Peperoni Sott'aceto - Southern Italian Pickled Bell Peppers

Pickled bell peppers
Pickled bell peppers

Every September when I was a child, our home was filled with the pungent scent of vinegar brine as my mother and grandmother put up numerous vegetables, fruit preserves, and of course, dozens of quarts of plum tomatoes and tomato puree.  Though I never bother with the tomatoes, every summer I manage to do a few jars of peppers to use throughout the coming year.  This year my friend Nancy shared the bounty of her Long Island garden with a large bag of peppers so I pickled some for her and for me.  It's quite fast and easy to do.  The proportions in the recipe below are for a single quart.  Increase as much as you would like.  If you're making many jars, prepare an extra batch of brine to top off the jars after the first few days as the brine is absorbed by the peppers.

Prepare either bell peppers or hot cherry peppers the same way.You’ll need a 1-quart canning jar with a 2-piece lid, though I usually do these in recycled 1-quart pickle jars.Sometimes the re-cycled lids even vacuum seal again, though that’s not essential for these since the acidity of the brine prevents spoilage when the peppers are kept refrigerated.

Makes 1 quart

3 large bell peppers, about 1 1/2 pounds, any color or mixed colors, rinsed

3 cloves garlic, peeled and halved (don’t use any that have a sprout – they turn blue)

Three 2-inch branches dried oregano

1 1/4 cups water

1 1/4 cups distilled white vinegar

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

One 1-quart jar with cover

  1. Stand one of the peppers upright and slice straight down next to the stem to remove a flat piece.Continue the same way around the pepper.Slice off the bottom and discard the stem and seed cluster.Cut into 1 1/2 to 2-inch pieces.
  2. Bring a pan of water to a boil and use tongs to lower the jar into it.Carefully remove the jar from the water letting any excess water inside drain back into the pan.Stand the hot jar on a folded kitchen towel.
  3. Place the peppers in the jar, skin side up, and wedging some upright against the side if there is space.Pack the peppers tightly, leaving as little air space as possible.Fill a quarter full and add 2 pieces of garlic and a third of the oregano.
  4. Add another quarter of the peppers and another third of the garlic and oregano, and then repeat.End with a layer of peppers.
  5. Combine the water, vinegar, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a full rolling boil.Cool the brine to room temperature.
  6. Use a jar funnel or a measuring cup with a spout to slowly fill the jar with the brine, letting it settle before adding more.Continue filling the jar to within a 1/4-inch of the top.
  7. Return the pan of water to a boil and sterilize the lid.Wipe the top of the jar with a clean cloth and use tongs to put the lid in place.Use a dry towel to screw on the ring or the cover if it’s one piece.Cool the jar until easy to handle and store in the refrigerator.The peppers are ready after about a week.
  8. To serve the peppers as an antipasto or a salad with meat, use tongs to remove some from the jar; marinate them in olive oil with a thinly sliced clove of garlic.

Note:For cherry peppers, use 1 1/4 pounds; halve them and remove stem and seeds.