If you have a vegetable garden at home, you are sure to have one or more varieties of pepper plants growing among the other plants. You use them in most of your recipes in the growing season but can’t have enough of them throughout the year, right?
Well, that’s because peppers, especially chilli peppers, have a very short harvest time here in the UK and hence you won’t be able to pick the freshly grown ones anytime you want.
So what’s the best way to use your homegrown peppers throughout the rest of the seasons?
Well, you have to preserve them.
But is it possible to preserve the freshness of the vegetables and herbs for such a long time? Or should you dry them completely to use in your cooking? Or, is there any alternative way to preserve peppers other than drying all of them?
Well, to help you know it all, here in this article we will discuss the four ways to preserve peppers at home.
Table of Contents
1. Dry Chilli Peppers
Drying chilli peppers is one of the easiest ways to preserve them longer without affecting the taste and nutrition. You can use dry peppers in multiple forms such as whole peppers, roasted red peppers, chilli flakes, and chilli powder. As green chillies ripen, they tend to become red in colour and when your peppers will be completely dry, all of them will turn into dried red peppers.
Among all peppers, chillies have the thinnest walls, which make them dry easily than bell peppers and other variations. Generally, there are three methods you can try to dry peppers at home. Here are the methods explained so you can start right away!
a) Oven Method
If you use a fan oven, the process of drying chili peppers will take around 6 hours on the lowest setting. To start with, place the fresh whole chillies in a baking tray and then place your baking tray at the centre of the oven. Then, set the heat to 100 degrees Celsius and wait for 6 hours or until the chillies are completely dry. To check the dryness, take one chilli and see if it crumbles easily between your fingers. When done, you can store the dry chillies in an airtight container.
We wrote an extensive article that shows you exactly how to dry chillies in the oven. Read it to find out more
b) Dehydrator Method
The fastest way to dry chilli peppers at home is using a food dehydrator. It is designed with a fan and a heating source, which make the air circulate inside while vegetables dry. If you have a vegetable garden at home, a dehydrator can be a great inclusion for extending the life of your fruits and vegetables. It is important to choose the fresh chillies for this method and then place them on the drying grids of your dehydrator. There should be some gap between the two peppers so that the air circulates well around each pepper. Once done, your dried peppers are ready to store and use.
c) Natural Method
This is an organic process but the longest one. For this method, you need to pick the fresh whole chillies and then place them in a flat large tray. You should keep the chillies in a warm place for at least two to three weeks to let them dry naturally. This method is also known as air drying, which demands low humidity and good ventilation. An ideal place for air drying chillies could be a polytunnel with proper ventilation. Air drying chillies is a very common method in warmer countries but here in the UK, it is the most challenging one due to excess humidity and lack of heat.
2. Freeze Peppers
Freezing peppers is very simple and it effectively preserves the freshness and crunchiness of peppers, especially bell peppers and habanero that have thick walls. Frozen peppers don’t require blanching or boiling so you can just clean them nicely, dry them at room temperature and then keep them in a freezer bag or a paper bag to store in the fridge. Make sure you choose only fresh peppers for freezing and remove the seeds well when you want to freeze chopped peppers to use them in stir fries and other quick recipes.
Store in a Separate Compartment
If you are freezing chilli peppers, you need to keep them in a separate compartment in your freezer for about 24 hours to make sure they are fully frozen. Then, you need to take them out, store them in a zip lock freezer bag or a paper bag and put them back in the freezer. It will help you retain the freshness of chillies for a long time.
Want to find out how to overwinter your chilli plants? Read this article we wrote to find out more.
3. Make Chilli Oil
This is a really simple method when you want to retain the heat of the chillies in oil. The best way you can prepare chilli oil is by using roasted peppers. Wash the chillies in cold water and slice them nicely. You can also keep whole chillies if their sizes are too small. Depending upon how much spicy you want your chilli oil to be, you can either keep the seeds or remove them. Then, cook the chillies evenly by roasting them under the grill on a baking tray.
So how can you preserve it?
