I recently realized roasted red peppers make so many of my dishes pop, but it's a pretty pricey ingredient. A small jar costs three bucks and a big jar is seven. At my local grocer I can get red peppers for two dollars a pound. Does anyone have experience roasting their own and, if so, do you save cost and how do I store them?
I roast them "fresh" as I need them, but my method scales up easily.
I use a gas grill and turn it to high. Set the whole peppers on the grill, and turn them when the skin is black on the hot side. When they're black all over (after maybe 2-3 minutes per side for all 4 sides of the typical ones in my local supermarket), I put them into a large disposable plastic container with a tight fitting lid and let them cool in it. The skin peels off quite easily, and they can be seeded and de-stemmed quite easily.
If I were going to preserve them, I'd probably chuck them into a plastic container or zip-top bag and freeze them.
In my culture we make so called ajvar (and it is usable for the whole winter). It is usually made in late summer when red peppers come to season (and are cheapest too). We prefer it home made rather than buying it ready. It is not all about the money :) And we do it big scale operation (whole day or weekend event). This is the recipe with notes:
- buy "thick" pointed red peppers (they have more "meat") - not "bell" ones
- make small cut on tips (on pointed side - for later processing)
- preferably do grilling, peeling and cooking outdoors - the process is messy and stinky
- I advise to grill them on high until skin is black (makes them easier to peel)
- prepare enough dishes - do not use plastic dishes as they tend to leave red stains
- when grilled leave them to cool down a bit, then peel while warm (you may like to use gloves because your fingers will also catch hard to wash stains)
- place then in dish, point down, to drain from inside and cool down (that's why cut on the point tip) - there will be a lot of water coming out from the inside
- remove stems and seeds, wash them with cold water, drain them
- cut into convenient pieces (of your preference) some folks here also mince them, I prefer "strips"
- when done with all grilling, peeling, draining, cleaning and cutting, place them in large pot, then cook them with a little oil until there is no "water" at the bottom of the pot (will dry them and pasteurize them a bit further)
- when almost done, mix in salt and essence (concentrated vinegar) - these are preservatives (essence very stinky - do outdoors)(salt to taste)
- you may add garlic (for taste) - I don't (you can always add garlic later if needed).
- pour in jars while still hot (important!)
- top it with oil (olive or vegetable oil) - this is another preservative
- put a lid or cover with double plastic wrap while everything is still warm.
- when cooled down, jars will "vacuumize" (a plastic wrap can be better as to see which jars are not as air-tight later
- store in a cool place, e.g. the basement (does not need to be fridge or freezer) - e.g. next to wine :)
- important - once you open one jar, use it fairly quickly (2-3 days) and keep opened jars in the fridge (always top with oil) - tip - use smaller jars rather than large, also use jars that are not as air-tight first!
In Bulgaria, they make "ljutenica" which is similar to this, but they also add grilled eggplant and in some cases tomato paste (makes amazing taste).
Some folks here like "ajvar" to be hot, so they add hot chili peppers to mix, or buy hot red peppers.
Amounts: 10kg of peppers will make 1-3 1kg jars, but, it is worth the works, the most important thing is that you exactly know what is in that jar! Calculate the number of jars you will consume during winter, and you may actually save money on the amount. And do an experiment - compare what you have made, and what you can buy, as this makes the point where money is not everything :)
Ajvar can be used as is, also it can be roasted, toasted or cooked additionally - examples: - as "winter salad" (on its own) e.g. accompanied by pickles (decorative too: red ajvar and green or white pickles), - can be used as spread on bread, with some good cheese, or prosciutto, also try all of this toasted! - can be added to pastas or mixed/cooked in pasta sauce with tomatoes or other ingredients - also it makes even better and tastier pizza spread than tomatoes - can be added to soups and stews
Kick your imagination off - it is a versatile ingredient! Enjoy!
Once you roast your own you will never go back!
Mine keep for around 1 month in the fridge. That is not conclusive however! Cost depends on season (when peppers are cheap, it is worth it. When they are out of season, maybe not), and the quality of the olive oil you use.
Method - slice them into large, fairly flat pieces - about 4 per pepper. Lay them flat on an oven-proof tray, skin side up. Grill them for about 10 minutes on fairly high heat, or until the skins are blistered and dark. This will depend on your oven. Put the pieces (while hot) into a plastic or paper bag and let them sit in there for about 10 minutes until they are cool enough to handle. This allows them to sweat a little to make it easier to remove the skin.
Remove the skin with your fingers. It should lift off easily. The bits around the cut edges will be more difficult. This is why I try to minimise the number of pieces from each pepper.
Slice the pieces and pack into a jar. Cover with olive oil. Personally, I like to add garlic slivers, 1 clove per small jar, but that is up to you.
The peppers should be covered with oil at all times, otherwise the bits sticking out may go mouldy.
I generally buy/cook organic, and my local co-op sells roasted red peppers in the bulk section. Per pound, the roasted peppers are half the price of the fresh red peppers.
Yes, by the jar they're crazy expensive, but if you can get it in the bulk section you'll save money.
And, of course, freshly roasted is very yummy, so if that's what you want, there's no comparison.