Every year I plant peppers. A lot of peppers. At least six varieties of peppers, two to four plants of each variety. This year it’s Jalapeno and Serrano for salsa and canned peppers, Banana and Hungarian Wax\ for Chili Rellenos and pickled peppers, Paprika and Cayenne for powder, and Death Spiral for super, super hot Sriracha and chili powder.
The Multi-purpose Vegetable
Is there anything better than fresh salsa from the garden? That’s the main reason we grow tomatoes and peppers, right? After making fresh salsa, it’s time to can a batch or two of salsa for later this winter. In our house, we need at least two batches each of Tomato Salsa and Salsa Verde to get us through to next year.
But using up your garden peppers goes far beyond just salsa. Here are some other ways I like to preserve our peppers:
Dried and powdered
Slice the Cayenne and Paprika peppers in half lengthwise and take the seeds out. Dry the sliced and seeded peppers in a warm oven, (100°-150° F, or a food dehydrator until they are crispy dry. Depending on the size of the pepper pieces, this could take as little as two hours, but more likely will take 6-8 hours.
Once the peppers are dry, put them into the blender or a coffee grinder and blend them up into powder. There will be bigger pieces of skin that don’t grind up so quickly, so sift them out. If you want to, you can blend the bigger flakes some more, but there will always be some that simply will never reach a powder consistency. You can use them as pepper flakes or just toss them.
Now do a smell test. Pull out the paprika powder you bought at the store and take a sniff. Then smell the powder you just made with paprikas from your garden. Wow! The layers of aroma are so complex and colorful, there is no comparison. You will never again buy cayenne or paprika powder at the store.
How often do you open a can of chopped jalapeños to use in a recipe? Imagine how much better that recipe will taste with a jar of your own home-canned peppers. Trust me, home canned peppers are a hundred times tastier than store-bought, and they are so very easy to do. I can them in 1/2 cup jelly jars, the perfect size for most recipes.
Because peppers are low acid you must pressure can them, but it only takes 35 minutes of processing time.
Pickled peppers are another family favorite. Since these are pickled, you don’t need to pressure can them. A simple water bath process will work fine. And again, so quick and easy to do.
I also like to add a couple slices of pepper—Cayenne, Jalapeno or Hungarian Wax—to my fermented veggies. It adds a nice kick and another layer of flavor.
Commercial sriracha has become quite popular, but you don’t know sriracha until you’ve had homemade. It is our family’s favorite and every fall I make a whole gallon of it. They’ll last all year in the refrigerator.
The cool thing is you can customize your sriracha to suit your taste. Use a variety of peppers for a more complex flavor. Add super-hot peppers, like Carolina Reaper, Death Spiral or Habanero to make a fiery hot sriracha. You can roast the peppers for a smoky hot flavor. There’s a whole variety of flavors to draw out of your sriracha.
I grow at least two or three plants of Hungarian Wax or Banana peppers just so we can have Chili Rellenos. But really, any pepper that has a nice large cavity, like Poblano or Anaheim, will do. The Banana pepper is good for those that don’t want much heat.
Everyone in the family anxiously waits for the first batch of Chili Relleños. These tasty and filling peppers make up the core of many of our summer meals. They take a little time to prepare, but the results are a mouth-watering yumminess that will leave everyone asking for more.
[Insert picture: chili rellenos] [Caption: Serve chili relleños with some garden tomatoes for a perfect summer meal. Credit: Charlene Nelson]
So, there you are. A half dozen ways to use and preserve peppers so you can enjoy them all year long.