Preserving an Abundance of Peppers in the Freezer

Year after year, I find myself with an abundance of peppers at the end of the growing season. Peppers are a warm-weather crop, but once they're established, they continue to grow in the cool weather of early fall as long as the temperature doesn't get down to freezing. 

Pepper plants do not tolerate even a light freeze, so when it freezes, the plants and the peppers are done.

Freezing your extra peppers is an easy way to preserve home-grown peppers. When frozen, peppers become mushy, but in many recipes like casseroles and chili, the texture doesn't matter. The frozen peppers still have their pepper flavor.

The technique described in this article can be used for just about any type of pepper. 

Freezing peppers is especially easy because you don't need any special preparation, simply chop them up. Many other types of vegetables need to be blanched (cooked for a minute or two in boiling water, then plunged into cold water to stop the cooking.). Not so for peppers! 

You will need:

  • Your peppers
  • Gloves to protect your hands, if you are preparing hot peppers
  • Sharp knife
  • Plastic freezer bags - gallon size works well. 
    • Be sure to use freezer bags because they are thicker and will protect the peppers better.
  • Optional:
    • Cookie sheet pan
    • Parchment paper

Here's how you do it:

Clean the Peppers

Rinse your peppers in cool water to get off any surface dirt.

Put on your gloves if you are using them. Then slice the peppers in half, pole to pole. Remove the whitish pith and the seeds. 

If there are any blemishes or soft spots in the peppers, you can cut those portions away.

For sweet bell peppers: If you have picked all of the peppers off your plants, you may have some immature peppers among the harvest. Immature bell peppers can be bitter. I recommend tasting a small piece of each pepper before proceeding. If it is bitter, throw it away or compost it. If you use the frozen pieces from this pepper, the bitter taste will end up in your dish. Bleh.  

When you slice a pepper in half, sometimes you see the makings of a funny face! Stick on some googly eyes and giggle!

 

(Not my original idea - I saw this on the Internet and tried it myself!)

Chop the Peppers

Cut up the pepper halves into pieces of a size you most often use in recipes. A 1 inch dice or half an inch dice (cut roughly in squares) is usually a good general-purpose size.

Chopping the peppers ahead of time makes them freeze faster and makes them easier to use. It can be messy and tedious to chop up previously frozen peppers. 

If you are freezing small peppers like sport peppers, you don't have to chop them up or seed them. They can be frozen whole. You might want to slice hot peppers like jalapenos, instead of chopping. 

Freeze the Peppers

Lay the pepper pieces out on a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper. The pieces should be touching each other very much so they don't stick together when freezing. Place the cookie sheet in the freezer and freeze until solid. Honestly, I don't know how long it takes -probably 2-3 hours is enough, although I usually let mine freeze overnight. 

Having the frozen pieces loose like this makes it easier to use the chopped peppers when you need them. They'll be loose in the bag and you can scoop out the amount you need for your recipe.

This method is optional. If you don't have time or there's not enough room in your freezer to place a cookie sheet in it, you can skip this step.

Bag the Peppers

First, label your plastic freezer bag. The label should include the type of pepper and the date. You can write directly on the bag with a permanent marker or use a label maker. 

In general, don't mix pepper varieties in the bags. Put the hot peppers in a different bag from the sweet peppers.

Collect the pepper pieces (frozen on the cookie sheet or not) in the plastic freezer bag. Squeeze gently to push out as much air as you can to reduce freezer burn. You won't be able to push out all of it, but do your best. Seal the bag and put it in the freezer. 

Frozen chopped peppers like this can last up to a year in the freezer. 


You'll be so proud of yourself having peppers that you grew yourself in your dishes over the winter and into the spring next year!

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