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Colorful Peppers

Posted: July 23, 2012

Red, green, yellow—even purple and orange. Peppers make a colorful medley. The most common peppers are the mild, sweet, thick fleshed bell pepper; the even milder pimiento pepper; and the hotter chili and jalapeno peppers. Some gardeners include the much hotter serrano, cayenne and habenero among their favorites. Peppers may be frozen, canned, dried, pickled, marinated or made into relishes, jams or jellies.

Freezing Peppers

Bell and other sweet peppers can be frozen blanched or raw. Blanched peppers are good for use in cooking. To blanch peppers, cut washed and seeded peppers into ½ inch strips or rings and blanch for 2 minutes. Blanch halves for 3 minutes. Cool quickly, drain, and package with ½ inch headspace. Peppers frozen without blanching are good to use in uncooked foods because they have a crisper texture. They can also be used in cooked food. Raw frozen peppers may be chopped or sliced and need no headspace.

Whole hot peppers can be frozen raw after they are washed and stems are removed. Be cautious when handling hot peppers. Wear plastic gloves and wash hands thoroughly with soap and water before touching your face.

Canning Peppers

How are skins removed from peppers? Small peppers may be left whole. Cut large peppers into quarters and remove cores and seeds. Slash two or four slits in each pepper and place in a hot oven (400°F) or under the broiler for 6 to 8 minutes until skins blister. Cool peppers in water and slip off skins. Flatten small whole peppers before canning.

Must canned peppers be processed in the pressure canner? Peppers are a low acid food. Preserving peppers without the addition of large amounts of vinegar as in pickling requires that they be processed in the pressure canner. Process half-pints and pints for 35 minutes at 11 pounds pressure in a dial gauge canner or 10 pounds pressure in a weighted gauge canner at altitudes under 2000 feet.

How can whole peppers be prevented from floating to the top of the jar? Slit whole peppers which will allow air inside the pepper to escape.

Marinated or Pickled Peppers

Marinated peppers are normally made with sweet red, yellow and green peppers. Note that marinated peppers are canned in an oil-vinegar solution. Because the oil in a closed jar at room temperature is a good host for dangerous bacteria, additional acidity must be provided. The USDA recipe adds bottled lemon juice as well as vinegar. It is also necessary to make sure the oil/pickling solution is well mixed and evenly distributed among the jars.

One variety of pepper can be substituted for another in a pickle or relish recipe. For a milder flavor bell peppers can be substituted for hot peppers. For safety, keep the total amount the same. It is safe to reduce the amount of a low acid vegetable such as pepper or onion in a recipe, but never add more in relation to the amount of pickling solution.

Drying Peppers

For drying bell-type peppers and pimientos, select fresh, firm well-shaped bright colored peppers with thick walls. Wash, stem and core. Remove partitions and membranes. Peppers may be cut into 3/8 inch pieces or cut into ¼ to 3/8 inch slices. Blanching is not needed. Place on dryer trays. Small pieces will need to be placed on a mesh liner to prevent falling through the tray. Start dryer at 140°F for 2 hours and then decrease temperature to 130°F until dry. They are dry when they are tough to brittle. Cool. Store in an airtight container in a dark, cool place. Exposure to light causes peppers to fade quickly. Dried peppers stored in the refrigerator or freezer will retain their color best.

Diced chili peppers dry faster than whole ones resulting in better color and aroma. Chilies can be dried whole if conditions are dry and warm enough and the environment is free of insects. Dried whole chilies should appear shriveled and dark red and feel crisp. Remember to wear gloves when preparing hot peppers for drying.

The skins of large pieces of rehydrated peppers tend to be tough. Reduce this problem by chopping or grinding peppers to a powder in a blender. Use to season stews, soups and other dishes, or mix into sour cream for a dip. Combining several varieties of peppers, onions and spices makes a tasty seasoning mix. Hot varieties of whole pods that have been blended to a powder make cayenne pepper or chili powder.

Additional information and recipes on preserving peppers is available in the fact sheet “Let’s Preserve Peppers”.