Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Preserving Jalapeños

Preserving Jalapeños ~ Recipes included

By Jalapeno Gal77 -via APN

jalapenoAs you all guessed by my name, I LOVE jalapenos.  So it stands to reason I know a lot about preserving them. :)   If you have ever grown jalapenos, then you know just how many one or two plants will produce for you.  Often time, WAY more than one person can use.  Here we will discuss multiple ways to save those fiery peppers that adds so much flavor to our delightful dishes.  We will learn about canning, roasting, pickling, drying and freezing your jalapeno peppers.  At the end of the article I will even give you a wonderful recipe on making jalapeno jelly!!

Important tip: Jalapeno’s have capsaicin in them (The stuff that makes them so hot).  So always make sure to protect your hands with gloves when possible or to wash them immediately after handling your peppers.  I use latex gloves when cutting and de-seeding them.  Ask me how I know this lol.  One time, I was making a HUGE batch of salsa for my family and all the neighbors.  I cut and de-seeded 18 jalapenos, all without gloves.  I regretted that for several days.  Have you ever burned UNDER your finger nails?  You don’t want to, so please wear gloves :)

Drying your peppers:

To my knowledge, there are three ways to dry peppers:  with an oven, without an oven, and using a dehydrator.  The first step to all three is to wash all the dirt away from your peppers and pat dry with a paper towel or dish towel so they are nice and clean.

Air Drying: You can use this method with just about any pepper you have

  • You are going to dry the peppers whole, do not slice
  • Next, take some garden twine or heavy duty string and loop it tightly around the stem of your jalapeno and knot it. Do this twice, but make sure not to pull the loop to tightly, you don’t want to cut your stem off
  • Continue tying your peppers approx. 2-3 inches apart on your string so they get good air flow while drying.
  • After stringing your peppers, place them in a well-ventilated , dry area.  Preferably in direct sunlight.  We have a second story balcony I usually hang mine off of.  I know a few people who will hang them off the clothes line and even pin them to the line.
  • If there is a threat of rain, make sure to bring them indoors until you have clear weather again.
  • Make sure to check your peppers.  After a few days they, will begin to shrink and may slip out of your knot. If so just restring them.
  • It should take about 2 weeks for them to dry completely. (depending on the weather) To check them, squeeze the pepper gently. You shouldn’t be able to feel ANY moisture at all.  If you do, continue to leave them hanging.
Oven drying:

Items you will need: Knife, cookie sheet(s), fan, oven thermometer
  • Preheat oven to 140 degrees F with your oven thermometer on top of stove
  • Cut off stems
  • Slice peppers long ways and scrap out seeds (you can discard seeds or keep them to plant)
  • Place your peppers on a clean baking sheet.  If you have too many you can use multiple baking sheets.  If you use multiple sheets, place one on the middle oven rack and one on the bottom oven rack.  Close the oven door but use an oven mitt to prop the door open.
  • Arrange your fan in a place so the air can circulate, but not melt your fan.   Air circulation decreases drying time.
  • Take your cooking tray out ever 30-45 minutes and stir them up some.  If you’re using two trays alternate them on their shelves every time you pull them out.
  • Watch your oven thermometer on the top of the stove and make sure the temp stays around 140 degrees F.  If it increases or decreases then adjust your temperature.
  • Once your peppers begin to feel dry or brittle, remove them and let them cool off.  Store in a glass jar or Ziploc bag.
Using a dehydrator:
  • You’re going to follow your basic directions on your dehydrator.
  • Peppers retain their color better if you DON’T cook them before putting them in your dehydrator. (I never cook them first)
  • Place cut and seeded peppers on your dehydrator trays and set at about 120
  • Cook for 6-8 hours (I usually turn it on before I go to bed at night
Many people are not sure what to do with their peppers once they are dried.  There are many ways to use them.  You can grind them into a powder and add to any food you want a kick to, or you can add water to them to bring them back to life. :)   You can also use them like sun dried tomatoes and eat them in salads or on burgers.  Be imaginative!

This is the Dehydrator we use for all of our fruits and vegetables. 

Roasting Peppers:

fire_grilled_jalapeñosYou can buy roasted peppers, but they are so much tastier if you have fresh peppers and roast them yourself.  I found it is best to roast your peppers over a hot grill (gas or charcoal).  It tends to add a smoke flavor that makes your peppers taste excellent plain or in any dish.

For roasting Jalapenos, do not cut open, leave whole.  Fire up that grill with a high-medium heat and place your peppers on the grill turning frequently until they are chard and blistered on the outside. Don’t freak out, it will be black but that comes off easily.

Immediately after removing the peppers, place them in a plastic bag.  Leave in there about 10 minutes.  The heat will loosen the skins making them easier to remove from the pepper.  After the ten minutes are up, you can remove the peppers and scrap the black stuff off.  It’s going to be messy, but it should come off easily.  Once the skin is off, cut your pepper long ways and remove the seeds. Now your ready to use or eat your fiery hot jalapeno!

