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In the Coal Region, and in some other regions in the US, a green bell pepper is referred to as a “mango“. I grew up in Schuylkill County hearing this term not realizing that there was a fruit that bore the same moniker until I was well past childhood. Now, I understand that the real mango is a tropical fruit indigenous to Southeast Asia and India (and I love them!)
Many old coal region recipes call for ‘mangoes’ when really meaning green peppers. There are many Amish cookbooks that also use the term ‘stuffed mangoes.’ And, in many areas, up until not so long ago, supermarkets, especially local Mom and Pop-style stores, labelled green peppers as mangoes. To this day “older folks” (NOT passing judgement, I count myself in that age group!) in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Missouri still call green bell peppers mangoes.
A theory especially interesting to me is that some think that this term originated with coal miners in eastern Pennsylvania in the 1870s. The Pennsylvania Board of Agriculture referred to them as mango peppers in 1879, and the Ohio Board of Agriculture referred to them the same in their 1896 annual report.
So, why would anyone really call a green pepper a “mango”? The answer may lie in an article published in the New York Times that claimed the real reason had to do with food preservation in colonial times. When mangoes were first imported to the American colonies in the 1600s, they had to be pickled, because of lack of refrigeration. Other foods also had to be pickled, and came to be known as ‘mangoes’, especially green peppers. People mistook the term mango as the process, rather than the food they were getting.
By way of English cookbooks printed in America, the recipe for stuffed mangoes using peppers spread across the US especially in areas with German or Amish ties. As time passed, even un-stuffed peppers continued to be called mangoes.
One of the most popular “stuffed mangoes” which is true to the food’s origins was created by stuffing a bell pepper with spiced cabbage and pickling them (that just screams Pa. Dutch/German to me!). I will post that recipe at another time.
This recipe is the one I have made forever and is what many people traditionally think of as “stuffed peppers/stuffed mangoes” here in The Coal Region. I like to cut my peppers in half, forming “boats” rather than just removing the tops to form deep “cups”. i also par cook then drain the peppers/mangoes before stuffing and baking which helps them cook through while baking. Sometimes I top them with a little cheese, other times I do not – depends on my mood and what I have in the deli drawer at the time.
I like to mix half sweet Italian sausage with half the beef for more intense flavor in the filling. You can simply use all beef if you prefer.
Another short cut I often take is to use the ready-to-eat rice in a bag and skip the step of cooking rice. I like green peppers for this, I believe they compliment the meat and sauce, but if you like red, orange, or yellow and their sweeter, milder taste, go ahead and use them. Make this recipe yours!
Coal Region Stuffed Mangoes (Stuffed Peppers)Course: EntreeCuisine: Coal Region, Pa. DutchDifficulty: Easy
Sweet bell peppers, stuffed with a meat and rice mixture then baked until bubbling and tender.
1/2 pound sweet or hot bulk Italian sausage and 1/2 pound ground beef OR 1 pound 80/20 ground beef
1/2 cup uncooked long grain white rice OR 1 cup ready rice in a bag
1 cup water
6 green bell peppers
2 (8 ounce) cans tomato sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
salt and pepper to taste
(optional)1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
(optional) shredded cheese for topping
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Place the rice and water in a saucepan, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and cook 20 minutes. (Skip if using bagged ready rice)
- In a skillet over medium heat, cook the meat until evenly browned and crumbled. Drain excess fat..
- Remove and discard the tops, seeds, and membranes of the bell peppers cutting as close to the stem as possible.
- Par boil the peppers in boiling water for 3 to 5 minutes, remove with slotted spoon and stand on rack with cut side down to drain 5 minutes. (Helps the peppers to bake through completely.)
- Slice the peppers in half from top to bottom to form “boats” OR stand upright with open end up in a baking pan with sides. Use a pan that keeps the pepper pieces close together. Slice of a thin piece of the bottom of whole peppers if necessary so that they will stand upright.)
- In a bowl, mix the browned meat, cooked rice, 1 can of tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper. Spoon an equal amount of the mixture into each hollowed pepper. or pepper half
- Mix the remaining tomato sauce and Italian seasoning in a bowl, and pour over the stuffed peppers. (I sometimes skip the seasoning and add a heaping teaspoon of brown sugar to sweeten the sauce lightly.)
- Cover with foil and bake 1 hour in the preheated oven or until the peppers are tender. Uncover and top with cheese if desired, return to oven for 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.
- I like these with a mixture of sweet Italian sausage and beef, but you can use all ground beef.