Preserved Roasted Red Peppers

The Pigeons Go to Church, Barcelona, 2003

I’ve been waiting all year to try this recipe, but when the time came, I was almost too lazy to do it. The end of October Can Jam week was rapidly approaching, and I just didn’t want to get off my butt and deal with a pile of slippery peppers. My eyes kept sliding over to my great big bag of quince, which I can’t stop thinking about.

The thing is, it is totally worthwhile to preserve these guys in the fall.

You know that red bell peppers are one of the dirty dozen, right? If you don’t grow them yourself or buy organic, you don’t want to eat them. This year, growing them wasn’t a great option in the Bay Area. We had too much rain in the spring and too much cold in the summer. I grew a handful of small peppers and was thrilled to have them, but a canning project they would not make.

And buying organic red peppers at any other time of year is notoriously bad for the budget. They were going for $8 per pound (gack!) in the summer. Now’s the time.

So I’ll leave the hot peppers to those kinky girls at Tigress in a Pickle, Local Kitchen (thank you, Kaela, for holding our feet to the fire and making us can peppers this month), and Grow and Resist. For me, there’s nothing like roasted reds.

I love them, but I’m not kidding; they’re slippery when roasted.

Peppers are a low-acid food and you must take care when canning them. To ensure safety, I began with a recipe from Well-Preserved, by Eugenia Bone, and I changed only the seasonings. Then I contacted the Master Food Preserving program at UC Davis to ensure that what I did was safe. I would be really sad if I killed any of you nice people, you know? A certified master food preserver confirmed that this recipe is sufficiently acidic and gave me the green light. (If you’re concerned about the inclusion of olive oil, see the update at the bottom of the post.) And, hey, did you know that you can do that, too? If you have questions about whether or not a recipe is safe, get in touch with the good people at your state’s cooperative extension office. That’s what they’re there for!

The flavors in this recipe are inspired by my dear friend Helen’s method for roasting red peppers. Helen is in her eighties and grew up in Oroville, California. Her family is of Spanish descent. And I have a thing for Spain. Let’s go there, shall we?

Calle Girona, Barcelona, 2003

Pimientos Rojos

4 pounds red bell peppers
1 cup bottled lemon juice (use only bottled juice to guarantee acidity)
2 cups white wine vinegar (5% acidity)
1 cup olive oil
1/4 cup slivered white onion
1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2  teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 bay leaves

1. Place an oven rack about 7 inches below the heat source and preheat the broiler. Start heating a large pot of water for scalding several pint jars and have a small pan of water ready for simmering your jar lids. (See Step 5.)

2. Snip the stems off the red peppers and place them on an ungreased baking sheet. Char them under the broiler for about 20 minutes, using tongs to turn them frequently so they blister all over.

3. Remove the peppers from the oven and let them cool until you can handle them. Peel the peppers, cut them in half, and remove the seeds. (I find them easiest to peel if I begin from the base of the pepper. If they’ve gotten soft, the peppers may tear as you peel them. Don’t worry about it. Just tear them into large pieces and skip the “cut them in half” step.)

4. In a medium saucepan, combine the lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil, onion, paprika, thyme, salt, and pepper. Bring to a gentle boil.

5. Scald 3 pint jars by immersing them in boiling water. (There’s no need to sterilize the jars, because you will process the peppers for more than 10 minutes.) Simmer the jar lids for just a moment in a pan of hot water, then let them rest there.

6. Pack the peppers into the scalded jars and cover with the hot marinade. Add one bay leaf to each jar. Use a small silicone spatula or other soft tool (like a chopstick) to “bubble” your jars. (That is, work the spatula into the peppers and run it around the inside of the jar to release air pockets.) Leave 1/2- to 3/4-inch head space to ensure a proper seal. (This is important. The peppers will swell during processing.)

7. Process in a water-bath canner for 15 minutes and wait a few weeks before tasting. If you have leftover marinade (I sure did), save it for salad dressing.

Yields about 3 pint jars

White Peacock, Barcelona, 2003

Update: November 14, 2011

Over the course of the year since I posted this recipe, a few people have specifically asked about the oil it contains. Recently, I consulted a second master food preserver to learn a little more about the issue. She confirmed that the recipe is safe — that is, plenty acidic enough to impede botulism growth, even with the presence of a cup of olive oil.

It’s worth noting, however, that the inclusion of oil may reduce shelf life in some recipes. Oil presents an increased risk of flavor changes or even rancidity. The recommended shelf life for most preserves is about one year. For these peppers, you might consider tightening that up a bit. When you do pop the lid, if you notice anything at all off about them — appearance or smell — toss them out. On the other hand, you may decide to simply forgo canning and stash your marinated peppers in the fridge. (I’d already thought about that, but that was because we ate all of ours in just a few weeks. It was hardly worth the effort of canning them!)

