lola rugula asparagus and scallion frittata recipe

hot cherry peppers stuffed with prosciutto and provolone

In case you didn’t know it, I’m huge on Pinterest! Okay, well, my Pickled Hot Cherry Peppers recipe is huge, anyway. One of the things I miss most about living in Connecticut is being able to find both fresh and pickled cherry peppers at the store. Stuffing pickled cherry peppers with provolone and prosciutto is popular out east, but the ones I’ve come across here in Northern Illinois are all made with raw peppers, which is not very appetizing at all.

Not being able to find these beauties forced me to start growing, pickling and stuffing them myself. This isn’t really a bad thing, as it’s made me pretty damn popular at the holidays. It may sound like an odd combination but trust me that they’re delicious.

If you’re lucky enough to be able to buy  cherry peppers at your local store or market, I have just the appetizer for you! The pickling part is super easy, even when canning and processing them to put up. All you need is fresh cherry peppers white vinegar and water.how to can hot cherry peppers lola rugula

Pickling the peppers:

You don’t have to can these, though. You can pickle them and put them in the fridge, as long as you have the space. When I don’t process these for preserving, I call it “quick pickling”.

Prepare the peppers by washing them and cutting the stems off. Using the tip of a sharp knife, make a small slice into the pepper at the top of it, around the stem area. I like to do this to assure the hot juice is released from inside the peppers. Now you’re ready to pickle them.

  • 6 cups white vinegar
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 1/2 pounds hot cherry peppers (red or green both work!) washed. Using a sharp knife tip, make a small slit in the top (stem end) of each pepper

In al large saucepan, bring the vinegar and water to a boil. Add peppers, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Let cool and transfer peppers to a glass jar or container and then cover completely with vinegar/water brine. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Here’s an extreme stuffed red cherry pepper close-up shot:

lola-rugula-hot-cherry-peppers-stuffed-with-provolone-and-prosciutto-recipe

Stuffing the peppers:

Be sure to reserve the pickling juice for storing and serving. To prepare the peppers for stuffing, use a sharp knife to cut the top off of the peppers. Then, using a small spoon, scoop out the seeds and discard them.

For the stuffing, take a chunk of provolone and cut it into cubes  The actual size of the cubes may need to vary, depending on the size of the peppers. Cut strips of prosciutto in half lengthwise, Wrap a cube of provolone with a piece of prosciutto and stuff the wrapped cube into a hollowed-out pepper. Set the stuffed pepper into a shallow dish and repeat until all of the peppers you have are stuffed.

Using the reserved pickling juice, fill the dish of peppers until the level is about half way up the peppers. Cover dish and refrigerate until ready to serve, preferably within a few hours.

If you’ve never had the pleasure of experiencing these, you’re missing out. It may sound like a strange combination  but the heat of the peppers, the tang of the vinegar, the smooth creaminess of the provolone and the salty earthiness of the prosciutto is a fabulous collaboration. I typically make these at the holidays and for get-togethers and they are always, always the first thing to disappear.

Enjoy!

lola rugula asparagus and scallion frittata recipe

easy refrigerator pickles by the jar

The last of my cucumber plants got pulled up last week and, though I’m sad to see summer end, I have to admit that this year’s cucumber harvest was a bit overwhelming. I added diced cucumber to salsa (delicious) and threw together quick cucumber salad (sliced cukes and onions mixed with seasoned rice vinegar and marinated for a couple of days, stirring twice a day). I made our favorite salad – tomato wedges, sliced red onion and fennel, and cucumber chunks drizzled with unseasoned rice vinegar and sprinkled with salt and pepper – super refreshing in the summer and everything’s picked right from our garden except the red onion. I made salmon, cucumber and dill bites more times than I can count (not that I’m complaining because they’re seriously delicious).

While all of these were great ways to use and enjoy my cucumber bounty, they weren’t nearly enough to use them all up. I’ve tried canning pickles but the only ones I truly like canned are bread and butter pickles; dill pickles just shouldn’t be cooked in my opinion. In summers past, I made at least a couple of batches of my fermented half sour dill pickles but this year I decided to try and perfect an easy recipe for refrigerator dill pickles. I also decided the perfect recipe would be a refrigerator-pickle-by-the-jar recipe, so I could easily make them without waiting to have a certain amount of cucumbers on hand. Also, I may have mentioned how we have dill that shows up every year, so this is also a great way to use some of that while I’m at it. I finally nailed down a quick and easy recipe…give these babies a try. The cucumbers retain a nice crunch and the flavor is fantastic.

lola-rugula-easy-refrigerator-cill-pickle-recipe

quick and easy refrigerator dill pickles recipe (by the quart jar)

