We harvested lots of peppers during the months of September and October!
I have the same three varieties in my garden that we always grew in Calabria: sweet Italian peppers, peperoni di Senise and a couple of corno di toro yellow peppers. The peperoni di Senise are ideal for drying, as they have a thin skin and dry quicker than the Italian sweet peppers. Because September in the Bay Area is also our Indian summer, we are able to dry them outside.
Here are some pictures of my dad stringing all the peppers from our harvest:
He hangs them out in the open until they are fully red and dried. This can take up to a month or so, depending on the weather.
Each string of peppers is called a ristra:
And this is what the peperoni di Senise look like when they are completely dried:
We grind up these peppers into pepe rosso, a mild, sweet paprika-like powder, that we use in making Calabrian sausage. The ones that we don’t grind we keep whole and use during the winter months in many braised dishes. There is a winter snack made in my town of Verbicaro made with these dried peppers, called pipi arrusckuati in my dialect and peperoni cruschi in Italian. They’re like potato chips, but made with peppers instead. I will tell you more about this snack when I make them during the upcoming winter months.
Although some of the sweet Italian peppers end up dried, we use most of them fresh in various dishes. One of my favorite ways to eat sweet Italian peppers is to remove the stem and seeds, put an anchovy inside, and pan fry them whole in olive oil. We also use them fresh in frittate, pan fried with potatoes or with eggplants and tomatoes, stuffed and baked, grilled and peeled with olive oil and garlic, tossed with pasta–you name it, we make it.
In the next post I will include a recipe that you can prepare with red and yellow bell peppers, which are more readily available in this country. The recipe will be one that didn’t make it in my cookbook. For all the other pepper recipes that I’ve mentioned above you will need to wait until next fall, when my cookbook, My Calabria, will be published.