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  • Reply Denise | Chez Danisse October 21, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    Thanks for the heads up about the dirty dozen. Now I need to look up the other 11. Your photograph of the white peacock is gorgeous.

  • Reply meg October 21, 2010 at 8:44 pm

    Shae- those sound amazing! With all my insane hot peppers around I never considered regular peppers. They are great to have around!
    Gorgeous pics too- both the peppers and Spain!
    And, great tips on calling for canning safety advice. Who knew? I certainly didn't!

  • Reply Janis October 22, 2010 at 4:30 am

    I think I'm going to learn a lot from you. Perhaps it's time for me to broaden my skills and can peppers and other things. Your blog is so inspiring.

    p.s. my nana would immediately put the (broiled) roasted peppers in a paper grocery bag (sealed tight) to steam them. This made the peeling a breeze.

  • Reply kaela October 22, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    It's the charring.. I'm just not good at it (and then I get crazy over the waste if I screw it up). I think I just need to buy a bizillion pounds of peppers at the market and force myself to practise. These do look so lovely, and I'm a big fan of roasted red bells.

    I'm curious, did your Master Preserver have anything to say about the olive oil? Seems a lot of (trusted) pepper recipes include a lot of olive oil; wondering why it is OK here and not OK in anything else??

  • Reply kaela October 22, 2010 at 2:28 pm

    Oh, p.s. You have "1/4 cup tablespoons" for the amount of slivered onion. (Assuming you wrote 4 tbsp then updated to 1/4 cup, but then forgot to remove the tbsp. I hate when I do that).

  • Reply Shae @ H2H October 22, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    Denise: Here are all twelve . . .

    Domestic blueberries
    Sweet bell peppers
    Spinach, kale and collard greens
    Imported grapes

    And thank you so much for noticing my peacock. It's one of my favorite photos.

    Meg: Thanks! Remembering to use the co-op extension is a big help. I particularly love the one in Alaska. They have good recipes for native flora and fauna, too.

    Janis: As a fellow jam fanatic, I can say that sometimes I like to do a pickle because they seem easier. You make the stuff, you make the brine, you pour the brine over the stuff. I suppose, like worrying over the set of a jam, I could agonize over whether or not my pickles or peppers will be too soft, but I really don't.

    Thanks for the pepper peeling tip. I wonder whether it makes the peppers softer? (Oh, didn't I just say I don't worry about that? Jeez.) I will certainly try it next time.

    Kaela: I think I've had charring crises only when I've walked away from the oven for too long. (I'm very, very good at getting distracted in the kitchen.) If I turn them when I start to see the blackening spots, I'm okay.

    I didn't specifically ask about the olive oil. I wish I had, because that's a great question. Next time!

    Thanks for pointing out the typo in the recipe. I hate it when I do that, too, and I always want to be told. You're right: I'd first measured in tablespoons and then I realized, hey, that's 1/2 cup. :-)

  • Reply Shae @ H2H October 22, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    Kaela: . . . and then I realized, hey, that's 1/4 cup. Sigh.

  • Reply RJ Flamingo October 22, 2010 at 7:09 pm

    This sounds great! I was just saying over at Julia's that, if I can get the garden cleared, I plan to grow some peppers this winter. This is another winner!

  • Reply Caroline August 4, 2011 at 6:12 am

    So, what is the verdict on the oil? Did they make it through the year? I hope it’s ok because I REALLY want to make them!

    • Reply Shae August 4, 2011 at 6:28 am

      Hi Caroline: After checking out this recipe with a Master Food Preserver, I feel confident that the oil is fine. I can’t give you a personal post-year report, though, because we ate all of these up within a matter of weeks! I’ll definitely make them again.

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  • Reply Canning 101: Is It Safe to Can Products That Contain Some Oil? | Food in Jars November 1, 2011 at 9:49 pm

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  • Reply Shae November 14, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    For anyone who had questions about the olive oil in this recipe, please check out the update I added to the bottom of the post today. Thanks!

  • Reply Barbara August 14, 2015 at 12:01 pm

    I really want to make these. I also really want to believe they can be WB. But don’t peppers have to be PC? I’m assuming your advice from the master canner is correct and there is enough vinegar and lemon juice to make it WBable. I’m going to go for it!

    • Reply Shae August 23, 2015 at 11:20 am

      Hi Barbara: I went through many phases of researching this recipe to ensure its safety, and have canned it myself relying on what I believe to be the sound advice of folks with scientific training in these matters. Of course you have to use your own judgment. I hope you enjoy(ed) making them!

  • Reply Mary June 4, 2017 at 11:02 am

    Do you think you can use 1/2 pint jars instead of pints?

    • Reply Shae June 10, 2017 at 1:00 pm

      For sure you can!

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