Per Jar:

  • 1 tablespoon canning salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 4-5 black peppercorns
  • 3 heads fresh dill
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill weed
  • 1/2 jalapeno, sliced (optional – adjust amount to taste or omit)
  • 3-4 medium cucumbers, preferably the pickling variety, quartered lengthwise – make sure you remove the stem end and discard beforehand.
  • White vinegar (approximately 1/2-1 cup)
  • Water

Place salt, garlic, peppercorns, dill and jalapeno in the jar. Add about 1/4 cup hot water, seal jar tightly with lid and shake vigorously for a minute or so. This not only helps the salt dissolve but also bruises the garlic, dill and pepper, releasing some of their flavor into the brine. Remove the lid, add 1/4 cup of vinegar and then pile in your sliced cucumbers,  packing them in as tightly as possible.

Now just top off the remaining air space with 50% vinegar and 50% water, filling the jar as closely to the rim as possible. Wipe rim clean and seal tightly with lid. Give the jar a few shakes and then refrigerate for at least 1 week.

Yum!

Another beautiful aspect of this recipe is that you don’t have to cook a brine like a lot of refrigerator pickle recipes call for – the hot tap water is just enough to dissolve the salt and warm the herbs and spices.

If you like your pickles a little sweet, just add a little sugar when you add the salt. Also, play with the heat by adding more or different kinds of hot peppers, or add none at all. Remember, don’t be afraid to play with your food!

lola rugula asparagus and scallion frittata recipe

spicy dilly beans

Green bean overload happens every year in my garden, so it’s a good thing they freeze well. Another great way to preserve them is to pickle them in a spicy brine. Bloody Mary. Red Beer. Hot Tomato. Michelada. Bloody Caesar…if you like your vodka or beer with a bit of tomato juice and a touch of heat, these spicy dilly beans are calling your name. But even if you’re not enjoying an adult beverage, these are good in salads, antipasto platters and straight out of the jar.

You can ramp up the heat with these a number of ways, depending on what you have on hand when you process them. I made this batch 1/2 with crushed dried pepper flakes and 1/2 with hot jalapenos from the garden. Be creative here – fresh and dried peppers both work. The level of heat is also in your hands, so make these your own.

Although this is a recipe for canned dilly beans, you don’t have to process these to enjoy them. Just simmer them for about 10 minutes in the brine, let cool, pop into a covered jar or glass container and refrigerate them. Because of the vinegar, these will keep in the fridge for a few months, no processing required.

This makes about 6 pint jars.

lola-rugula-spicy-dilly-beans-canning-recipe

spicy dilly beans recipe

Brine:

  • 4 1/2 cups water
  • 4 1/2 cups white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup pickling salt

Per pint jar:

  • 2 large cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1 large fresh dill head
  • 1/4 teaspoon dill seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes OR sliced fresh jalapeno
  • 1/8 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • About 2 cups fresh green beans, cleaned and trimmed (enough to pack the jar)

Sterilize jars, lids and bands for 10 minutes. Leave in hot water until ready to use.

In a large pan, add water, vinegar and pickling salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.

In each sterilized jar, place 2 cloves crushed garlic, dill head, dill seed, hot peppers and peppercorns. Pack with green beans.

Pour hot brine over green beans, filling jar to 1/4 inch of rim. Wipe rim clean and seal with lid and band. Repeat for each jar.

Place packed and sealed jars into a boiling hot water bath, making sure water level is at least 1 inch above jars. Cover, reduce to low boil (but make sure water continues to boil) and process for 10 minutes. Carefully remove jars from water and let sit, undisturbed, until cool.

Store for at least 4 weeks before enjoying, to let the flavors really come together.

Any jars that don’t seal can be stored in the fridge.

I can seriously eat a jar of these by myself, that’s how much I love them. And feel free to switch this up with apple cider vinegar – it’s just as delicious, with a little different tang.

These little beauties also make great gifts, so something to keep in mind as your garden is winding down.

Cheers!

lola rugula asparagus and scallion frittata recipe

saving the summer harvest

Well, it’s Labor Day weekend and I hope everyone who celebrates it is enjoying it! Here in Northern Illinois, it’s a bit hazy but warm and we’re expecting some possible storms this afternoon. (I’m not going to lie – we could use some more rain!) I also have to be honest in that I could use a day of relaxation or three.

I’ve been a pickling and canning nut the last few weeks, along with freezing and drying. I’ve made a few batches of fermented dill pickles (also know as half-sour dills) and if you’d like to try my recipe, you can find it here. I’ve also made bread and butter pickles and cucumber sandwich chips with garlic; I hope to be posting those recipes soon.

