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Kitchen Gardening

5 Easy Ideas for Preserving Peppers

Get them while they're hot!

As soon as these Mariachi peppers turn bright red, they'll be roasted, peeled and placed in freezer bags to enjoy in recipes this winter.
Photo/Illustration: Jodi Torpey

I never met a chile pepper that I didn’t love, except for those Ghost Peppers that were too hot to eat. 

Every spring I add new pepper plants to my growing list of all-time favorites. In addtion to jalapeno peppers, my container vegetable garden isn’t complete without a coupe of Fresno plants, at least one Mariachi plant, some cherry bombs, Big Jims and the list goes on.

That means by the end of the season, I have a lot of chile peppers that are eaten raw, grilled and cooked into recipes. There are also pounds of peppers to preserve for winter. When working with peppers, always wear kitchen gloves and never ever touch your eyes with your hands.

Because different pepper varieties ripen at different times, I’ve had to create easy ways for preserving peppers in small batches. Here are five of the easiest ways to turn peppers into something special to enjoy long after the last plants stop producing.

1. Freeze them whole. Peppers, like jalapenos and Fresnos, can be placed in a freezer container whole and frozen. When it’s time to use them, remove one or more from the bag, rinse under water and the peppers are ready to chop for cooking. These peppers are less crisp than fresh peppers, but all the heat and flavor remains. I use these peppers for tossing into soups and stews or adding to scrambled eggs.

2. Candied jalapenos. The sweet and hot combination of candied jalapenos makes a terrific condiment. Pack a few ripe red peppers among the green for beautiful jars to give as gifts. 

3. Dried peppers. Cayenne and other red peppers make the best homemade spices once they’re allowed to dry. Pick peppers, wash and hang them or let them dry on a screen. When crispy-dry, grind them in a spice (or coffee) grinder to the consistency of choice from chile pepper flakes for pizzas to a finely-ground spice for adding a little zip to any dish.

4. Hot pepper sauce. Many kinds of peppers from small green sport peppers to Tabasco peppers can be turned into a pepper sauce. Sometimes peppers can be soaked in vinegar or cooked into a hot red sauce.

5. Pickled peppers. One of my favorite ways to preserve jalapenos is to slice, stuff them in a jar, and then cover them with a hot pickling brine. Toss in a few fresh garlic cloves for added flavor. When peppers are preserved like this, they can keep for months in the refrigerator. Use them for heat and flavor when making pressed sandwiches or as a great topping for nachos.

What easy ideas do you have for preserving your pepper harvest? Please add them here! 

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