Southerners love their peppers, most tuck at least a few plants in their gardens even if it’s in among flower beds. Peppers generally love the Southern climate- some old timers say the hotter the weather- the hotter the peppers! I’m not sure about that, I do know that we once planted mild banana peppers close to jalapenos and those highly prized for their pepper sauce- long skinny cayenne pepper pods; well, I’m telling you those sweet banana peppers were hot as fire! I loved them. Usually our Bell Peppers are small, mainly good in salads or chopped along with onions and celery for our trinity to begin making jambalayas, gumbos, even tomato sauces.
This year we planted a few plants of Poblano peppers- they’ve been seriously good and a bumper crop of the big beautiful peppers are just the right size for Stuffed Peppers. I’ve eaten stuffed peppers all of my life and loved them. I have to admit- Before I learned to cook stuffed peppers- I tended to think they were an exotic dish because southern cooks which can be on the eccentric side, had a way of majestically saying… ‘Ah’m makin’ Stuffed Peppers’… it just seemed like a special treat and -they truly are. Now, let me get real here- if something sits still long enough a southern cook will figure out a way to stuff it!
- Stuffed Eggs, Stuffed Shrimp, Stuffed Pork Chops even Stuffed Squash Blossoms- now that’s an adventure!
I’m running on and on- though I do want you to know, it’s not hard to make Stuffed Peppers. The beauty of this dish is, of course presentation and taste- Still. Feel free to stuff a few or enough to feed a crowd, which we all know is the real beauty of any recipe. Cook Stuffed Peppers right away or prepare, seal and freeze. Stuffed peppers always call for good ingredients- but the real secret to cooking stuffed peppers is the same for meatloaf- I think… low and slow. If you don’t have time, I’d say don’t make them! Okay, still there might be a way to overcome this. If you have an oven with a timer- it is possible to take stuffed peppers from the freezer, put them in the oven, set the timer and heat at 325 degrees allow for 2 hours before your meal and you might get away with it. So here’s how to make –
Camellia’s Stuffed Peppers
- You will need Unblemished fresh and clean – 4-5 large Bell or Poblano Peppers – carefully cut peppers in half, Remove seeds and membranes without damaging the pepper halves. *I think Stuffed Peppers make a wonderful presentation if the stem portion remains intact on at least one half and also keep the filling intact.
- For the Filling you will need: 1-1/4 pounds of ground chuck mixed with diced onion, 3/4 cup of crushed saltine crackers, 1 teaspoon of garlic powder and a pinch or two of black pepper-you may use bread crumbs, instead of crushed crackers- if so- add a pinch of salt. If you dare and I do! add 1/2 teaspoon or more of red pepper flakes and one beaten large egg.
- *Note: some folks add small diced celery and even carrots- I do not. The mixture will be moistened by the pepper shell, therefore it doesn’t need the extra moisture.
- Carefully combine ground beef mixture. Do not overwork the filling.
- To stuff: Each pepper half will use approximately 3/4 cup of filling spooned in and pressed down a bit. *Optional: I had some fresh oven roasted tomatoes preserved in oil- so I drained them and topped the uncooked stuffing. *You may wrap tightly and freeze at this point.
- This is not optional: Cut uncooked bacon into one inch pieces topping each stuffed pepper with 1-2 small pieces.
- Now, this is important! Before baking- preheat oven to 325 degrees. Very low oven temperature is key.
- Top each Stuffed Pepper with a generous amount of good ketchup. Bake low and slow- mine were done in 2 hours.
- Allow to stand a few minutes, then skim off fat and juices. Serve. Makes 4-5 generous servings, allowing 2 pepper halves each.
It’s actually wonderful to serve Stuffed Peppers on a buffet- they taste good even at room temperature. I also think Stuffed Peppers can be changed up with different spices- such as an Italian mixture served simply with garlic bread and a green salad. If you have the patience, stuffing Baby Bell Peppers would be wonderful appetizers. Of course, one of my favorite combinations for Stuffed Peppers includes the Three Sisters – Corn, Beans and Squash. Corn supports the Bean vines, Squash are planted at the base in a ring around the corn- each has a purpose. Comically and practically- prickly squash leaves deter varmints like raccoons since they don’t like stepping on the leaves. Native Americans taught us how to companion plant these ‘three sisters’ which are a wonderful combination of sides for Stuffed Peppers.
Since the weather is still very warm here- I chose to make cool Shoe Peg Corn Salad, a cheesy Squash Casserole and Speckled Butterbeans cooked with bacon drippings, a bit of hot vinegar-y pepper sauce and crumbled bacon on top.
In the winter, Stuffed Peppers are so good cooked amid a bed of shredded cabbage and onions- of course cornbread and dried beans are also so good. Now, before I leave the fresh vegetable sides, I’d say there’s almost nothing as satisfying as shucking fresh corn, picking fresh summer squash and shelling butterbeans… Well okay- unless it’s feeding your loved ones a meal like this.
Love y’all, Camellia
*All photographs are obviously mine.