Another canning recipe favorite of mine is hot cherry peppers:

how to can hot cherry peppers lola rugulaIn the fall and winter months, I stuff these hot little babies with provolone wrapped in prosciutto and they’re a party favorite with my family and friends. Hot stuffed cherry peppers were a popular appetizer when I lived out East and I had to come up with my own recipe, since there weren’t any out there at the time. (and I don’t know that there still are any out there. I know I found some once at a deli bar in my local grocery and they were simply awful)

I’m also freezing a ton of green beans and Asian long beans, which both freeze beautifully and are another treat in the dead of winter. If you want to know how easy it is to freeze green beans, here’s my post on getting it done. Of course, these are an easy side dish to defrost but they’re also great in soups, stir fry’s and stews.

I’ve fired up my Nesco food dehydrator and have dried some of my garden oregano already. There’s no substitute for my own dried oregano when I’m making homemade pasta sauces and soups in the winter time. The flavor and quality of drying your own herbs at home, under a controlled temperature, is totally worth it. I set my food dehydrator at about 95° and, using freshly picked, cleaned and towel-dried herbs, dry them for about 10 hours or so. The timing really depends on the herb, but once you’ve started drying your own this way, you’ll never buy store-bought again. Of course, you can dry your own herbs, even without a food dehydrator. For many years, I simply cut stalks of herbs, tied their stems together with twine or a band and hung them upside down to dry for a week or so. Once they’re dry, you simply break the herbs off their stalks and store them in a clean container. (canning jars are great for storing herbs, as long as you keep them in a dark pantry or cabinet; if you keep your herbs on the kitchen counter, try to find an opaque container to store them in.

We’ve been enjoying patty pan squash, zucchini, eggplant, and Swiss chard, too. Our tomatoes are just starting to reach the “what do I do with a whole bunch of tomatoes” level, in which case, of course, I freeze them and also make canned salsa.

Last year, hubby and I grew our own ghost chilies, so of course we made ghost chili salsa with them! This ended up being a favorite of ours and this year we’ll be making a similar batch with our homegrown Scotch Bonnet peppers. (we’re crazy, I know)

I’ve harvested a lot of fresh dill seeds to plant in the garden next year and will use the extra for cooking and quick pickling. My cilantro is going to seed, too, and when it’s ready I’ll harvest all of it for my own coriander.

My fresh parsley is insane, so I’ve been making batches of chimichurri sauce and freezing it. It freezes just as well as my pesto does and is another great way to preserve your herb garden. Of course, you can also make frozen herb cubes with your garden herbs; this works with either water or olive/grapeseed oil and you’ll love that you did so, come December.

Last, but certainly not least, if you have a ton of zucchini piling up on you, don’t forget to check out my easy, homemade zucchini bread recipe. I’ve tweaked it a bit from my mom’s recipe but the basis of it has been a die-hard recipe for generations.

Again, I hope to have some new recipes posted soon and I’d love to hear how you’re enjoying your veggie garden this year! Thanks for stopping by!

lola rugula asparagus and scallion frittata recipe

pickled hot cherry peppers

Hot cherry pepper seeds proved to be somewhat of a challenge to find until just a couple of years ago. It seems that they’re making a comeback, though. Finally. These little red orbs of fiery deliciousness are well worth the search, in my opinion. Here’s how I preserve them – if you are familiar with the canning process, this ranks as one of the easiest recipes around. The most tedious part of this is making a slit in the top of each pepper but this helps release their hot oils into their brine as they process.

  • 6 cups white vinegar
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 1/2 pounds hot cherry peppers (red or green both work!) washed. Using a sharp knife tip, make a small slit in the top (stem end) of each pepper

In a large saucepan, bring vinegar and water to a boil. Let boil for 5 minutes. In the meantime, pack peppers into sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. Ladle hot vinegar mixture over peppers. I like to use a plastic chopstick to move the peppers around a bit after adding the liquid – this helps get all the big air bubbles out of the jar.

Place sterilized lids and bands in place and process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.

This usually makes around 5 pints for me.

pickled hot red cherry peppers lola rugulaNow, you can add garlic and spices to these if you’d like. I use this very simple brine because I make hot-stuffed cherry peppers from these at the holidays each year. I’ll be posting that recipe soon, so stay tuned.

lola rugula asparagus and scallion frittata recipe

how to make fermented pickles (aka: half sour dills)

I would like to preface this post by saying that this process demands the utmost level of cleanliness. Yes, it’s based on bacteria and fermentation but, and I do mean BUT, it’s the good kind.

