My banana pepper plants have been rather prolific and for this I am grateful. As most of you who are regular visitors to this little space already know, I went a little overboard in planting. I have a tendency to overdo things and this was no exception.
Spending so many years living in an apartment with zero outdoor space, I may have gone a little crazy when I realized that I could grow some of my own food. This had been a goal of mine for a very long time (growing food, not going crazy… that ship has sailed).
I am fascinated by the entire process of planting a seed, taking care of it and watching it grow into something that will actually feed you.
The very first time I had a banana pepper was on a pizza, my Freshman year in college. A small group of us had descended on the pizza place next to campus. We were there under the pretense of “studying” I’m sure. There were pool tables, dart boards (which I became quite skillful at playing), air hockey tables; all the things one thinks of when looking for an appropriate place to “study”.
Anyhow, there we were and one of the guys went to order our pizza and when the waitress came to the table and set it down in front of us, I noticed that it had peppers on it. Not wanting to draw any attention to myself, I dug right in but in my head was this little voice shouting “are you nuts?!”.
I was under the impression back then, and I’m not sure why, that banana peppers were so hot they would peel the skin off of the roof of your mouth. Happily surprised that my mouth did not ignite into a ball of flames, there was no turning back. Thus began the love of banana peppers. Of course, I rarely ate a pizza without them after that. They were on sandwiches, mixed into tuna fish, often plucked right from the jar and popped into my mouth. However, having crossed the threshold into my 40’s, my stomach will not always tolerate such shenanigans these days.
I still eat them on pizza. An Italian cold cut sandwich is nothing without them, chop them up into a good bowl of pasta to transform it into something even better. Charred on the grill, they are a smoky side to any grilled meat. Banana peppers even give egg salad a kick on the days you need a little something extra.
Pickled peppers are the perfect balance of sweet, tangy, just barely there heat and the right amount of crunch. They are one of the easiest things to pickle, as you can see from the recipe below. It takes very little time and the peppers can go from plant to jar in well under an hour at the languid pace that comes with steamy summer days.
- 6 medium banana peppers, sliced into rings (roughly 1/2 pound)
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1/2 tsp mustard seed
- 1/2 tsp celery seed
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 cup tarragon vinegar, or white vinegar
- 1 cup water
- 1/3 cup sugar
- pinch turmeric
- Sterilize 4 half-pint jars, lids and rings by immersing them in a large pot of simmering water. Leave in hot water until ready to assemble.
- In a medium sauce pot, combine all ingredients, except banana peppers, and bring to a boil.
- Remove jars from water and place banana peppers inside.
- Pour pickling brine over peppers, leaving 1/4- 1/2 inch space from top of jar. Wipe off any brine that may have spilled on rim or side of jar. Place lid on and tighten ring. Set on counter to cool. Jars should "pop" as they cool, sealing themselves. One of mine did not, so I lowered it into simmering water for about 6 - 8 minutes until it did. If you need to do this, make sure water level is 1 inch above top of jar for it to seal properly.
- You can test them by pressing on the lid. It should not make a "popping" sound when you press it. If it does, you can either seal it by processing it in a water bath, or keep it in the refrigerator and use first.
For more heat, toss in a few Serrano peppers to spice things up!