I love growing things in the garden – particularly edible things! There is such a huge sense of achievement when a plant that you have been nurturing for weeks or even months bears fruit. I also find it incredibly useful to have a variety of herbs, fruit and/or vegetables readily available.
Since growing my own herbs and fruit, I’ve become much more in tune with the seasonality of fresh produce – something that we easily forget about with all the megastores who are so eager to provide fruit and veg all year round regardless of season. While it’s lovely to have some spring strawberries in the middle of winter (particularly with Wimbledon just around the corner!) there is a price that we payfor this luxury, both to the environment and our wallets.
Having said that, by growing my own fresh produce, I find that I often have a glut of one thing or the other and so finding ways of preserving the produce is a great way of ensuring that you have a constant supply regardless of season. Bottling and pickling are fantastic methods for preserving fruits and if done properly, will store well for many months or even years!
I have a sweet pepper plant (also known as peppadew or piquante pepper) that goes through spells of producing lots of fruit. My favourite preserving method for these peppers is to bottle them in a sweet pickling liquid. These peppers actually taste better if they are only eaten several months after being bottled and are delicious on top of pizza or stuffed with cream cheese. The recipe below is based off one written by medical friends based in rural Madwaleni. If you are interested in what they get up to, you can read about it here.
Pickled sweet pepper recipe
Fresh peppadews, washed and deseeded*
(*I like to chop mine in half to remove the seeds. This also give me the opportunity to check that there aren’t any bugs that have crept their way into the centre of the pepper. While I’m all for a balanced diet, that added bit of protein is not particularly welcome!)
1. Wash the jars in warm soapy water, rinse well and place in a cold oven. Turn the oven on to about 60°C to dry and sterilise the jar. You can also use a baby bottle steriliser if you have one!
2. Make a solution of 1 part water, 1 part vinegar and 1 part sugar and heat on the stovetop until the sugar has dissolved.
3. Meanwhile, place the jar lids in a pot , boil the kettle and pour the boiling water over the lids to sterilise them.
4. By now your jars should be dry (if not, you can wipe them down with a tea towel). You need to work quickly at this point. Remove them from the oven (careful they are hot!) and fill them with peppers
5. Carefully pour the hot pickling liquid into the jar over the peppers – make sure to cover the peppers
6. Wipe around the rim of the jar to make sure that it is 100% dry and then remove the lids from the boiling water and wipe them dry too
7. Quickly screw on the hot lid – this will make a seal that will allow you to store your pickled peppers for years!