Freezing, canning and pickling peppers

There is a wide variety of peppers to enjoy that come in a vast array of colors and heat.

Photo by: Jeannie Nichols
Photo by: Jeannie Nichols

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.

A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked.

If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,

Where's the peck of pickled peppers that Peter Piper picked?

This tongue twister, which is a popular Mother Goose nursery rhyme, has been around for a long time. And when you think of it he couldn’t have picked pickled peppers but he could have pickled them after he picked them!

There are many kinds of peppers. Bell peppers are also known as sweet peppers. There are different varieties of the bell pepper plant such as red, yellow, orange, green, chocolate/brown, vanilla/white and even purple. The ribs and seeds inside bell peppers may be eaten but people in general find them to be bitter.

Hot peppers are very popular due to the many ethnic cuisines that use their unique flavors and heat to produce delectable dishes. Peppers such as tabasco, cayenne, chili and habanero that can be grown for food, spices or as ornamentals.

Michigan State University Extension offers a word of caution: If you work with hot peppers it is recommended that you wear plastic gloves while handling them and that includes picking them. Capsaicin will rub off on other vegetables, so don’t pick peppers and then other produce. Capsaicin also rubs off onto your skin or gloves and may burn your skin and if you touch your eyes then your eyes will burn as well. If you chose not to use gloves be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before touching your face.

If you want to preserve peppers you can freeze, can or pickle them them depending on how you want to use them. In general, an average of 9 pounds of peppers is needed per canner load of 9 pints. A bushel weighs 25 pounds and yields anywhere from 20 to 30 pints. That is an average of 1 pound per pint.

Bell peppers and hot peppers are one of the few vegetables that can be frozen without being blanched. They are limp when they are thawed, so it is best to use them in cooked dishes.

The National Center for Home Food Preservation suggests you follow these steps to freeze bell and hot peppers:
  1. Clean the peppers by rinsing them very well with cool water.
  2. Cut them open and remove the stem, seeds and the ribs.
  3. Cut them into strips, rings or pieces .
  4. Package the peppers in freezer bags removing as much air as possible.
  5. Label the bags and freeze.
  6. Remember: if freezing hot peppers it is recommended to use rubber gloves when handling the peppers making sure you do not touch your eyes when you have the gloves on. When you are done working with the peppers, even if you wore gloves, be sure to wash your hands.

To learn more about using, storing and preserving peppers visit the Michigan Fresh site. You will find the bulletin on peppers under vegetables. Also be sure to check out Michigan State University food preservation classes.

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