Bell peppers have a wonderful range of flavors, from tangy green bells to sweet reds. They contain numerous vitamins, minerals, and other compounds that benefit our health. Their one drawback is they come in like gangbusters but have a short shelf life.
If you have found yourself with more bell peppers than you could readily use, you have probably wondered how to keep bell peppers fresh?
If you are facing this problem, this article is for you. This piece looks at five ways to keep capsicum usable longer.
1. Store In the Refrigerator
The simplest and most common way to store bell peppers is to refrigerate them. It is also the only option if you want to leave them whole.
Bell peppers kept in the fridge will retain their taste, crispness, and nutritional value for up to two weeks. How long will depend on your refrigerator settings and how fresh they were when you got them.
For best results:
- Do not store with other fruits
- Make sure your capsicum is clean and dry before storing
- Place bell peppers in the crisper drawer
- