Peperoni sott’aceto (Pickled Peppers)

Frankantipasti29 Comments

sott'aceto

Back in the day, this was the time of year for putting up summer produce to be enjoyed during the autumn and winter. Tomatoes would be home canned, either whole or as passata. Fruits like cherries would be preserved in sugar. Eggplant and other summer vegetables would be preserved sott’olio, using olive oil to seal them off from the air, or as in today’s recipe, sott’aceto, using vinegar’s antimicrobial properties to help ward off spoilage. We’re using peppers here to illustrate, but you can preserve just about any vegetable sott’aceto, or as in the case of the ever-popular giardiniera, a whole medley of them.

Of course, we no longer need to put up vegetables at the end of their growing season. We can buy pickled, canned or frozen vegetables in the neighborhood supermarket whenever we want. And for many if not most people, it seems that the whole concept of vegetables having a “season” has been lost. You can buy fresh tomatoes, eggplants or peppers, grown in hot houses or imported from warmer climates at any time of year, even in the dead of winter. At the cost of actual flavor, to be sure, not to mention the environmental costs, and you’ll pay for the privilege. But if you want to serve asparagus on Christmas Eve, you can.

And yet, even if it’s no longer a necessity, many of us still like to put up fruits and vegetables. Preserving produce at home lets us tweak the finished product to suit our personal tastes. And contrary to popular belief, it’s really not at all difficult. In fact, it’s kind of fun.

Ingredients

For each medium-sized jar of pickled peppers

  • 500g (1 lb) bell peppers

For pre-cooking the peppers:

  • 1.5 liters (6 cups) water
  • 250 ml (1 cup) white wine vinegar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • Salt

For jarring:

  • White wine vinegar, about 250 ml (1 cup)
  • Garlic cloves, roughly sliced, to taste
  • Whole black peppercorns, to taste
  • Bay leaf, broken into pieces, to taste

Directions

Step 1: Pre-cooking: Bring the water, vinegar, bay leaf and garlic clove to a simmer in a large pot. Continue simmering for about 5 minutes.

While the pot is simmering, trim and cut the peppers into strips. (See this post for tips.)

Bring the pot from a simmer to a boil and add the peppers. Let the liquid come back to a boil, then turn off the heat. Let the peppers steep for 5 minutes. Drain the peppers and lay them out on paper towels to dry.

Step 2: Jarring: Place the pepper strips in mason jars (or in a vacuum container—see Notes) interspersed with bits of garlic, bay leaf and a few black peppercorns. (NB: Don’t fill the jar to the brim. Leave a cm or two (1/4-1/2 inch) at the top.

Cover the peppers entirely with vinegar and close tightly.

Step 3: Curing: Refrigerate or leave in a cool, dark place for at least a week before consuming. (See Notes if you want to keep the peppers for longer periods.)

Peperoni sott'aceto

Notes on the sott’aceto technique

As I mentioned in the intro, one of the advantages of home preserving is you can tweak your method and ingredients to suit your personal taste. For example, bringing the vegetable just to the boil and then letting it steep off heat produces a crisp-tender vegetable. But if you like a slightly softer texture, you can simmer the vegetable for 2-3 minutes instead. And if you like your vegetables softer still, you can just continue simmering them until they reach the degree of tenderness you prefer.

Using pure vinegar produces an assertively tangy result. Some recipes cut the acid with water, up to a 1:1 ratio. You use that same mixture for both the initial simmer and for the jarring. Try that if you want a milder flavor. You can also vary the flavorings you add along with the vinegar. A pinch of oregano or a few basil leaves, for example, are common add ins. And if you like sweet and sour flavors, a pinch of sugar (or more than a pinch) in the pickling liquid will do the trick.

Besides peppers, just about any vegetable will take to the sott’aceto technique. Zucchini, eggplant, carrots, onions, cucumbers, green beans, cauliflower, green tomatoes, artichokes… The main point to look out for is to precook each vegetable to the right degree of tenderness, which will vary from vegetable to vegetable. The boil and steep method here would be ideal for already tender zucchini. But it won’t work for harder vegetables like carrots, cauliflower or artichokes. Better to simply simmer them until they’re crisp-tender. Some vegetables don’t take very well to a sott’aceto technique, mainly tomatoes and leafy vegetables.

Canning sott’aceto

Traditional recipes for sott’aceti tell you to wait a month or even two before eating, in which case it’s a good idea to boil your mason jars to sterilize them before filling and then boil them again to create a vacuum seal, as described in our post on giardiniera. The boiling is a bit tricky, and you might just lose a mason jar or two to cracking.

Truth be told, though, it’s been years since I’ve made the attempt. If you’re careful about making sure the vinegar (or, for sott’olio, the oil) totally covers the vegetable, you should be OK, especially if like me you’ll be eating your sott’aceti within a couple of weeks. It’s a good idea to refrigerate them as an extra precaution against spoilage. When I want to put up food for long periods, I take advantage of modern technology and use a vacuum sealer. My new favorite is the Fresh and Save line of containers from Zwilling. They provide all the advantages of traditional canning without the trouble.

