A Beginner’s Guide for Preserving Chillies
Whether you had an abundant harvest or caught locally-grown chillies on sale at the market, preserving chillies is a great way to get the most life and use out of this crop. There are a few different ways that you can preserve your chili peppers and a number of methods you can use for each type. We are going to take a look at the simplest procedures for dehydrating (drying), pickling, and canning your chili peppers.
Preserving chillies by drying them is probably the most versatile method, as you can crush them to use as a seasoning or freeze them and rehydrate the chillies when you are ready to use them. The most convenient way of drying out chillies is through the use of a dehydrator. This is a machine specifically designed for drying food in a safe and timely manner. To dehydrate your chillies, start by giving the peppers a good wash. If you want to preserve the flavor of the chillies rather than the pure heat of them, slice the peppers lengthwise and scrape out the pith and seeds. You may also want to remove the stems. Allow the dehydrator to preheat to about 115 degrees Fahrenheit. Lay the chillies in the dehydrator’s trays so that the inside is facing upward. Stack the trays as per the dehydrator’s instructions and place the lid on. The amount of time that the peppers sit in the dehydrator really depends on how many peppers you are drying, how humid the drying environment is, what type of peppers you are drying, as well as the power of the dehydrator you are using. Two pounds of chillies usually take about eight hours to dry, so you might try using this as a guide. Check your chillies every few hours. Try bending a pepper. If it bends then the peppers need more time. They are ready when they break apart easily. Store the peppers in an air-tight container, or if you intend to freeze them then chuck them into a zip-top bag and throw them in the freezer.
Pickling isn’t necessarily the best method of preserving chillies of all types, but most types of chili do pickle well. Green peppers do very well, as do large waxy peppers. To pickle, all you really need are canning jars, pickling brine, and any seasonings you like, such as garlic. Start by washing the peppers well. Use a sharp knife to remove the stems, then poke a few small holes in each pepper using a toothpick. These holes will allow the pickling brine to seep into the peppers. If you are using any seasoning, such as crushed garlic, go ahead and sprinkle it down into the bottom of each jar. Stuff the peppers into the jars taking care to leave a bit of room so that the liquid can disperse throughout the jar. Pour the pickling brine into the jar until all of the peppers are fully submerged in the liquid. Tighten the lid and store in a cool, dry place for a minimum of two weeks before consuming.
Freezing your peppers is one of the most hassle-free methods of preserving chillies. The only equipment required is a zip-top freezer bag and a permanent market. Use the market to write the preservation date on the bag. Peppers will keep in the freezer for up to twelve months, so it helps to keep a date on the bag. Give the peppers a good scrub then pat them dry with paper towel or a cloth. If you like, you can trim away the stems before putting the peppers in the bag. Get as much air out of the bag as possible before sealing it. You might even try inserting a straw through the seal and sucking out the excess air. Now put the bag of peppers in the freezer and enjoy them at a later date!