Lots of people love to grow their own vegetables and with the right care and attention you can produce a bountiful harvest. But what happens when you do have an abundance of produce like peppers? How do you store them for the medium to long term?
We have found 5 easy ways to store (see also: How To Store Limes: 6 Easy Ways)your peppers from the garden so that you can enjoy them for weeks and months after picking them.
We look at refrigerating, drying, pickling, canning and freezing peppers.
Depending on how long you want to keep your peppers or how soon you want to use them you can store them in the refrigerator. This works best if you intend to use the peppers in the next week or so.
How you store them in the refrigerator is very important. Make sure that the peppers are clean and dry. If there is any moisture on them, it can cause them to spoil sooner. So give them a wipe before putting them in the refrigerator.
The best place in the refrigerator is the crisper drawer which will allow air flow. The peppers are best left loose, without any wrapping, although a net bag will be ok and let air through.
Plastic bags are the worst as they will trap moisture and cause the peppers to begin to spoil too soon. If you do want to store the peppers in bags use paper ones that will not build up moisture.
If you don’t want to store the peppers whole you can remove the stalk and seeds, cut them up and put them in airtight containers. Then put them into the refrigerator.
Green peppers will last longer than red, yellow or orange peppers as they are at the beginning of the ripening process. If you have the room, lay them out in a single layer and avoid stacking the peppers on top of each other as this can cause damage and spoil.
If you are growing small hot peppers you can dry these whole but larger, bell peppers should be sliced before being dried. For this process you can use a dehydrator or an oven at a low temperature. The dehydrator is purpose built and will give you quicker results.
For retaining the color of the peppers while drying them you can blanch them in boiling water for a minute. Then plunge them directly into cold water. This preserves their color. Dry them and then proceed with your chosen drying method.
It is also possible to dry your peppers by air drying. This involves hanging them where there is good air flow for several days or even weeks. In hotter climates it is possible to sun dry the peppers by laying them out in the sunshine.
Slicing the peppers or even cutting a slit into them will significantly speed up the dehydrating process. You can use your dried peppers in cooking, but they are also sometimes used for ornamental purposes.
Some people hang strands of dried peppers in their kitchens.
Once the peppers have been dried they can be stored in jars, airtight containers or resealable bags. They should be kept out of direct sunlight and away from any sources of moisture. Some people freeze their dried peppers, but this is not really necessary.
Dried peppers will last for years if dried and stored properly. The only thing you need to worry about is moisture.
Some people confuse canning with pickling when it comes to preserving vegetables, but they are different methods. Pickled vegetables use an acid or fermentation with the intention of prolonging its shelf life.
Canning is the use of containers to preserve vegetables. That said, a lot of pickled food is canned but not all canned food is pickled. For example, jellies and jams are canned, but they are not pickled.
It is typically necessary to follow a recipe when pickling vegetables and peppers are no different. The two types of pickling are with the use of a pickling vinegar and lacto-fermentation which uses water and salt to achieve a beneficial bacterial transformation.
When pickling in vinegar the process involves using an acetic acid to preserve the peppers flavor, but it also adds a sharp, sour tang to the vegetables.
It is possible to pickle raw peppers, but many people prefer to cook the peppers first. You can either saute them and then add them to the sanitized jars with the pickling mixture. Or cook them in the pickling mixture and add them to the jars once softened.
After the jars are sealed you can keep them for months unopened in the refrigerator. If you are frequently opening the jar to use the peppers they will last for around a month.
Pickled peppers are great for putting in a salsa, adding to burritos or tacos or as a pizza topping.
For storing your peppers from the garden long term the best option is canning. This method uses heat and pressure to seal the peppers into the jars. This has the advantage of killing off any potentially harmful bacteria.
Most peppers can be canned including bell peppers and hot peppers. When selecting peppers for canning choose only the freshest and firmest produce. Soft or limp peppers will not yield good canning results.
First you need to wash the peppers. Then, for hot peppers put them on a baking sheet in the oven for 5–10 minutes. This blisters the skin and allows you to remove it easily.
Make sure you char them evenly which means you will have to turn them over and blister each side.
Put them in a plastic bag while hot and leave for a few minutes. Then remove from the bag and peel off the skin. Scrape out the seeds and cut off the ends. Remember to wear gloves for this process to protect your hands.
Sweet peppers don’t need to have their skins removed. They can simply be chopped up and boiled for a few minutes to soften. Then they can be transferred to jars, leaving an inch of space at the top.
Add the lids and rings and put them in a pressure canner for around half an hour. The peppers will last for 12 months in storage and will even be edible after that time. However, their quality will lessen as time goes on.
Perhaps the easiest way to preserve peppers long term is to freeze them. While not everyone has a pressure canner or the patience to can the traditional way, everyone has a freezer.
Before freezing, clean the peppers and then remove the stalk. Cut the top off and remove the seeds, chop the pepper into cubes or cut into slices. Put the pieces on a baking sheet and then pop into the freezer for an hour to flash freeze them.
Make sure the pieces are not touching on the baking sheet. Once frozen, take the peppers out of the freezer and put them into freezer bags. Remove as much air as possible from the bag and then return them to the freezer.
It is possible to freeze sweet peppers whole. This is useful if you want to store the peppers for stuffing and roasting at a future date. They will not be as crunchy and will be softer than a freshly stuffed pepper.
Simply remove the top, de-seed and then replace the top of the pepper. Wrap them in plastic wrap that is freezer safe and put them into freezer bags. Frozen peppers will last up to six months.
You can keep chopped peppers in the freezer indefinitely as long as they remain frozen and don’t thaw out. Don’t forget that like any other food frozen peppers will lose some of their flavor after being frozen for months at a time.
How To Use Preserved Peppers
Once you have chosen your preferred preservation and storage method for your peppers you will have a ready supply for the coming weeks or months.
Bell or sweet peppers can be used to add to stews, soups, pizzas, tacos or burritos. They can also be used as an addition to a salad, rice or pasta dish.
As well as adding the preserved peppers to dishes you can create spices for your kitchen from them too. Crushed red pepper flakes are a great addition to your spice rack and are really easy to make. In fact there is only one ingredient, dried peppers.
However you will need some equipment such as a mini food chopper, food processor or a manual chopper. It is advisable to wear food prep gloves and a dust mask may also be a good idea.
To make one cup of red pepper flakes you will need around 50 dried cayenne peppers. Naturally, the larger the peppers the more crushed flakes you will get. But remember even if you only end up with a small batch, most dishes only require a little of this spice.
To store the crushed pepper flakes put them in a spice jar or large pepper shaker.
Of course, you don’t need to store all your peppers in the same way. If you are new to preserving vegetables maybe give each method a try and see which one works out the best for you and your needs.
Different dishes and recipes will benefit from variously preserved peppers, so you will be covering every culinary eventuality. This also frees up space in your freezer, larder or refrigerator.
We hope that you have enjoyed our guide to storing peppers from the garden.
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