Peperoni sott’aceto

Pickled peppers

Ingredients

  • 500g 1 lb bell peppers
  • 1.5 liter 6 cups water
  • 250ml 1 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 1 bay leaf 
  • 1 clove garlic
  • salt

For jarring:

  • White wine vinegar, about 250 ml (1 cup)
  • Garlic cloves
  • Black peppercorns
  • Bay leaf

Instructions

Pre-cooking

  • Bring the water, vinegar, bay leaf and garlic clove to a simmer in a pot. Continue simmering for about 5 minutes. 
  • While the pot is simmering, trim and cut the peppers into strips.
  • Bring the pot to a boil and add the peppers. Let the liquid come back to a boil, then turn off the heat. Let the peppers steep for 5 minutes. Drain the peppers and lay them out on paper towels to dry. 

Jarring

  • Place the pepper strips in canning jars interspersed with bits of garlic, bay leaf and a few black peppercorns. (NB: Don't fill the jar to the brim. Leave a cm or two (1/4-1/2 inch) at the top. 
  • Cover the peppers entirely with vinegar and close tightly. 

Curing

  • Refrigerate or leave in a cool, dark place for at least a week before consuming. 

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29 Comments on “Peperoni sott’aceto (Pickled Peppers)”

  1. I remember those days well! My parents grew and preserved all of their vegetables and a lot of fruit. We also had chickens for meat and eggs plus whatever dad took a fancy to – ducks, turkeys, guinea fowls and lots more. It’s hard work but I yearn for those days. My mum died many years ago but her giardiniera is something I long to recreate but never got the recipe. I’d like to try yours – just a couple of bottles – for old time sake. Thanks for taking me back to those days, Frank.

  2. Great preserving method ! Have you tried to grill peppers and then just pour the liquid to cover them ? Fabolous to enjoy in winter ! 🙂

  3. I never mind the boil and seal method — but when I make a small batch (pickles or jams) I just pop them in the fridge, as you suggest. I’ve never had peperoni sott’aceto — probably because of the garlic. Now I am inspired to try this myself. Thanks, Frank!

    1. I hope you do, David. And of course you can just leave the garlic out, no worries. Haven’t tried subbing a little onion (perhaps pearl onions?) but I get that would be quite nice.

  4. Oh I remember my mom would make dozens of cans from jams and berry preserves to savoury things like picked cucumbers and even mushrooms. You’re right – everything can be found in the stores nowadays (That won’t be necessary delicious, though!) And there’s no need to sterilize all those hundreds of cans – you can simply make a small batch enough for a couple of days. And yes, I would definitely find a use to these delicious peppers 🙂

  5. I remember that one photo from Instagram! Glad you blogged about this. Canning is a pain, even though it’s really not. But I rarely want to do it!

  6. You couldn’t have said it better, Frank. While you can certainly find pretty much any fruit or veggie year-round, it’s hard to beat those fruits and veggies when they’re in peak season. I haven’t gotten much into canning, but pickling is a different story – that’s a lot easier! Although I have to say that those Zwilling containers look pretty handy. We do have a vacuum sealer…so maybe I need to invest in those!

    1. I really like those containers, David. There’s a “starter pack” that not terribly expensive so you can see if you find them useful. I certainly do! I hate throwing out spoiled food.

  7. Your pickled peppers are so pretty, Frank. I’ve been making Domenica Marchetti’s version, which has a sweet and sour flavor and it’s delicious. Another way I like to preserve them is to roast them, peel them and lay them flat in plastic bags, then freeze them. After I defrost them (and dry off the ice crystals), I toss them in some olive oil and they’re great. You can defrost as many or as few as you waant throughout the winter.

  8. They look fantastic and if you make them to eat within a couple of weeks, the sterilisation isn’t really necessary, especially if you stick the mason jars in the dishwasher first.
    I stayed with a couple of retired French farmers a few years ago and was amazed and jealous of their additional kitchen in the basement, dedicated to canning home grown produce.

  9. The same here, I love preserving a few special summer fruits , especially if they are pickled like your peppers. I think my favorite is my rum pot with berries from the summer.

    1. Sounds lovely! I remember in my childhood one of my friend’s Mom kept a rum pot in her kitchen. It was always a special treat.

  10. Your timing couldn’t be better. My sister just called to ask how Mom made vinegar peppers. My recollection was that the peppers were whole and that she pushed them into a gallon jar and filled it with hot white wine vinegar. Then, when she made pork chops she would add one whole pepper to the top of the chop after the first turn in the skillet, cover and cook them together. I don’t recall the pre cooking step, but this method sounds much safer.

    1. I reckon the precooking probably does reduce any risks of spoilage. And this really only very slightly softens the peppers, so they stay rather crunchy, probably quite similar to your Mom’s I’d bet.

  11. I’ve done traditional canning in the past. What a lot of work! I much prefer the refrigerator method these days. Which means I “can” less than I might otherwise, but that’s a good thing — as is the case with Eva, there’s only two of us, so our capacity is limited. 🙂 Really excellent discussion in the post — learned some stuff. Thanks.

  12. Our local grocery stores are selling bushels of peppers and tomatoes so I figured it’s that time of year. It’s just the two of us so I generally pass on canning large quantities but would love a bottle or two to relive the summer flavours in the middle of our dreary winters.

    1. I’m not into industrial scale preserving, either, Eva. But as you say a couple of jars for a special treat during the winter is really lovely.

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