Sweet and sour pickled bell peppers recipe

This recipe is adapted from the recipe found on Food.com. If you want to make a single jar batch this recipe is a winner. I made these pickles in bulk using the same proportions of ingredients as in the recipe above.

I try to support local businesses as much as possible. Usually I get my fruit and veg from an independent green grocer instead of from a supermarket. As a result I can usually negotiate bulk veg for pickles at a discounted rate. I bought a full crate of bell pepper for R120 and got 10 x 750ml jars of pickles out of this batch.

Because I didn’t use a fixed weight of peppers (you won’t know how much you have until the peppers have been cut up and added to the jars) I made a couple batches of pickling liquid with the same ratio of ingredients as I went. There was about a cup of pickling liquid left at the end which I added to a sterile jar with some spices and will use it as a base for salad dressings in the future.

Sweet and sour pickled peppers

Sweet and sour pickled peppers

Ingredients:

Bell peppers sliced into strips (it looks better if you use a mix of red, green, yellow and orange)
Onion (about half the volume of the peppers)

Ratio of pickling liquid per 750ml jar
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
3/4 cup distilled white vinegar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Spices:
2 bay leaves
6 – 8 peppercorns
1/4 tsp mixed black and yellow mustard seed
1/2 clove thinly sliced garlic
1/4 tsp celery seeds

 

Method:

Sterilise canning jars
Slice peppers and onions into strips
Add the spices as above to EACH jar
Alternate layers of peppers and onion to the jars, my family prefer more onion in the jars as they take on the flavour of the peppers while maintaining a delicious crunch
Pack the jars quite tightly as the pickles will float as they soften leaving quite a bit of space in the jar
If you’re making multiple batches of pickled peppers, make triple or quadruple batches of the pickling liquid at a go
Mix all the pickling liquid ingredients in a non-reactive pot and bring to the boil
Ladle the boiling liquid into the jars to cover the peppers completely
I tend to fill my jars to the brim to avoid air in the jars and thus let the pickles last a bit longer

Let the pickles sit for at least a week
Once you open the jar and have scooped out the first serving of peppers, top up with a layer of olive oil and store in the fridge
Eat within a month

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Kiwi and Lime Marmalade

I did a little experiment in my kitchen and made up the single most delicious thing I have ever put in my mouth.

A couple weekends back we went for a trip to some friends of ours farm in Magoebaskloof. It was idyllic! Imagine an old open plan farmhouse with no doors that lock, hot water heated by a wood-burning donkey, and the only electricity being in the kitchen for the stove and a single light. We lived for the weekend in a blessed peaceful darkness that was broken only by the moon, a fire and flickering candlelight. Within moments of arriving I was scoping out the massive kitchen and planning where I would build a cupboard to store all the jams and preserves I would make from the fresh produce that abounds in that part of the world. I didn’t want to come home. Is it crazy that my heart’s desire is a little farm somewhere remote?


Over the weekend while we were there, the little town of Haenertsburg was holding their Kiwi and Fine Food Festival. Oh gee, whatever can a foodie do but enjoy the local hospitality. I will add for the record that I had the single best hamburger of my entire life at that festival. The fact that I could also get Jack Black lager on tap (my favourite craft beer) to go with my burger was enough to send me to foodgasmic nirvana. I however did not taste a single kiwi fruit, nor any other kiwi product of any shape, form or description. For a kiwi festival… it was a little disappointing. As we were leaving I bought a 2.5kg box of Kiwi that were horribly under ripe and schlepped them back home.

So what do you do with 2.5kg of under ripe kiwifruit? You make jam of course.

As with all fruit the pectin levels are highest before the fruit is fully ripe, even still I needed to let the kiwis ripen a week before making this jam. Also Kiwi don’t have terribly much pectin in them so you have to use extra. I made my own from apples but you could use commercially available pectin.

Recipe:

Pectin

1.3kg of green apples

1L water

2tbls lemon juice

 

  • Wash apples and then cut into chunks with skins and seeds
  • Add apples, lemon juice and water to a large pot
  • Boil for about 30min until the apples are soft and falling apart
  • Now the proper way to do it is to gently hang the pulp in a jelly bag or piece of cheese cloth for 24hrs to allow the fluid to drip out. This is the ideal way to extract pectin to make a jelly. Squeezing the bag or being otherwise ham-fisted will result in a cloudy jelly. Frankly I don’t have time for fuddy-duddy jelly making when my jam will get cloudy anyway when I add fruit in, so I strained off the liquid and sent the pulp through my Oscar DA 900 juicer. Wham… loads of pectin… no fuss.
  • Put the pectin in a pot and reduce the liquid down by half

 

Jam:

Pectin liquid as above +-400 – 500ml

1kg of peeled and diced kiwi (1cm size cubes)

The zest and juice of 3 limes

2 cups sugar

 

  • Add all ingredients to a pot and boil it until setting point.

There are clever ways of using a candy thermometer to figure out setting point but I can pretty much do it by eye now, however if it is your first time making jam there are a couple tricks to being able to tell if it is ready. Firstly put a couple saucers in the freezer for later. Watch the jam boil, it will start off as a watery liquid with white foam on top and as the liquid boils off the bubbles become bigger and clear, the fruit is no longer floating on top but getting more evenly distributed through the jam and the whole mixture takes on a glossy appearance. Once it gets to this point you need to baby it a little. Take a teaspoon of jam and put it on an ice cold plate. It should hold its shape slightly and not run all over the plate. After a couple seconds if you push against it the blob of jam will wrinkle and look as if it has formed a skin. If it isn’t there yet, boil a little longer (5min) and try again.

So your jam is setting and ready to put into jars.

Now there is a lot of info online about home canning and how to prepare your glassware for storing jam. Ideally you should boil them in a canning pot and then fill them while still hot. I am lazy. I wash mine well with soap and hot water and then add a half a tot of vodka to the jar, close the lid, give it a good shake, pour the vodka into a tot glass, fill the jar with hot jam, and top it off with a layer of the remaining vodka before sealing. So far this method has proven rather successful so I’m sticking with it until I food poison myself. Remember to label and date your jams and use them within a year.

 

This recipe made 3 x 500ml jars of jam.

 

Now for a confession… the kiwi fruit cooked to a rather dismal shade of khaki so I added a drop of green food colouring at the beginning to preserve the jewel-like green of the kiwis. This is entirely optional so feel free to skip it if you want.

 

This jam is a burst of tangy sweetness that you could use in a variety of ways. Warm it up and blend it to a smooth consistency and use as a topping for a cheesecake, or eat it as is with warm crusty bread and some chevin. Sublime!