There are many ways of preserving chilies after they have been harvested from your pepper plants. Pickling, drying, freezing, and canning are some of the typical methods used. If you have an abundance of peppers, you may consider using some of these techniques to prevent the hot peppers from going to waste.
Each preservation method has its own advantages and disadvantages. Some require more work than others. If you wish to keep your chilies for a long time, for example, you should choose canning as the preservation method.
Be sure to remove any bad peppers before using any of the methods mentioned.
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In the following article, I will discuss more in-depth each of the four ways of preserving chili peppers that I mentioned above. Personally, I only have experience with preserving various types of peppers by freezing them. The rest of the article is therefore based on online research.
Table of Contents
Pickling Chili Peppers
There are multiple ways to pickle your hot peppers, but we recommend using vinegar brine as it is the easiest method.
First, slice your chilies into two or more pieces. Consider wearing a pair of rubber gloves when handling the chilies.
Then boil the chili slices in water for a couple of minutes to soften them.
When the slices are softened up, transfer them into an ice bath to cool them down. Once cooled, you can put the pieces in a mason jar or a similar glass with a lid.
Then boil half amount of vinegar and half water to create the vinegar brine for about 2 minutes. You can flavor the brine with salt and sugar if needed.
Use white vinegar that has at least 5% acidity. At this high level of acidity, any pathogens, like, for example, botulism, will be killed off.
Pour the hot brine over the chili slices in the jar and cover the jar with a lid.
Put the jar in the fridge. It should keep up to several months.
Use the pickled peppers in any dish you wish.
Drying Chili Peppers
The idea behind the drying process of peppers is to remove all moisture from them. When there is no moisture present, then the peppers will keep for a very long time.
During the process of dehydrating chilies, you concentrate the flavor and heat.
To dry your hot peppers, you can use a food dehydrator, or you can leave them to air-dry in a warm, dry, and sunny place.
A food dehydrator produces a warm flow of air that will dry out the chilies in about 24 hours. Drying can be sped up by halving the chilies.
If you choose to air-dry the chilies, you can expect this to take two to three weeks. Also, take into account that not all peppers will be equally suited for air-drying. The hot pepper varieties with thick juicy skin have a higher probability of growing mold before they are finished drying than thin-skinned ones.
Once dried, the chilies can be stored in an airtight container.
When you want to use the dried peppers, you simply rehydrate them, or you can also grind them into powder. It is also possible to use them as an infusion in olive oil.
The dry peppers will rehydrate when they are cooked. So, you can easily add them to any soup or stew.
You can grind the dried peppers into powder using a coffee grinder or a food processor. Do make sure to protect yourself against the dust, as you don't want to inhale it.
Freezing Chili Peppers
You can freeze your fresh peppers whole or in part. Chilies can easily hold their flavor and heat. They also keep their color when frozen.
Once the chilies have been seeded, you can cut the halves into smaller pieces, as needed.
To freeze the peppers whole or as pieces, you simply need to put them in a plastic food container or a Ziploc bag and put them in your freezer.
There is no need to blanche the chilies before freezing.
When you need some chilies for your dishes, you can retrieve the food container or bag from the freezer. Take out the number of frozen peppers or parts that you need. You may let them thaw before you use them in a dish.
Please take into account that the crunchiness of the chilies tends to disappear when they have been frozen. Yet, they won't turn into mush either when thawing! Also, when the chilies are only partially defrosted, you can easily chop them into smaller pieces.
Given the loss of crispiness, you should consider using the chilies for meals that require them to be cooked down.
The well-known cook Jamie Oliver suggests that you can also grate frozen peppers. When grating them, you create "a tasty, beautiful chili dust" that can be used in all kinds of dishes.
Canning Chili Peppers
If you wish to keep your chili peppers for a really long time, canning is the best method.
First, you need to clean the canning jars and the lids that you'll use for canning. The jars can be washed in a dishwasher or just using warm water and soap. The covers, on the other hand, should only be cleaned using warm water and soap. Make sure the lids are looking good and do not contain any rust.
The next step is to sterilize the jars and lids using boiling water. Boil each of your jars in a large pot. Let them boil for about 10 minutes. Then drain the water. The covers can be sterilized by submerging them in boiling water for 2 minutes.
After the jars have been sterilized, you can fill them with vinegar that has a minimum acidity level of 5%. The vinegar should not be diluted, and there is also no need to heat it.
Now, you can add the peppers. Make sure that they are fully submerged in the vinegar. Then seal the jars by screwing the lids on them. Do not add any additional peppers in a jar where peppers have been there for a while. Also, do not add other vegetables or fruits.
The jars do not need to be kept in a fridge while being stored and unopened. You can leave them in any cool place like a pantry or an unheated basement. Make sure there is no direct sunlight that can reach the jars.
Opening and closing the jars may promote the growth of bacteria. So limit this as much as possible. You may need to use smaller jars to achieve this.
Let the peppers sit in the jars for a month before opening. Once opened after canning, the jars will need to be kept in a fridge.