If you do not want to eat your roasted jalapenos, you can store them in the refrigerator for about 3 days or you can freeze them.

Pickling Your Peppers 

jalapeno peppers 4Saying that out loud reminds me of our childhood tongue twister.  Peter piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, lol.  Anyways, yes, you can pickle your peppers and I am here to help you through that. :)

Items you will need:
Ingredients you will need:
  • 4 lbs red, green, or yellow peppers
  • 5 cups white vinegar or apple cider vinegar (I prefer apple cider vinegar for mine)
  • 1 cup water
  • canning or pickling salt (follow directions on jar on how much to use per size jar)
  • 2 table spoons white sugar
All optional ingredients:
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 5-10 peppercorns per jar
  • a sprig of oregano & thyme,  per jar
There are two methods to canning peppers, we will discuss both.  One is called the quick method which eliminates the canning process.  All this means is you’re going to refrigerate your peppers and will have to use them within 6 months.  If you water can your peppers they will have a much longer shelf life and you won’t have to refrigerate them.  In both, you will use the same ingredients.

Quick method:
  • Wash your peppers and slice the sides or stab them so there are three or four holes in them. (This needs to be done so the pickle solution can fill the pepper quickly.)
  • You may also cut the tops off the peppers and de-seed if you prefer, or slice them nacho style. (like you find in the store)
  • Fill the jar up to about an inch from the top.  (sometimes I might add some onion in the jar, just because I like onions).  This would also be the time to add the peppercorns, oregano, or thyme.  Place these in the bottom of the jar before you add the peppers)
  • Heat all the ingredients to boiling.
  • Pour solution into jars filling them until you’re about a half inch from the top.
  • Seal and let cool for a few hours and then refrigerate.  (you should hear the seal pop)
  • With this method you should use them within 1 to 2 months, however i have kept them for up to 8 months before use and they still tasted great)
Water canning:

Follow first two instructions for quick canning method above.  While doing the steps below, start boiling water in your water canner so it’s ready when you are.  Only fill the canner about 3/4 of the way with water because when you add your jars the water will rise.  If there isn’t enough to cover the jars you can always add more water.
1. Clean and sterilize your jars.  You can do this one of two ways.  You can take your big pot and turn your jars upside down in it.  Then fill with water and bring to a boil.  Turn off heat and let jars stand in pot until ready to use.  The second, and much easier way, would be to wash your jars in a dishwasher and leaves them on the rack with the door closed so the steam doesn’t escape.

2. In the smaller pot, place your lids and rings and bring to just a slight boil and then remove from water.  I usually leave lids in the pot somewhere out of my way until I’m ready to seal the jars.
3. Add all ingredients (except peppers and any additional you decide such as onions peppercorns etc..) into a pot and bring to a boil.

4.  Fill up the jars to about an inch from the top of the jar with your peppers, onions etc. Remember, if you’re adding peppercorns, or other things to put them in the bottom of the jar first.

5. Next, using your canner funnel, pour the hot liquid solution into each jar covering the peppers completely, but leaving about 1/2 inch space at the top.  Using your spatula, push any air bubbles out of the liquid.

6. Wipe off and dry the rims.  If there is anything on the rims when you place the lids on it might not seal the jar properly.

7. Put your seals and rings on and screw them until they are tight. (They don’t have to be screwed on extremely tight, just snug)

8. Place your jars on the rack that drops down inside the canner.  At this point, the rack should be attached to the side of the canner so you can place your jars on the rack.  This prevents the jars from touching the bottom of the canner and from touching each other.  Gently lower jars into canner.

9. Jars should be covered with water about 2 inches above the lids.

10. Boil at a full boil for about 10-15 minutes. If the water boils down add more boiling water to the pot. You want it at a full boil the entire time.

11. When the time is up, raise the rack and hang over the side.  Let your jars sit for about 2 minutes and then using your jar lifter tool, life the jars slowly form the canner and place on towels or a wood chopping block.

12. As the jars begin to cool, you will hear the popping sound of the seals being sucked tight. :)
This means you have done everything right :)

13. Try not to push on the seal until jars are completely cool and keep kids away from the jars!!  If you find a jar that hasn’t sealed properly, just stick it in the fridge and eat them.

14.  LABEL your jars with the type peppers and the date. This is very important!  Well, at least the date part is.

15. Store jars in a cool, dark environment.  No direct sunlight.

pickled peppers55Now you have multiple ways to preserve peppers for long and short term use!  Go get started and enjoy your yummy peppers year round!!  There are a lot of other things you can use this same recipe for as well.  You can pickle okra, carrots, radishes, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, the list goes on and on.  Remember, if you do not go through the canning process your going to have to refrigerate and eat your foods sooner rather than later.  I hope you have enjoyed the article and that it has made pickling your peppers seem fun and something you might like to try someday!!

Mom's Jalapeño Jelly

Keepin it Spicy,
Jalapeño Gal