peppers

Preserving Peppers: Without Canning

Some people who have been canning peppers and other vegetables for years, might be looking for a new methodology on how to preserve peppers without canning. Others, who simply aren’t fans of the canning process, might want something easier to preserve their harvest year-round. Regardless of which of these two extremes you fall between, there are alternatives to the canning process, which is lengthy. If you’re considering alternatives to canning, these are some of the ways in which you can preserve your pepper harvest, and still enjoy that great flavor several months later.

Preservation Options

There are several options for preserving peppers including

  • Canning
  • Pickling
  • Freezing
  • Dehydrating
  • Vinegar

Furthermore, some people choose to make jellies or jams. Since we’re eliminating the first option, canning the peppers, let’s look at some of the other methods in which you can preserve your pepper harvest this upcoming season.

Freezing Peppers

One of the easiest ways to preserve peppers without having to can them, is by freezing them. This is a method people utilize regularly, for various foods which they can’t consume quickly enough, or by the expiration date. It’s important to note, however, that by freezing peppers, you are preserving them for their flavor. They are not going to maintain the same texture once you remove them from the freezer. So, if you are considering this method, make sure you are going to use the peppers for different purposes, which don’t require them to possess their original texture for food preparation.

You can freeze peppers which are already roasted and you can also freeze raw peppers for preservation. The peppers will typically maintain the same flavor profile for 8 or 9 months; however, they are going to be mushy once you thaw them for use. Therefore, consider using frozen preserved peppers in dishes where you’ll dice or roast the peppers, rather than consume them raw.

To freeze the peppers for preservation you will

  • Wash and cut the peppers
  • Remove the seeds from the inside
  • Freeze the peppers on a cooking sheet or flat surface

Once frozen, transfer the frozen peppers into an airtight container. It is easier to freeze them on an open, flat surface first, as they’ll freeze evenly and completely. Alternatively, you can place them in waterproof bags or Ziploc bags for preservation. Make sure you remove all air from the container or bags you freeze them in. This will help avoid frostbite, and will also help ensure the peppers are properly preserved when you’re ready to take them out of the freezer and consume them.

Unlike other vegetables, you don’t have to blanch the peppers in a bath of vinegar or other liquid solution either. This makes the freezing process error free, quick, and simple. It’s a one-step process, and depending on how many peppers you plan on freezing, it shouldn’t take more than a few hours to complete the entire process.

Preserve Peppers in Oil

Although some people don’t really like this method, it is possible to preserve peppers for some time in an oil solution. They don’t last as long as other preservation methods, but you can stretch it out a few weeks to months, to enjoy their flavor for a short period of time, while they aren’t in growth season. You’ll start by

  • Roasting the peppers until they begin to blacken
  • Remove the skins from the peppers
  • Place them in a sterile jar or bowl
  • Cover the peppers with pure olive oil

Again, this isn’t a long-term preservation method. However, it will extend the life of your peppers for several weeks, or up to a few months. Where you store them, the temperature, and surrounding conditions, will play a role as to how long you can safely preserve peppers which you place in an olive oil solution.

Drying Peppers

Red pepper

A second option for preserving peppers when they’re not in season, without having to can them, is to dry them. Doing this allows you to later pulverize the peppers to make a powder or seasoning, or you can simply use them for cooking purposes in the dried state. Although you don’t need equipment to dry peppers, the use of a dehydrator will greatly speed up the process. Conversely, you can place them in the oven to dry them faster than simply allowing them to sit out in a dry, warm location.

When drying peppers in the dehydrator or the oven you should

  • Remove seeds and membranes from the peppers
  • Cut them into strips or squares for faster results
  • Keep the oven at a low temperature; in a dehydrator, choose a 140 degree F or lower temperature (this will help preventing from burning the peppers)
  • This process will take 4 to 12 hours to complete

Depending on what type of pepper, or if you are dehydrating chilis, the process can take more/less time to complete. Similarly to when you freeze the peppers, you can check on them in the oven or dehydrator every hour or so, to see how far along they are in the process.

A second alternative to drying peppers, is to let them sit in the hot sun for several hours. If you don’t have a dehydrator or don’t want to place them in the oven to dehydrate them, this should suffice. With this option, you’re also going to remove all seeds and membranes from the peppers. You should also cut them into squares or strips to help evenly dry the pepper throughout. You’ll leave the peppers outside on a mesh or wire tray for several days. Remember, you’re working with conditions between 85 to 90 degrees F in most regions on hot days. So, this will take a little longer than it would in the oven or in a dehydrator to complete. Typically, 2 or 3 days (afternoons) should be enough for the peppers to fully dry out if you are doing this outside. At this point, simply bring them inside to allow them to cool, while leaving the peppers on the wire or mesh tray.

Pickle the Peppers

Another alternative for preserving peppers is to pickle them. No, you don’t have to can them in order to pickle them, the processes are not one in the same. You can take a bowl, and let the peppers sit in a vinegar bath for several hours. When pickling peppers you will

  • Place them peppers in a bowl
  • Pour the vinegar, warm water, sugar solution on top to fully immerse the peppers in a bath
  • You can also add seasonings including dill, thyme, and others of your choosing (this will help add flavor)
  • Let the peppers soak in the bath for several hours

It’s best to let the peppers sit in the pickled vinegar solution overnight, at a minimum. The longer it sits in the liquid bath, the more the flavors are going to immerse into the peppers, and the easier it is going to be to preserve them for an extended period of time. You’re basically creating a marinade pepper bath with this process.

In some cases, you can let the peppers sit in the vinegar marinade for up to 12 months safely. Depending on the temperature of your refrigerator, how you cover the peppers, if you choose to put them in a jar or can (minus the lengthy canning process), or leave them in tupperware or a plastic bag, are some of the different factors which will dictate how long you can store the peppers safely.

Candied Peppers, Jellies, Jams, or Creating Powder/Seasoning with the Peppers

You can always make the peppers into candied peppers, jelly, or jam. If you’ve ever bought a jar of pepper jelly, you’ve probably noticed that the expiration or “best by” date, is several years into the future. The reason for this, is the inclusion of preservatives and other ingredients, which helps to extend the life of the peppers which are used to make these products.

If you do choose this process, it is ultimately going to require some form of canning. Alternatively, you can make the peppers into a powder or seasoning. To do this, you would simply utilize the dehydration or drying method, and you would pulverize the peppers once they were completely dried out. The length of this process would vary based upon where you chose to dry the peppers, and the types of seasoning or powders, and other ingredients you are adding, would be used in the process.

You Have Options

As you can see, the canning process is not the only way for you to go about preserving peppers, or other vegetables (and foods) for that matter. Canning is not for everyone. It is a lengthy process, it takes practice to become good at it, and it requires patience, which many people simply don’t have, or just don’t want to go through the entire process.

Depending on how long you want to preserve the peppers for, and how you want to consume them, there are a handful of options available to you for preserving. Try out a few of these to see which works best for you. Not only will you have different ways to enjoy your favorite peppers, but you can extend their shelf-life by several months (up to a year in some cases), by preserving them in various forms.

Be sure to check out our guide on why your canning jars may not pop!

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