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…a bushel and a peck

“A Bushel and a Peck” is a song written in 1950 for the Broadway musical Guys and Dolls. It was later made popular by Doris Day, The Andrew Sisters, and Perry Como, to name a few. It was most recently included in the soundtrack of the movie, Julie & Julia. If you’re not familiar with the tune, check it out HERE. Just don’t blame me if you aren’t able to get the snappy melody out of your head.

What is a bushel and how much is a peck? Both are very old English units of measuring volume.  A bushel is a British imperial capacity measure for liquid or dry and is 2152.42 cubic inches. If that makes no sense to you, join the club. A bushel of potatoes would weigh 60 pounds, a bushel of oats comes in at 32 pounds, and barley weighs 48 pounds.

A peck is 1/4 of a bushel. In a dry measure, it is 8 quarts. So when Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, exactly how many peppers did Peter Piper pick? It would depend on the type of pepper, so the answer would be somewhere between 10 to 14 pounds.

Green beans, banana peppers, corn, watermelon, lemon cucumbers, Anaheim peppers, tomatoes, bell peppers, and potatoes from Crooked Sky Farms

When I picked up my CSA weekly allotment from Crooked Sky Farms this past Thursday, there looked to be about a peck of peppers. Now generally when I get this many peppers, I just fire up the grill and roast them off, but my freezer is already full of roasted peppers from the summer’s bounty. Upon further examination, there turned out to be a mixed 3 1/2 pounds of bell, Anaheim, and banana peppers. Not exactly a peck, but still a bunch!  And here is what I decided to do with them.

You may not have quite so many peppers on hand. Cut this recipe down to the amount you would like, for instance – if you use 2 large bell peppers and 2 medium onions, then cut all the rest of the ingredients down to about one-fourth the amount.

Caramelized Onions and Peppers

3 to 4 ounces pancetta, diced
3 tablespoons olive oil
3  1/2 pounds yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced
3  1/2 pounds bell, Anaheim, and/or banana peppers (any mild to medium-heat peppers you like) stemmed, seeded, and thinly sliced
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
8 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 cup Marsala wine
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Heat a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook until browned and the fat is rendered out 5 to 7 minutes.

Add the olive oil and when hot*, add the onions and peppers and cook until golden brown, about 10 minutes.

Add the salt, pepper, oregano, basil, and garlic and cook 5 more minutes.

Stir the Marsala wine and pepper flakes into the vegetables and cook until the wine evaporates and the vegetables caramelize; approximately 30 minutes.

* Due to the large number of peppers and onions I had, at this point in the cooking process I put half of the pancetta and oil into another large pot and divided the remaining ingredients between the two pots from here on out to help caramelized them more evenly.

This amazing combination of savory flavors is also amazingly versatile! Just this past weekend I used the mixture to make pizza (Trader Joe’s plain and/or herb and garlic fresh dough brushed with olive oil and topped with sauteed mushroom, the onion/pepper combo and topped with goat cheese, then baked in a 500-degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes).

Next, we had grilled flank steak – pepper and onion sandwiches.  And most traditional of all was the grilled brats with pepper and onions.  Of course with 7 pounds of vegetables, to begin with, there is still more of the pepper/onion mixture left. I plan to use the rest of it to make omelets for breakfast one morning and the last of it will be tossed with roasted potato cubes as a supper side dish.

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1 Marissa { 09.04.12 at 10:58 AM }

Pizzas were the best 🙂

2 Linda Hopkins { 09.04.12 at 11:10 AM }

Missy May, so happy that you were here for the holiday weekend to enjoy them! xoxo

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