The Farm Stand: How To Use Peppers

August 7, 2013 | By | Comments (1)
Hannah-DS-Pepper-Image (2)

Photo by Hannah Hayes

Welcome back to the Farm Stand, your weekly guide to seasonal Southern produce.

This time of year, peppers in all colors and sizes are everywhere, but if cooking them doesn’t come second nature to you, unlike the Grumpy Gardener, they can be downright perplexing, especially if they aren’t big, basic Bells.

Take for instance these beautiful banana peppers I bought, fittingly, at Birmingham’s Pepper Place Market. Once they were sitting on my kitchen counter, I just stared at them bewildered like some people look at newborns or IKEA instructions.

And if you’ve been burned by peppers in the past, like I have, you might be reluctant to try other varieties. Last year, I chopped up a seemingly benign, butter-colored pepper, and spent the rest of the day with my hands submerged in a mixing bowl full of 2% milk. Nobody’s got time for that.

But armed with some knowledge and a sense of adventure, you too will be slicing up chocolate-colored mini Bells and deep-red Cubanelles all summer-long.

Pepper principles

  • Although the variety can tell you a lot about a pepper’s taste and spice level, color and age can also play a part. But since there are hot red peppers that look similar to mild ones, it’s best to ask who is selling them and, if you’re at a farmers market, see if you can sample one.
  • Searching for a recipe that specifically uses purple mini-Bells is somewhat like looking for the perfect pair of bootcut jeans: futile. Use what you have. Although the heat level may change, you can switch out peppers in any recipe calling for them. One of the best pimento cheese recipes I’ve had is made with preserved bell peppers, not pimentos. In the words of Prince, go crazy.
  • When picking out peppers, make sure to examine them thoroughly. They shouldn’t have wrinkly skin or any raised light patches, which is an indication of sun scald. Look carefully for any sunken-in spots as well.
  • If you need time to think about your next move, peppers are easy to freeze. Cut them into small, uniform pieces; put them on a cookie sheet and freeze until the pieces are solid; remove and place inside a freezer bag in an even layer and make sure to remove as much air as possible. Freeze until you feel inspired.

What to Make

Now that you’re feeling more bold, get started with these Southern Living recipes, and watch one of our latest video tutorials for spicy-sweet Candied Jalapeños. You’ll be putting them on everything short of Angel Food cake.

What’s your favorite way to use summer peppers?


  1. Susanne Bunch

    My favorite way to use summer bell peppers is to create my annual batch of my grandmother’s Pepper Relish recipe. Using equal parts of red and green bell peppers and onions in a sugar and apple cider vinegar solution, I can a batch for sharing with my family. We wouldn’t think of serving our fall collards without a dish of pepper relish for accompaniment.

    August 7, 2013 at 12:34 pm

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