Friday, February 22, 2013

Growing and pickling peppers

There are many pepper varieties to chose from. Here at La Pasera we tend to concentrate our efforts on those varieties that grow well during the humid Summer months we get so close to the coast. The peppers we grow are old varieties traditionally grown on the north coast.

Isla peppers is a variety that originates in Cantabria and produces rather fleshy and very sweet fruits even before they ripen and become red. The other variety is a very mild and pleasant chilli pepper called Guernica from the Basque country; delicious even raw. This year we were given some Cayenne peppers for us to germinate that we intend to dry and use in cooking.

We like our peppers and have fine-tuned the variety and methods by which we grow and preserve them.
Peppers are slow to germinate and more so this early in the season without a heated propagator or greenhouse. Our pepper season commenced a few days ago when we started germinate the seeds by soaking then in water for 12 hours after which we cover then with a wet tea towel in a closed plastic container. We wait until they start showing signs of sprouting before sowing in compost and placing against a warm and sunny wall.

We grow enough plants to provide us with fresh pepper for use in cooking and to eat raw when in season during late Summer and early Autumn. With the glut of chilli peppers and ripe Isla peppers we bottle some and dry the remainder to use in stews, salads and cooking throughout the year.

To pickle the Isla pepper or any other red and fleshy varieties you need to fill the jars with the washed and cut pieces before filling up the jar with a pickling fluid containing 4 table spoons of vinegar and 2 table spoons of sugar per litre of water to which we add spices to taste. Making sure the peppers are fully covered, seal the jars and Bain Marie for 15 minutes. Once cool, store the jars in a cool dark larder and use over the next 12 months.

To pickle the chilli peppers: To vinegar add a few pepper corns, cloves, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, paprika and some olive oil. Bring to the boil for 5 minutes. Then scald the chillies for about 1 to 2 minutes depending on how tender they are. Drain and bottle without cooling them. Fill up the jars with 3 parts of the boiled vinegar and 1 part of boiled but cold water and cover the peppers completely and start using after 1 month in storage. No need to preserve using a Bain Marie. They can be used in cooking or eaten straight from the jar as an accompaniment with hearty soups or with salads.

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