My $7 farmers market score!
I know I just spent my entire last post waxing eloquent about how much I adore the peak-of-summer ripe tomato, but it’s possible that I love red bell peppers just as much. Unlike picked-ripe tomatoes, you can actually get good red bell peppers year-round. However, they’re SUPER expensive – $6.99/lb. at my food co-op for organic ones, imported from Mexico or somewhere, which can work out to be about $3 for a single pepper. Since I generally try to keep my meals to somewhere between $2.00 and $3.50 per serving, a single red bell pepper can eat up a significant chunk of my budget for a meal. For this reason, I used to only use red bell peppers in my cooking in August and September, when they were fresh and abundant locally.
Unusual sizes or shapes = a great opportunity to save money!
Then I discovered that, just like tomatoes, you can buy entire buckets of them at farmers markets in the summer. Like tomatoes, these peppers often differ from the ones that get proudly displayed on market tables – they’re either a tiny bit overripe, or damaged, or often just smaller than the big, fat bell peppers that go for a buck each. But they’re just as delicious, and they’re a FANTASTIC deal – if you can figure out what to do with them!
The first time I found one of these buckets for sale, I snapped it up immediately, without having any idea what I was going to do with all those peppers. I probably could have sat down and eaten them all over the course of a week or so, but I wanted to keep some of them to brighten up that sad and entirely-too-monochrome period from late October to early May, when there isn’t a single fresh, locally-grown vegetable to be found. So I trimmed the bad parts, cut them in half, and stuck them in my freezer – and enjoyed ripe, red peppers all winter long! (Because freezing damages the pepper’s cell walls, these peppers are best used in a dish where they will be cooked; sadly, frozen vegetables are a bit too floppy to be used raw.)
Last year there were almost no red bell peppers to be had at farmers markets, due to awful growing conditions, and man, did I miss having them in my freezer! So this year I’m going to double-up on my pepper freezing. I’d hate to be caught pepperless again!
To Freeze Red Bell Peppers
Cut each pepper in half from top to bottom. Remove the stems and inner seeds, and trim away all bad parts.
Lay peppers cut-side-down on a baking tray.
Line up half-peppers on a baking tray to freeze them
Stick it in the freezer. After 24 hours, move peppers to a freezer bag to store all winter!
Now I have ALL the peppers.
To use: thaw in a bowl of hot water for ~10 minutes, prepare as usual, and enjoy!