Recipe Column: Peppadew perfection
The first time I ever bit into a Peppadew pepper, the image of my mom in her nightie came to mind. That’s because mom was a pickled pepper aficionado, and while I was growing up, our refrigerator always contained a varying supply of pickled pepper varieties ranging in on the heat scale from mild to scorching. In other words, pickled peppers were a mainstay in my childhood home, and because of this I feel somewhat of an expert on this particular vegetable.
And that explains why, from the very first time I bit into a Peppadew, I could tell it was special. I was at a friend’s dinner party, and she brought them out on a little tray. They immediately caught my eye with their glistening, cheery bright red hue and spicy pickle aroma. I popped one in my mouth and was amazed at their unique and wonderful taste. I couldn’t help but widen my eyes in surprise and delight. These little gems have a sweet, mildly hot flavor that is exquisite and addicting. I was hooked from the first crunch, and had to have my own supply.
Naturally I asked my friend where she had purchased them, and she told me they were acquired in a little market in Madison. In fact, they were considered a “new” type of food, and as far as she knew, were not to be acquired north of Hwy. 10, which only made me want them more.
I begged family and friends in the southern part of the state to find some and bring them north, and when they did I ate them consistently and with gusto. But all too soon I would be Peppadew-less and back to begging.
I got sick of this and so made a request at Trig’s in Rhinelander to see if they would stock them. A very nice man told me he would look into it.
In the meantime I did a little research on the Peppadew. Come to find out this pepper is a trademarked sweet, red piquantè pepper grown in South Africa. It has only been imported to the United States since 2002.
The story goes that a businessman farmer named Johan Steenkamp spotted an unusual bush in the garden of his vacation home in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. It was laden with bright red fruit resembling cherry tomatoes. He bit into one of these peppers and was hooked.
Since he had never seen a pepper like this before he saved some seeds and cultivated more plants. He had botanists at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research verify that it was a separate variety of chile plant that had sprung up, and he established the trademarks, and registered international plant breeders’ rights for that pepper plant. Come to find out the plant is really a hybrid that occurred naturally from plants that originated in the New World, as peppers are not native to Africa.
Steenkamp began experimenting with bottling the peppers. In his first attempts the jars actually exploded but after many trials he perfected the process and the recipe for pickling the Peppadew. They were approved for sale in the US in 1999 but it took some years after that for them to catch on.
And that’s what I was afraid of when I asked the man at Trig’s if he could supply them. And then to my sheer delight and thankfulness, I saw them a few weeks ago in the olive garden section at the deli. There they are sold by the scoop, and I immediately bought myself a good supply.
I can’t tell you how thankful I am that I can go to Trig’s and purchase my very own supply of Peppadews. It’s rare that I don’t have a stash in my fridge because I eat them on a daily basis. I love tucking them in tuna sandwiches or topping them on a hamburger fresh from the grill. I’ve developed a special crab dip just to use in my Peppadews. Because these peppers come seedless and are shaped like little cups they lend themselves to all kinds of stuffing and dip mixes.
In fact, the last time I got some at Trig’s, the lady behind the counter told me she had one guy stuff his with olives, and someone else likes them stuffed with little chunks of cheese, in particular feta. And they make a really pretty presentation, especially at parties and picnics.
But admittedly my favorite way to eat them is on a potato chip, the same way I remember Mom eating her favorite late night treat.
I remember her getting all five of us kids put down to bed, and then she would put her nightie on and get out some peppers and chips. I can recall going to sleep many nights listening to her crunching away on this treat, and it always made me happy. I wish Mom was here today to try out the Peppadew. I bet she’d have a supply just like I do now.
Peppadew Crab Dip
1 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese
1 cup shredded artificial crab meat
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
about 5 or 6 black olives, diced
1/2 tsp. dill weed
2 tsp. chopped chives (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Make sure cream cheese is soft and then mix it with all the other ingredients. Take small scoops and stuff in Peppadew peppers. Refrigerate before serving. (This dip is also good on crackers, so leftovers can be used this way.)
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