Safety note: Whenever handling hot peppers, always wear disposable plastic gloves. Always. And wash hands thoroughly with soap and hot water after taking the gloves off.
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 Sri Racha and chili powder.)
The Multi-purpose Vegetable
Is there anything better than fresh salsa from the garden? That’s the main reason we want to grow 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.
But using up 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 length-wise and take the seeds out. Dry them 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.
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 your garden paprikas. 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.
Caution: If you inhale the powder as you’re grinding the peppers, the fine powder will give you a burning cough for quite some time. So, in addition to wearing gloves, protect your your nose and mouth with a mask or a kerchief when grinding peppers.
How often do you open up 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, the home canned peppers are a hundred times tastier than store-bought and they are so, SO easy to do. I can them in 1/2 cup jelly jars, the smallest jars you can buy.
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 I usually make a whole gallon of it. Seriously. Every fall I make enough sriracha to fill two 1/2-gallon jars. They’ll last all year in the refrigerator. Here’s the recipe.
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 Habañero 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 so we can have Chili Relleños. 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 the first batch of Chili Relleños. (Recipe here.) 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.
So there you are. A half dozen ways to use and preserve peppers so you can enjoy them all year long.