour bite of the vinegar transforms everything from salads to fried chicken into something special. Not too long ago I fed the set crew of Paula’s Best Dishes my fried chicken doused in pepper sauce and they scarfed it down as fast as lightning. Guess I know what to get ‘em for the holidays!
That’s the other thing about preserving peppers—the sauce makes for a wonderful gift, as does anything that comes from the garden and the heart. Gifting food is something I’ve always done and folks appreciate it so much. When my garden overflows, I’ll carry armloads of lettuce and tomatoes into the office and watch everyone’s face light up. It just tastes so much better than what you get at most groceries. And it’s so easy to make a simple gift even more special by dressing it up. I find tall, beautiful bottles or vintage jars for my pepper sauce and tie them with colorful ribbons, raffia or simple twine, giving the hot and tangy taste of summer year round.
In the meantime, you can find me deep in thought and knee-deep in my garden, replanting for the next harvest.