pepper pots

Bell peppers are on sale at a neighborhood grocery this week, which is a good thing. I love the vibrant colors of yellow, red, and orange bell peppers. I already had a stash of green bell peppers in the refrigerator thanks to a gift from a neighbor. The peppers would serve as inspiration for tonight’s supper.

I immediately thought “pepper pot soup,” though not sure why as I’d no idea what it was. A bit of online searching uncovered two types–a Jamaican hot pot of sorts with yams, coconut milk, and hot chile peppers. The Philadelphia or Yankee version was more what I had in mind: beef, carrots, celery, okra (had some on hand from a recent project), tomatoes, and the namesake bell peppers. I’d love to share a recipe here for what I made, but can’t. It’s not that I don’t want to follow recipes; my livelihood is developing, writing, and editing recipes, after all. It’s just that I never seem to have all of the ingredients I need. Or I mess up somewhere along the way. But I use what I have and move through “mistakes,” because I know that recipes are only springboards (am talking cooking here–this laissez fare attitude doesn’t usually hold for baking).

When I made tonight’s pepper pot soup, I loaded up on the bell peppers, replaced the tripe with short ribs, added thyme, beer, and a splash of white wine vinegar for more flavor depth, skipped the water and bouillon in favor of the stock I’d made with beef soup bones (one of the easiest ways to make something spectacular), used twice as much okra as the recipe called for as I wanted to finish the bag, and probably some other “tweaks” I’m not recalling. Could I make the exact same soup again? Nope. Was it good? Absolutely. My daughters picked out most of the vegetables, but they tried something new and I consider that a success.

Beef stock is as easy as throwing a few ingredients into a pot and letting it simmer. Freeze the stock in ice-cube trays, then pop the cubes into a resealable freezer bag for quick hit of broth. Or freeze in 1- or 2-cup portions.

Homemade Beef Stock

  • Beef soup bones
  • Water
  • 1 large onion, cut into wedges
  • 2 to 3 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 2 to 3 celery ribs, cut into large chunks
  • 6 or so whole peppercorns
  • Bay leaf
  • Few sprigs fresh parsley

Heat large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add soup bones; cook, turning, until browned on all sides. Add remaining ingredients. Cover pot; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered 4 to 6 hours. Strain and discard solids. Skim fat from surface of stock or refrigerate and remove top layer of chilled fat.  Season stock with salt, if desired. Refrigerate or freeze to store.