If you’re looking to learn how to preserve peppers and you’re even just a little bit lazy about food preservation, we’ve got a few methods you’re going to love. Plus, you’ll find our recipe for a sizzlin’ hot pepper Margarita!
This year we’ve got a bumper crop of Hot Pegasus peppers, tomatillo, jalapeno, and a tiny little fiery red one whose name I can’t recall. But, there’s only so many of these spirited fruits that we can eat fresh-picked, so putting them up is key to maximizing our bounty.
Here’s how we’re doing it.
#1: Dried Hanging Hotties
Rather than reach for a bottle of red pepper flakes during winter, wouldn’t you rather grab a dried pepper you harvested from your garden or purchased at the farmer’s market when they were in season? Each autumn, we plop down about $15-$20 at the farmer’s market for a pre-tied decorative bundle of colorful, edible peppers.
Sure, we could bundle, band and tie them ourselves, but for the price and variety our local growers offer, it’s worth buying their offerings.
We’re fortunate to have an Excalibur dehydrator, from which the trays can be removed. Leaving only the top tray in place, we tie the bundle to hang in the dehydrator, fire up the machine, and allow it to run until the peppers are fully dried. Check it out! Or buy one of your own via our Amazon Affiliate link:
On occasion, we’ll line dehydrator trays with hot peppers from our garden. When they’re dried, these are stored in sealed mason jars in our pantry.
#2: Charred & Frozen Burners
In the dead of winter, there’s nothing quite like a hot pepper to warm you up. Whether you’re craving hot chili for Super Bowl Sunday or stuffed peppers on your first snow day, putting up goodies now means you can whip up these meals in a snap — right out of your deep freeze.
When peppers are at their late summer peak, we harvest, clean and then char them on the grill using a vegetable grilling basket. Over hot coals or a sizzling gas grill, roast all sides of each pepper until it is well charred all over.
If you intend to peel and stuff your roasted peppers, place each one into a tightly sealed container when it comes off the grill. Before it cools all the way, remove the charred outer skin. Doing it while the pepper is still warm is easier than once it cools. Also slice and remove the inner seeds if you wish. Many dishes, such as Chili Relleno will suggest keeping the stem intact on the pepper. For us, if the stem makes it, great. If it doesn’t, who cares. We aren’t going to eat that part anyway.
If your roasted peppers are destined for stew, soup or chili, peeling probably isn’t necessary. The peels will either melt in the cooking pot or float to the top where you can skim them off. If your peppers are particularly hot, you may want to remove the stem end and the interior seeds before freezing.
Once your peppers are roasted and prepped for their future meal making, line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. (The lining will make it easier to take them off the tray once they’re frozen.) Then, place the peppers on the lined tray. Different kinds of peppers can go on the tray, but try to keep like kinds together for future sorting.
Place the tray into your freezer for about 6 hours or overnight.
Once the peppers are frozen hard, place them in freezer bags or freeze-proof glass jars. Sort them ahead of time for how you’ll use them later. So, for instance, if you plan to make a few batches of Chili Verde, you may make up a few jars filled with jalapeno, tomatillo and poblano. If you intend to stuff big peppers for a fancy meal, don’t mix those with a bunch of other small peppers. Fortunately, by pre-freezing and then placing your peppers into storage containers, it’ll be easy to sort through them when the time comes to make that lip-burning pot of goodness on a frigid winter day.
#3: Hot ‘n Spicy Hooch
If you enjoy a spicy Bloody Mary or a Fiery Margarita, try infusing vodka or tequila with several hot peppers. Begin by choosing which booze you want to infuse; or heck, do a jar of each kind. We tend to go for a middle shelf brand for making these infused bottles of mixing booze.
Pick and wash several hot peppers, such as jalapeno or Hot Pegasus. Remove the stem, slice each in half lengthwise, remove the mid-rib and seeds. (Remember: leaving in seeds will make your infusion extra hot.)
Add about 4-8 cleaned peppers to a quart mason jar. Fill with vodka or tequila. Screw on the top. Set in the fridge. Allow to steep for 2-4 weeks. Start taste testing after about one week and allow the peppers to continue steeping in the booze until your preferred level of heat is achieved. (We found four weeks to be just enough time to get the right amount of heat into our latest batch of infused tequila, but remember that everyone has a different level of heat tolerance, different peppers & peppers at different times of the season may infuse more or less heat.)
Strain out the peppers and discard. Place finished booze back into fridge or freezer to store until you use it up.
When you’re ready to whip up a batch (and you’re of legal drinking age), try your infused tequila in our Fiery Margarita recipe. This shaker will put your infusion mason jars to work on your cocktails, plus, aren’t they cute?
(makes 2 margaritas)
- 3 shots pepper infused tequila
- 1 shot Grand Marnier (if you prefer a very sweet drink, increase amount to taste)
- juice of one lemon
- juice of one lime
- club soda (optional)
- margarita salt (optional)
Salt rims of two short rocks glasses, if you want salt. Fill glasses with ice. Set aside.
Add ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until you can’t hold that frosty shaker anymore. Pour equal amounts into rocks glasses. Taste. Top with a splash of club soda or additional Grand Marnier to taste; each may mellow the heat of your infused tequila.