Preserving

Growing peppers in cooler climates can be challenging. So its better to grow lots of plants in the warmer months and have a bounty of a harvest that can be preserved for the colder months.

Here is 3 ways to preserve peppers:

Freezing

You will be surprised at how readily frozen, and defrosted peppers retain their flavor and even some of their crispness. It’s also quite easy to freeze peppers for later use. Some experts recommend blanching peppers in boiling water before freezing them, but that’s not necessary and only adds work to the process. Instead, chop and freeze peppers directly.

You can preserve both hot peppers and sweet peppers by freezing them. Process as many peppers at once as you can to cut down on the overall labor. Gather your peppers, a cutting board, a cookie sheet, and freezer bags to start. Here are the steps involved:

  1. Wash and dry your peppers.
  2. Next, sort through the peppers and set aside any with mold or soft spots. You may be able to make use of part of these peppers immediately, but they will not freeze well.
  3. Slice the peppers in half, and remove all of the seeds. If you’re freezing hot peppers, take care to keep any of the oil away from your face and eyes. Wear gloves if necessary.
  4. If you like to make stuffed peppers, you can even freeze peppers whole. Just cut off the tops, scoop out the seeds, and put the tops back on. Keep in mind that whole peppers will take up lots of freezer space.
  5. Next, slice the peppers into whatever size and shape works best for your needs (fat strips, skinny strips, rings, etc.). You could skip this step if you need to freeze the whole pepper to use later to make stuffed peppers.
  6. Rinse the peppers, but make sure to dry them thoroughly with a paper towel. The drier the peppers are, the less likely they are to suffer from freezer burn.
  7. Spread out the pepper pieces on a cookie sheet in a single layer and freeze them. This will keep your peppers from freezing together in clumps.

Transfer the frozen peppers to freezer bags. Use heavy-duty freezer bags and remove as much air as possible from the bags to help prevent freezer burn.

Tips

  • To avoid freezer burn, try to use your peppers within six months of freezing. They’ll keep for much longer, though, so no worries if it takes you longer to use them. When storing the peppers, keep them in the back of the freezer, where it is the coldest.
  • Peppers do lose some of their crispness when frozen, so they’re best used in cooked recipes. However, if the loss of crispness doesn’t bother you, they’re perfectly fine to use uncooked in salads and wraps.
  • If you’re making stuffed peppers with frozen peppers, remove them from the freezer and stuff them while they’re still frozen. There’s no need to thaw them out first, and they’ll be easier to fill this way.

Drying

Drying chili peppers is a great way to store them for the long term. You don’t want to waste any of those chili peppers picked from that huge harvest this year. Here are a few ways to dry them so they don’t go to waste.

Wash your chili peppers thoroughly after picking to remove any dirt, then dry. Place on a plate or a wire rack in a dry, well ventilated room. You can also string the chilies up on string or thread and hang to dry. Within several weeks, you will have dried chili peppers and you can grind them up or use them as ornaments as desired.

Oven Drying Instructions

Wash your chili peppers thoroughly after picking to remove any dirt. Cut them in half, lengthwise to expose the pepper innards. Arrange the chili peppers over a baking sheet. Bake at low heat, about 100 to 135 degrees. There is no set time to bake the chili peppers for drying. Keep an eye on them, turning every few minutes or so. You can leave the oven door cracked for some air flow. It will take several hours with this method. Keep in the oven until the moisture has been baked out of them. Use as desired!

Dehydrate

A dehydrator is probably the easiest method for drying chili peppers. A dehydrator encloses the chili peppers and dries them overnight in soft heat. Slice them up before dehydrating for faster dehydration. You can find dehydrators in stores or online.

Canning

Choose the right peppers. When choosing the chilies to can, choose those that are firm and blemish free. Rotting, soft or bruised peppers will not make good canned peppers. Striation marks on the chili are fine. These often occur as a chili ages to maturity, becoming plumper and stretching the skin.

Peppers are usually preserved in vinegar, salt water, or a mixture of both along with other spices. Here’s a simple recipe to begin:

  • Put five cups of vinegar, two tablespoons of salt, two tablespoons of sugar, and one tablespoon of garlic powder, and mix it all together in a pot over high heat.
  • Allow the mix to boil. Once it does, you can turn the fire off and remove the pot from the heat.

Cut two slits along the sides of the chilies. This is done in order to prevent the peppers from absorbing too much liquid, becoming swollen and mushy over time.

Place your peppers into coverable glass canning jars and add the liquid from above into the jars until close to the brim. Take a butter knife and poke it along the sides of the jar to release excess air bubbles. Seal the cans well with a metal cover.

Put the jars into a canner.

It is important not to skip this step because a canner sterilizes the bottle to prevent bacteria from forming during months of sitting. Follow the instructions that come with your canner, but to understand the ease, here’s a typical process:

  • Make sure the canner rack is inside of the canner, then fill the canner halfway full with water and pre-heat.
  • Using a jar lifter, place the well-sealed jars of hot peppers onto the canner rack. Make sure the water is at least an inch above the jars.
  • Cover the canner and adjust the heat to high to bring the water to a boil. Follow the instructions for total boiling time provided with your canner. It’s important for food safety to follow the timing to a tee.
  • Once boiling is complete, remove the canner lid and let the liquid settle for five minutes.
  • Using the jar lifter, remove the jars from the canner and place them onto a cooling rack or towel to cool. Let the jars cool untouched for 12 to 24 hours.

For best flavor, allow the canned peppers to sit for two or three weeks so that they fully absorb the canning liquid. Lastly, once you open a jar, be sure to refrigerate it. A jar you’ve canned is just like any sealed jar you’d get from the store. It’s a must to refrigerate them after opening to keep the chilies for as long as possible.