Pepper Preservation

Although nightshade season is most definitely past us — indeed, as I write this, the wind is howling and bands of sleet have blown through on-and-off — we still have a pile of peppers and tomatoes on the kitchen counter. We brought the last of them in from the cold a little over two weeks ago, but they last a lot longer than store-bought ones that have spent a week on a truck before you even pick them up. We're working our way through them in sandwiches and suppers, but we need to preserve a fair amount of them also. 

For bell peppers, this meant another round of roasting them:

The first time, we tried roasting them on the grill and ended up with a pretty intense layer of charring for our trouble. This time around, we went with broiling them in the oven and keeping them in our sight the whole time. As you can see in the photo above, the charring has been kept in check.

Once they were ready to peel after cooling off in a covered dish to steam the skins loose, it was much easier this time around, and we were rewarded with big, perfect roasted pepper slices:

These are in a freezer box until we want to thaw them out for recipes, although you could keep them in the fridge in some olive oil for a couple weeks as well.

Our other peppers are cayennes, which we had to bring in before frost, even though most were still green. Slowly but surely, they are reddening up, and now we have enough to dry:

My original plan was to take thread to needle and string them together in a garland to dry. But then I felt like watching TV instead, so I put them on a parchment paper lined tray and put them in the oven. The lowest our oven goes is 170 degrees, so that's what I used. They were already starting to shrivel and dry on their own before their trip to the oven, and all told it probably took about 12 hours to get them to look like this:

Perfect! They are crisp and flaky, and after snapping off the remaining stems, I popped them into a big, lidless mason jar for storage:

I had to snap a bunch of them in half to make them fit, but storing them (mostly) intact should help maintain their flavor. When we need them, we can crush them for flakes, or grind them with the mortar and pestle for a finer powder. 

We still have a pretty big pile of green cayenne peppers still in the process of turning red, so I imagine we will have another jar or two of spice to warm up a long, cold winter.


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