You need to select the best oil for preserving and we recommend using olive oil. For preserving, mason jars or canning jars are some good options. Once the chillies are roasted, place them on the jar first and then cover them completely with olive oil. Seal the jar and store your chilli oil in a cool, dark place.
4. Make Pickles with Peppers
You can make some amazing pickles using peppers at home. Pickled peppers make the best condiment with burgers, hotdogs, fried chicken or anything that you would want to spice up a bit. Or, if you don’t want a spicy pickle, you can use sweet peppers or green peppers in the recipe instead of hot peppers.
The first step to making pickles using peppers is to give them a water bath. Using warm water or salty water is a better option as it helps to remove the dirt completely from the peppers. Then, you need to start preparing the brine or pickling juice. Though there are many options for the brine, white wine, cider vinegar, garlic and sugar make the best combination. Also, you can add spices depending upon your taste and preference.
Before mixing the peppers with the brine, make sure you dig small holes using a toothpick on top of them so that you get oil stuffed peppers when the pickle is ready. Finally, put the peppers, a few garlic cloves and pickling salt inside the storing jar and cover them completely with the brine. Before sealing the jar, make sure everything inside is completely cold. Once stored properly, your pickled peppers will be ready within two to three weeks. Pickled peppers will last for two to three months if you store them in a pressure canned jar inside the refrigerator.
Other Related Questions
Can I freeze fresh chillies from the plant?
Yes, you can absolutely freeze fresh chillies from the plant if you want to preserve them for a few more days. In fact, freezing is the best option for preserving peppers as it retains the maximum nutrition calories and freshness. You can freeze both hot and sweet peppers in the freezer after you’re done with pepper harvest. Sweet bell peppers are quite easy to store in the freezer because they last longer than hot peppers. If you are freezing sweet pepper, storing them as such will be a better option than chopping them.
How long will fresh chillies last?
It depends upon how well you preserve fresh chillies in the freezer. If you follow the method explained above, you can store fresh chillies for up to seven days in the freezer. However, if you want to preserve after cutting hot peppers, the shelf life will decrease a lot. Chopped or sliced chillies won’t last for more than two to three days in the freezer even if you follow the best method to store them.
How long will dried red chillies last?
If you follow the above method of drying chillies, you can be sure that the preserved peppers will last for three to six months. Dry chillies last longer than any other forms because there is no moisture in them, which usually works as a rotting agent. The best way to store dry chillies at home will be to pack them in an airtight container and preserve them in a cupboard or the freezer. Dry chillies can last for a year when you pack them in an airtight container and keep in the freezer. When dry chillies go bad, you can see fungus or mould on their body. It is recommended not to use them if you see such toxic elements.
Which oil is the best for chilli pickles?
Though there are several edible oils available today that you can use for pickles, olive oil is the healthiest option. Olive oil adds the right amount of flavour to the pickle while balancing the hotness of peppers.
You can alternatively use sesame oil for chilli pickles, which can add a lot of flavours while providing a host of health benefits. Moreover, sesame oil can help you preserve the pickle for a long time without adding any preservatives.
So, the answer to this question is sesame oil when it comes to both taste and health. Or, if you want to focus more on the health aspect, simply go for olive oil.
How long should I smoke chillies?
For some recipes, you would need to smoke dry chillies to add that punch of heat and flavour. Now how long you should smoke them depends upon whether you are using a smoker or an oven. For both the appliances, the temperature for smoking shouldn’t be more than 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Smoking them for two hours in the smoker or three hours in the oven should make them ready.
How can I handle hot peppers?
The best way of handling hot peppers is by wearing a pair of latex gloves while cleaning and processing them. You need to wear gloves because right after you remove the seeds from chillies, there are chances of a burning feeling and that should be avoided. In case you forgot to wear gloves and are facing irritation, there are solutions to it. Olive oil, hand wash, dishwasher, whole milk, yoghurt, baking soda paste and alcohol are some great agents that will help neutralise the hotness of peppers on your hands.
Want to find out the 15 hottest chilli peppers in the world in 2021? Read this article to find out more.