Roasting peppers over a fire, out of all the autumn preserving, I think, is my favorite. It might be because I’m a wee bit of a pyro, but also, it brings back great memories. As a kid on the farm, it meant we were almost done for the season, yay! By the time we were roasting peppers, the tomatoes and beans were all done. Peppers and eggplants were still around – and it’s much easier to fill bushels with those than tomatoes! After school, my mom would have the peppers picked and we would shine them with a cloth to make them more presentable for the market, smart she is:) It also brought me back to times in Italy, sitting outside around this little round ‘fire pan’ that my nonna roasted her peppers on while I fanned the coals for her.
My nonna would use these beautiful round, thick, slightly flattened peppers that had amazing flavour. Here in Canada, we mostly use Shepherd peppers and Bell peppers but you can roast any pepper really. Both of these are available in abundance this time of year, have great flavour, and freeze well. Try adding some hot ones to the mix too!
The trick to roasting peppers for the freezer, is to not take too long or else the pepper gets cooked too much and becomes soft or even worse, mushy. You just want to char the skin so that it comes off easily. We used to make a huge fire and roast them right on the coals but we have found that a grill right over the fire works best. In no time, the skin gets charred. Then you put the charred peppers in a large bowl and let them cool enough to work with. If you don’t have access to a fire pit, there are other options. You can turn an old bbq into a little fire grill, use a bbq on high, or as a last resort – use the broil setting on your oven.
Once they are cooled, you can place your desired portions in food safe freezer bags and freeze for future use. I prefer removing the skins and seeds before doing this. It is ok, however, to leave the skins on, freeze them and then clean them when you are ready to use them. When you want to prepare some, let them defrost then place in a colander to drain for 15 minutes. Break or cut into strips and add olive oil, salt, and optionally garlic, basil and/or parsley. They make a great addition to an appetizer dish or as a side dish.