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The wait is finally over. It has taken all summer for our sweet bell peppers to turn from garden green to brilliant red. They had stalled on the plant for several weeks as what appeared to be large green peppers. I impatiently would inspect them at least twice a week with the anticipation that I would see a glimpse of them turning colors. Well, this past week my patience paid off. Several of them had begun to show signs of turning to that familiar bright red color and I was able to harvest about a dozen sweet peppers.
The first few we usually either cut and eat immediately, or add as a fresh ingredient to our evening meals. However, there is something so irresistible about roasted red peppers and that smoky-flavored kick when you add them to dishes!
So it was time to turn those crisp fresh peppers into roasted red peppers and preserve them for use in the middle of winter. Here is how we do it:
*Yields 6 half pint jars or 3 pint jars
**Bottled lemon juice is preferred in this recipe to ensure the acidity level is accurate for water bath canning. The acidity level in fresh lemons varies greatly and unless you test your pH levels, bottled lemon juice should be used.
1. Wash and dry your red peppers – leaving them whole with stem intact. Char your peppers using either method below.
Grill/Stovetop Method - Heat a gas burner or an outdoor grill on medium heat. Place the peppers directly on the grate until one side is charred. You want to char as much of the pepper as you can. Work carefully so that as soon as one section of a pepper is blackened, you turn it to work on a fresh side. If you have an electric stove you can heat a cast iron pan on high and place the peppers in the pan and turn as needed to blacken each side.
Broiler Method - Position rack in oven so that the top surface of bell peppers placed in the oven will be 4-5 inches from the broiler heat element. Preheat broiler on high. Place peppers on a foiled lined broiler pan or cookie sheet. As the surface of the peppers blister and blacken, turn them with tongs so that they will blacken on all sides. **Option: You can cut your peppers and remove the stem, seeds and ribs prior to charring. However, it is important to make sure that your peppers lay flat to prevent unnecessary turning during the broiling process.
2. Once all sides of your peppers are blackened, immediately remove the peppers from the heat source and place in a large bowl. Cover the bowl with a clean towel. *Other ideas – place in a plastic bag and seal, or place in a brown paper sack and close. The important part is that you trap the heat with the peppers. This steam will help to loosen the skin, making them easy to peel once they cool.
3. When the peppers are cool to touch, remove and discard the skins.
4. Remove the stem, seeds and ribs if you roasted them whole.
5. Cut into desired lengths. Some people choose to quarter their peppers, however, I prefer to slice them into 1-2 inch length slices. It’s whatever you prefer.
6. In a medium-sized pan, mix together the vinegar, lemon juice, oil, garlic and salt. Bring to a boil.
7. Pack peppers into heated, sterilized jars. Pour the boiling liquid mixture into the jars leaving 1/2 inch head space. Be sure to remove air bubbles by placing a plastic utensil down the inside of the jar. Add more liquid if needed.
8. Add a heated lid and ring. Repeat until all jars are filled, or you run out of peppers – whichever comes first. *Hint – if you don’t have quite enough peppers to fill your last jar, add the liquid and when it cools, place in your refrigerator. It will last approximately 2 weeks.
9. Hot water bath the jarred peppers for 15 minutes at a rolling boil. Remove, and let sit for 24 hours to let cool and seal. Check the seal by pressing the center of the lid – if it does not move, then your jar is sealed and ready to be stored on the shelf for up to one year. If the lid moves, it did not seal properly and needs placed in your refrigerator and used within 2 weeks.
Mary and Jim