Updated: Feb 16
For short-term storage, you can slice, dice, and freeze all kinds of raw peppers. However, if you want them to last and taste fresh until next year's crop is ready, blanching helps retain flavor and nutrients as active enzymes stop further breaking down the peppers under freezing conditions. Processing peppers immediately after picking them helps them keep the most nutrients and vitamin C. Due to great advertising, you may think of oranges as the king of the vitamin C world, but peppers have nearly three times the vitamin C as oranges. Yes, your bell peppers are healthier than an orange; all it takes is half a cup a day. Peppers easily fit into any meal plan on omelets, salads, stir-fries, pizzas, bean dishes, and noodle dishes like spaghetti and beef stroganoff, fajitas, taco meat seasoning, chili, stews, sandwiches, and casseroles. Yes, thawed frozen peppers aren't bad on a salad, and I cook them down for fajitas and Philly cheesesteaks anyway. I also blanch and freeze peppers to make jelly and some hot sauces in the winter when there is more time to focus on fun projects. Pepper jellies are delicious on sandwiches, chips, dips, tacos, and in chili.
Here is how I quickly blanch around 40-50 pounds of finished product a year to keep us in healthy vitamins and minerals all winter long in Kansas, where not a single orange tree grows. I freeze all kinds of peppers for whatever whim I may be thinking of over the winter. Be careful if you blanch hot peppers, as the capsaicin in the air can burn your eyes and nose.
Select how you would like to prepare your peppers. The cores, stems, and seeds need to be removed. Dice, slice, or halve your peppers before blanching. I prefer to dice most of mine because of the versatility of use in recipes and because I have a tool that speeds up the process.
This is a commercial chopper made in the USA by NEMCO. It was expensive, but it is a one-time purchase other than the occasional blade replacement if abused. This tool, has several different slicing and dicing attachments, and it saves me countless hours of labor every single year in the kitchen and makes perfect, beautifully chopped pieces. I use it for tomatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, chard and kale, potatoes, onions, making salsa in a jiffy, and dicing bread. I could not do what I do year after year without this tool as a time saver.
Dice, slice, or halve your peppers. You can also cut rings or slices, but I stick with the halves as they are faster and easier to handle when thawed. I slice the halves unto strips when needed.
Place a large stock pot on the stove. You want the largest pot holding at least a gallon or two of water. The goal is to heat the largest amount of water, so it stays hot and reheats quickly in between batches. I do this on an electric stove. Years of stove abuse has one broken burner with the thermostat stuck on, so it has become my favorite burner for fire roasting, water bath canning, and blanching. Use your largest BTU burner on your stove. If you don't know what burner that is, look it up! You need to know!
Prepare your water bath. This system of a sieve inside a larger container with ice water works best. It is quick and easy to remove the product without remaining ice chunks.
Blanch your peppers for 3-4 minutes. Because my batches aren't the same size, I wait until the water returns to a simmer. This ensures the bath has returned to boiling point.
Instead of using a slotted spoon or nest basket, I use a small sieve to quickly sweep up the peppers to toss into the water bath. It only takes a few scoops to catch them all. Test the size of your sieve in your pot to ensure good mobility inside the stock pot before you start. If the sieve is too big, you can't sweep the edges of the pot.
If you have a large enough container, lifting and lowering the sieve in the ice bath is enough to cool them in under a minute. Once in the water bath, swish the peppers around with a spoon. I use my hands because I have done this long enough to know how not to get scalded, and it is faster than using a spoon.
Set the sieve aside to drain. Add more ice to your water bath if needed, and wait for the stock pot to return to a boil. It should only take a minute. Start your next batch as you container up your diced peppers or lay your larger pieces on cookie sheets to freeze.
I use cheap Walmart leftover BPA-free containers to freeze the diced peppers. If you halved or sliced the peppers, place them on a cookie sheet and freeze. Freeze them overnight, pop them out of the containers or off the cookie sheet the next day, and vacuum package them for long-term storage.
It's easy to get carried away putting up too many peppers when processing is so easy! Frozen peppers won't squish or stick together when you vacuum pack them! These peppers keep well in the deep freeze for three years. Each year I clean out the freezers in spring; old peppers are excellent sources of vitamins for young poultry.
These frozen pepper blocks stack nicely in the freezer; if your freezer is big enough, you can fill milk crates with them, so they don't get lost in the shuffle. To use them, thaw them at room temperature for a half hour and whack the semi-frozen bag with a cast iron skillet to break them up. You can also soak the entire vacuum bag in warm water for 20 minutes and break off what you need. They can be refrozen but lose a little more texture each time.
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