Every summer and autumn canning in Nonna & Nonno’s backyard was a big to-do. From August to October, most of my childhood Sundays were spent on the red brick patio huddled around the picnic tables as a cog in the human canning machine that was the DiPietro Family. Most often the assembly line was churning out tomato sauce or stew tomatoes, made from either tomatoes that Nonna & Nonno grew or that we picked at one of the huge farms in Kinderhook or Ghent, South of Albany. We canned upwards of 200 jars every year, and we ate them at Sunday lunch, Monday pizza, or for lunchtime spaghetti beans (Translation: spaghetti and home grown young Asian long beans cooked with whole tomatoes, olive oil, and garlic). Our family assembly line became more efficient as the grandchildren grew and our motor skills improved beyond picking and washing basil or measuring salt into empty canning jar. Once filled with tomato goodness we boiled the jars in a wood fire that roared in the brick stove that was built long before I was born for that exact purpose. The smell of the wood fire smoke was hypnotizing, and no matter how many showers I took on Sunday night, my shoulders and my hair would smell faintly of that smoke every Monday morning. Though we had all canned tomatoes countless times before, every time we pulled the jars out of the roaring water, we collectively held our breaths until we heard the confirmation ‘pop’ from every lid, and we exhaled, knowing that the jars sealed properly.
Though I have been party to the canning process my entire life, I have never canned anything totally solo. I had never been responsible for all of the steps leading up to the much anticipated lid ‘pop’, so this weekend’s undertaking was one of faith mixed with a healthy dose of anxiety (What if they didn’t seal? What if I didn’t wipe the rim of the jars well enough? Would Nonna approve of canning peppers?) I had also never canned roasted red peppers before, but since they were both the only CSA vegetable that I had an extreme excess of in my fridge, and one of my constant ‘yes I can spend $7 a bottle on these because they make everything taste better’ Chelsea Market weaknesses, I decided to do the responsible thing and figured out how to make my own.
Check out my canning adventure below. This recipe has not been over time taste tested (because I made it up), but I did do a taste test it before I put it in the jars, and it was shaping up to make a tangy yet mellow pepper with a tiny spicy bite.
Did the new season inspire any new food adventures for you? Tell me all about your fun food experiments!
3 (8oz) canning jars, with lids and rims, sterilized
4 huge red peppers
1 tbs grapeseed oil
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 cup white wine vinegar
2 tbs cider vinegar
1 large dried chili pepper, whole
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
4 large cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp whole peppercorns
1.5 tsp salt
Line a large baking sheet with tin foil. Using the grapeseed oil, evenly coat each pepper and spread out on the lined baking sheet. Place under the broiler and watch carefully. Once the side of each pepper is charred (and I mean well charred) flip and repeat until all sides are blistered.
While you are removing the skin, seeds, and ribs of the peppers, leaving only the charred soft flesh, Combine the remainder of the ingredients in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Once the canning mixture is thoroughly heated remove the whole chili pepper.
Place a large pot full of water on your strongest burner. The pot should be large enough that the water level will be a least an inch above the jars. If you buy canning jars, they will come with instructions, which, especially if this is your first time canning anything, I suggest you follow with precision.
Pour canning liquid over them leaving at least a half inch of room at the top of the jar. Try to get one clove of garlic and some of the peppercorns in each jar. The oil will separate from the vinegar, so don’t be alarmed if you see multiple layers. Wipe the rim of the jar with a clean paper towel or other lint-free cloth. Place a completely dry lid (it should also be sterile, which you can accomplish by dunking each into the boiling water for around a minute) on each of the jars and screw the rim on. Be sure that the rims are not tight—it is critical that you leave room for air to escape during the sealing process.
Place jars in the boiling water on top of a metal rack with rubber grip tongs or a nifty jar grabber (I have one in Albany, but since it is 150 miles away, I used rubber gripped tongs instead). Let jars boil 10-12 minutes, then turn the heat off and let the steep in the hot water for another 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and place on a clean kitchen towel.
Hold your breath for about a minute, or as long as it takes for you to hear the ‘pop’ of the lid. Once you hear it, you can exhale, and be excited about your major canning accomplishment. Your peppers will last about a year if you store them in a cool dry place. Or, if you’re me and need roasted red peppers on your salads, your pizza, and your pasta, crack open a jar immediately and enjoy!