Italian stuffed vinegar peppers are a Christmas favorite of mine. I don’t recall my mother or grandmothers ever making these, but I do know that they are a family tradition for many Italians at this time of year. I was first introduced to this tradition over 20 years ago, and once again, it was love at first bite. These stuffed vinegar peppers were the focus of my husband’s family Christmas Eve celebration. His mother, Ida, made dozens of these delicious peppers every year for family and friends. She was famous for them, and everyone waited in high anticipation for their share of the crop. She made sure that every one of her children’s families had a plate of her famous peppers. They were absolutely delicious. She combined the flavors of sweet and sour to perfection to create a taste that no one can forget.
Now that she is no longer with us, several family members have tried to replicate her recipe. One or two have succeeded. My husband tries every year to get as close as possible to his mom’s recipe. It’s very heartwarming to see him try to keep her memory alive through this ritual each Christmas. A lot of love goes into this attempt. Some years he gets close, and other years , not so much. Regardless, they are always delicious, and we think of her and all she did for her family as we enjoy this family favorite.
There are several challenges to this recipe.The biggest challenge is always finding the vinegar peppers and the Vino Cotto, but if you have a good Italian market near you, you should be able to find them, especially at this time of year. The other challenge has been getting the peppers as soft as hers. If you cook them too long, they tend to burn. We finally believe we found the secret, even though we haven’t tried it out just yet. She would gently fry the peppers in a little olive oil after she stuffed them, and before she put them in the oven. Now this is a lot of work, especially when I think of the dozens of peppers that she made each year! We will definitely try this with next year’s batch, and let you know if it makes a difference.
So this is my husband’s version of his mother’s stuffed vinegar peppers.
RECIPE: makes 2 to 3 dozen stuffed peppers
2 to 3 dozen jarred Italian vinegar peppers, sweet or hot (be careful of the hot!)
2 cups ground pecans ( bread crumbs consistency)
2 cups jarred chestnuts, chopped
1 1/2 cups golden raisons, soaked
1 cup olive oil
2/3 cup vino cotto plus some for baking ( this year he used fig balsamic vinegar in the mixture and it worked well)
1. Prepare the stuffing by combining all the ingredients and mixing well.
2. Prepare the peppers by rinsing them under water. Then cut of the tops. With a spoon ( he uses a grapefruit spoon), scoop out the insides, especially all the seeds.
3. Prepare the baking pans (cookie sheets) by spreading some olive oil and water on the pans.
4. Stuff the peppers and place on the prepared pans. (if you want to try gently frying them, you would do so before putting them on the pans).
5. Cover tightly with aluminum foil, and bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and drizzle each pepper with the vino cotto. Leave uncovered and bake for another 15 minutes.
6. Before serving, drizzle once again with the vino cotto. Serve at room temperature.