Salty, spicy, and rich with cheese and olive oil, these peppers are a hit on any occasion. When I cooked at a large hotel in the Providence area I was exposed to a variety of Italian delicacies as that part of Rhode Island is home to a sizable population of Italian descent. While there, I learned that these stuffed peppers (known locally as shooters) are ubiquitous to the region. You find them in taverns, and on the shelves of neighborhood grocers. Locals take pride in making their own shooters, and once you try these you’ll understand why. My garden produced enough cherry peppers this year that I was able to make my own.
3 lb fresh cherry peppers (about 30 peppers) (1.35 kg)
4 cups white vinegar (950 mL)
4 cups water (950 mL)
6 Tbsp pickling salt (100 g)
½ cup sugar (100g)
8 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 bay leaves
1 lb sharp provolone (950 g), cut into ¾ inch cubes (20 mm)
8 slices of prosciutto, thinly sliced, cut in half lengthwise, and then across to make 30 strips
2 cups olive oil
Wash the peppers and drain in a colander. Using a paring knife, cut a ring around the top of the peppers. This will allow the pickling solution to enter the peppers, and make it very easy to remove the cores before stuffing them. Pack the peppers into a gallon glass, ceramic, or plastic container.
Put all the other ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a boil, and simmer for 3 minutes. Pour the hot liquid over the peppers. The peppers need to be completely covered in liquid. If you need more liquid, add a mixture of half water and half vinegar with the same proportion of salt to the jar—that is 2 teaspoons (10 mL) salt per cup (240 mL) of liquid.
Cool to room temperature, and keep refrigerated for about 2 weeks. Drain the pickled peppers in a colander set in a sink. Remove the cores from the peppers with tomato shark and discard. Drain the peppers well on absorbent toweling.
Cut the provolone into pieces that will fit in the peppers, ¾ inch (20 mm) is a good size for large peppers, ½ inch (15 mm) for smaller peppers. Wrap a piece of prosciutto around a cube of provolone and stuff into each pepper.
Pack the stuffed peppers into quart Mason jars. Use a wooden spoon to help arrange them so that the open ends face outward. Depending on the size of your peppers, pack them 3 or 4 to a layer. Pour the olive oil over the stuffed peppers. As air bubbles float to the surface add more oil until the peppers are completely covered. Cover tightly and leave at room temperature for a week. Refrigerate after that.
Remove peppers from refrigerator several hours before you wish to serve them to bring them to room temperature. Serve the peppers with hunks of sourdough bread to help sop up the olive oil. You won’t want to miss a drop. When you have finished the peppers use the oil in the jar for salad dressing, on pizza, marinades, for dipping bread, or any number of culinary uses. The olive oil is flavored by the peppers, garlic, prosciutto, and the provolone. Save every bit, it’s delicious. Mix leftover oil with balsamic vinegar and pour over Burrata.