I’d also like to throw in that fermented foods are really, really good for you. All that good, live bacteria is great for your digestion and your immune system. Fermented favorites of mine: pickles, kimchi, sauerkraut…okay, really any veggie. Kombucha and kefir. Soft, stinky cheese. Wine, beer and soy sauce are fermented also, but remember that a little of any fermented food can go a long way, so don’t overdo eating them if you’re not used to them.

People have been fermenting food for thousands of years so just use your head: use clean vessels, utensils and vegetables and, if you’re ever in doubt: throw it out.

This is how to make good old deli pickles. Some call them sour dills, some call them half sour dills, and both are right depending on the length of time they ferment in the brine.

I’ve learned this process by famous chefs and not-so-famous chefs alike. Sometimes, this sort of thing calls for looking a little deeper into the process than just the rules from the big guys. This is the sort of thing your grandma did, that you blissfully ignored. Play around with length of fermentation time and spices and see what you like.

So here’s the link to the Alton Brown recipe, which is how I first tried this and, to this day, use a technique or two. And here’s the Wild Fermentation recipe, which is an awesome site to visit if you’re drawn towards fermenting things. Actually, if you’re drawn to fermenting (or someone you know is) please, please, please read The Art of Fermentation – Sandor Katz is a fermenting god. And here’s Tommy J., a little guy who’s trying to get this kinda stuff down and doing a pretty damned good job.

I’ve learned from all of these sites and recipes and here’s mine:

While preparing the ingredients for these fermented pickles, first clean your freshly-picked cucumbers well, cut off the stem end (trust me, this is important. That little stem end will spoil your batch if you don’t cut if off first), and soak the cukes in a bowl of ice water while you’re assembling and crushing your spices and getting your brine together. Make sure you’re using fresh, blemish-free pickling cucumbers for this – the fresher the better. Let dry on a paper towel right before adding to the finished brine.

Start with:

  • ¼ cup pickling salt
  • 4 cups distilled water (tap water often contains chlorine, which is not ferment-friendly)

In a medium-size bowl or dish, stir salt and distilled water together, until salt has dissolved completely. This may be a little more than you you need, but that’s okay. It’s better to have a little extra brine than to go back and mix more.

Water and salt ratio is important here, but feel free to play around with the spices you like, until you find a mix that you love.

In a mortar and pestle, place all of this:

  • 1/2 tsp. whole coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. brown mustard seeds
  • 2 whole allspice
  • 1/3 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/3 tsp. scant black pepper corns
  • ¼ tsp. dill seeds
  • 1 small bay leaf, broken into a few smaller pieces

how to make fermented pickles spices lola rugula

Crush the seeds and spices just enough to release their oils. You can also do this in a sealed Ziploc and the flat side of a meat cleaver, which I’ve done before my mortar and pestle days. Add to salt/water mixture and stir to combine.

Add your fresh dill: 4 Tbsp. fresh dill weed

how to make fermented pickles lola rugula

Finally, to the salt water / spice brine, add:

  • 6-8 cucumbers, cleaned, trimmed and soaked
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed

how to make fermented pickles lola rugula

The final step in preparing your fermented pickles is to take a sandwich size or gallon size Ziploc bag and fill it partially with distilled water. This is going to sit on top of your pickles and keep them immersed in the brine, while still allowing some air flow to the pickles. You want to fill it with distilled water because if your plastic bag happens to spring a leak, you want it to leak distilled water into your pickles, so you still have a chance to rescue them. I’ve yet to have a bag break, but better safe than sorry. Then, take the water-filled bag and place on top of the pickles, to ensure all of your cucumbers are submersed fully into the brine. You don’t want this to be an air-tight seal – all those beautiful little airborne bacteria beasts need to get to your brine and keep the fermentation process working.

Now, they ferment. And you wait. And you watch.

Let sit at room temperature for about 3 days. This works best for me at summer daytime temps between 70 and 75 degrees, with cool nights. Be sure to keep them out of a sunny spot. A basement or cool room works best for this. Check on them daily, to make sure all of your cucumbers have remained submerged. Within a day or two, you should see some tiny bubbles happening inside your pickle container and some bacterial action happening on top. You can skim the top, if there seems to be a it of scum occurring there, and then assure that your baggie is placed back to submerge all your cukes.

The process is done in about 3-6 days, depending on how you like them to taste and also the size of the cucumbers. This may involve a little testing on your part, but that’s part of the fun. You don’t want them to smell bad or feel or look slimy. They should be crisp and clean. Drain off 1/2 the salt water, reserving the cukes and spices. Place in a clean, fresh glass jar or container and add the other 1/2 of the brine and then fresh distilled water to cover them. Place them in the refrigerator and this should halt the fermentation process.

We keep these in the fridge for about 4-6 months and love them. Happy fermenting!