Small hot peppers stuffed with tuna and preserved in a jar of good oil. It’s a delicious treat, made even better when the peppers were grown from seed and everything made from scratch.
Have I mentioned that I love hot peppers? This is the time of year when production is peaking, and I sometimes look for fun things to do with the bumper crop. All I had to do was look at the heavily laden plants of this variety I grew this year, a variety called Peachadew, and this wonderful Italian antipasto dish came to mind.
The Peachadew is a variant of a favorite pepper I have grown for years, the Sugar Rush Peach. It is not related to the trademarked Peppadew, but is a blunt, rounded version of Sugar Rush Peach. Sugar Rush Peach, along with its Peachadew cousin, is an aji chile, a Capsicum baccatum type. The flavor is sweet, not overly hot (to me, less hot than jalapeno), and with an intense citrus-y aroma and flavor. They are amazingly productive.
To start this dish, you will need about 100 pepper pods. Cut the tops off and core out the seeds and white placenta. Rinse with lots of water to remove excess seeds. There are loads of seeds!
Here’s how to pickle this peck of peppers. You can use this technique any time to make a quick pickled item (onions, cukes….and peppers.)
Quick Pickled Peppers
4 quarts small cored and seeded peppers (I used Peachadew peppers)
1 quart white wine vinegar
1 bottle dry white wine (I used Sauvignon Blanc)
4T kosher salt
10 cloves garlic peeled and smashed with the side of a knife)
10 whole black pepper corns
10 sprigs fresh herbs (I used rosemary, thyme, and oregano)
2 fresh bay leaves
Place the peppers in a large heatproof bowl. I used a stainless steel bowl.
Heat the vinegar and wine together with the salt, garlic, peppercorns, herbs and bay leaves in a Dutch oven or large pot. Bring to a boil.
Pour the hot mixture over the peppers. Allow to cool. Make sure the peppers are all submerged. Use a plate to weight them down if needed. Allow to cool. Cover and refrigerate at least 48 hours.
Next is to make tuna confit like this:
1.5 lbs fresh tuna (I used yellow fin)
1T kosher salt
sunflower (or other neutral) oil
Cut the tuna in approximately one inch cubes. Pack into a quart deli container.
Mix a cup of water with the salt and sugar until dissolved. Pour over the tuna. Top with water to cover. Refrigerate for 12 hours.
Remove the tuna from the brine. Rinse in cool water and pat dry. Pack the tuna in a quart mason canning jar. Fill halfway with olive oil. Top with sunflower oil.
Heat water bath to 134F. (I used my sous vide device for this.) Place the jar in the water bath for 60 minute. Remove the jar from the water bath. Allow to cool. Refrigerate until ready to assemble the peppers.
To make the finished product, follow the steps below.
Peperoncino Ripieno di Tonno Sott’olio
4 quarts pickled peppers (see above)
1 quart tuna confit (see above)
1/2 cup (about 20) anchovy fillets (use homemade anchovies if you have them)
1/2 cup salt-packed capers (these are much better than the brined type!)
Remove the peppers from the pickling liquid. Place them open side down on a paper towel lined sheet pan so they can drain and dry a bit. Reserve the herbs and garlic from the liquid.
Scoop the tuna cubes from the jar of oil into the bowl of a food processor. Reserve the oil for later. It’s fine if some excess oil goes in the food processor, it will just make the mixture softer and more flowable. Add the anchovies and capers to the food processor and process until smooth and evenly mixed.
Scoop the tuna mixture into a resealable one gallon freezer bag. Squeeze out all the air and push the mixture into a cone in one bottom corner of the bag. Twist the top of the bag and grip with one hand. Snip 1/4″ from the bottom corner of the bag to allow the top hand to pipe out the mixture.
Flip the peppers over to have the open side up. Pipe in the tuna mixture, enough so that when it settles, they will be just fulled to the brim and not overflowing. You may need to tamp the mixture down a little to settle it into the peppers.
Arrange the peppers with the reserved herbs in a large resealable jar. This size batch filled a 3 liter jar. When all the peppers are in the jar, pour the reserved oil from the tuna jar over them. Fill the jar about half way with olive oil. Top with sunflower oil. You can use all olive oil if you want, but it will solidify in the fridge.
Store the jar in the refrigerator.