Preserving Peppers

A sample of peppers I grew this year.

Three bushels of peppers picked in the last 3 weeks. We are eating plenty of peppers, but still…  Something MUST be done. I have used several techniques to preserve them. Peppers are still available at farmers’ market and you may have had a good harvest before the frost too. So here is what I do to preserve my peppers: drying, freezing and several ways to pickle, including hot chunky sauce.

Hot peppers

Hot pepper flakes: dry peppers whole (just leave by the wood stove or a radiator or other warm place). Once dry discard stem ends, grind peppers  through the blender or food processor to make pepper flakes.

Hot chunky sauce, with lots of ginger. Recipe here

Sweet Peppers

They all get seeded, chopped, bagged and frozen in labeled bags. No need to blanch. I won’t be able to use them fresh as they’ll be mushy once defrosted. But they can be used in cooking – soffritos, soups, pasta sauce, chilis, gumbos, daubes and other slow-cooked stews and braises. No need to defrost them either. Break off the amount you need and cook (or – to avoid clumping – you can spread the chopped pieces on a cookie sheet that goes in the freezer; once frozen bag them.  I find them easy enough to break off so I don’t bother, but I do label and date.

– long skinny ones liked Lombardo (center in the pix above): pickled. Recipe for pickle peppers below.

Pickled Frigitello peppers with garlic and fresh bay

– Red bell and Sweet Italians get turned into puree and paste. Both are wonderful to enrich any soup (but especially tomato), stews (meat or fish) and braised dishes. Or add some to cream for a great pasta sauce. Or smear some on pizza dough.  Mix a little into mayonnaise. Add some olive oil and turn into a dip… lots of things can be done. Paste is cooked down puree. It’s basically the same as making tomato paste.

Red pepper paste (conserva di peperoni) ready to be spooned out in jars

– Peppers are roasted or “poached” in olive oil, i.e. simmered for 45 minutes to an hour, sometimes with a few herbs. They are then packed in a jar and thoroughly covered with oil, and refrigerated for up to 2 weeks. Otherwise frozen in bags or freezer-proof jars, with or without their cooking oil. Ready side dish and great for pasta or pizza (or quiches, stratas and other casseroles)

– Bell peppers of any kinds – as long as they have thick wall and fairly thin skin, get roasted, bathed in vinegar and then canned (recipe below). There is also a very interesting method here from Hank Shaw of Hunter Angler Gardener Cook. I canned a couple of jars using his method. The rest I used Marinated Pepper recipe (with some changes) from the USDA which I have been using in the past.

Make sure to use mature peppers for either of those 2 recipes. Ripe peppers are yellow, orange, red, etc depending on the cultivar. Unripe peppers are generally green. Nonetheless they should be big enough that they have had time to grow a thick wall and a skin, otherwise they will be impossible to peel . Immature peppers are best chopped for the freezer (or pickled whole)


  • Slim peppers, often called “pickling peppers”
  • Pickling mixture in the proportions of 5 cups vinegar (at 5% acidity), 1 cup water, a few whole spices of your choice, 4 teaspoons kosher or pickling salt, a dash, 2 tablespoons sugar. Adjust the quantities to fit how many peppers you have but respect the proportions.
  • Garlic (thinly sliced)
  1. Wash peppers. Remove stem end and seeds, while trying to keep their shape whole.
  2. Bring pickling mixture to boil. Drop in the peppers and simmer one minute or so to soften them (it makes them easier to pack in the jars)
  3. Pack your hot clean pint jars with peppers and a few slices of garlic. Cover with pickling mixture liquid, removing air bubbles. Leave the1/2 inch headspace, and process in a water-bath for 10 minutes. Adjust for altitude as needeed.



From USDA Canning Guide 6

In italics are my variation from the recipe

Yield: About 9 half-pints

  • 4 lbs firm bell peppers
  • 1 cup bottled lemon juice
  • 2 cups white vinegar (5%) or other 5% vinegar (I like cider as well as red wine)
  • 1 tbsp oregano leaves (or rosemary or thyme or 1 bay leaf per jar)
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onions
  • 2 cloves garlic, quartered (optional)
  • 2 tbsp prepared horseradish (optional)

Peppers may be left whole. Large peppers may be quartered. Wash, slash two to four slits in each pepper, and blanch in boiling water or blister skins on tough-skinned hot peppers using one of these two methods:

  • Oven or broiler method to blister skins – Place peppers in a hot oven (400°F) or under a broiler for 6 to 8 minutes until skins blister.
  • Range-top method to blister skins – Cover hot burner (either gas or electric) with heavy wire mesh. Place peppers on burner for several minutes until skins blister.
  • I use the oven method, leaving the peppers whole and unslashed.

After blistering skins, place peppers in a pan and cover with a damp cloth. (This will make peeling the peppers easier.) Cool several minutes; peel off skins. I put them in a bowl, cover with a towel and and a lid. You can wait much longer, until you can comfortable handle with your bare hands.
Flatten whole peppers. I remove the top and the seeds. That’s fairly tedious. Do not rinse the peppers as that would remove some of the good flavors you want.
Mix all remaining ingredients in a saucepan and heat to boiling. Place 1/4 garlic clove (optional) and 1/4 teaspoon salt in each hot half-pint jar or 1/2 teaspoon per pint. Depending on my mood (and the flavor profile I want), I may add a bay leaves, a few peppercorns or fennel seeds or cumin seeds too.
Add a little of the hot mixture to the jars. Fill hot jars with peppers. Add hot, well-mixed oil/pickling solution over peppers, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if needed. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened clean paper towel. Adjust lids and process 15 minutes for pints at 1000 ft or less.


3 thoughts on “Preserving Peppers”

  • In much of the south, southwest, & Mexico, no table is complete without a bottle of hot pepper sauce which is only hot peppers (usually tabasco peppers) in vinegar. You splash some of this pepper sauce on everything & gives everything a little kick. Most southerns use pepper vinegar in their greens to give them another layer of flavor.

    I had some Scotch Bonnet Peppers to do something with & remembered this favorite from my grandparents table and make myself up a batch. You just put your peppers in a jar (give em a fork poke or two) and fill the jar with your favorite vinegar. Let it sit a week or two depending on your peppers and start using it up. When the vinegar runs low, add more until the peppers refuse to give off anymore heat.

  • You are so right to remind us of vinegar hot sauce, Kim. I admit to throw a few slices of ginger in mine too. And of course, one can use various vinegar for a different flavor. White vinegar is sharp, apple cider more mellow… and rice vinegar even more so.
    Thanks for stopping by.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.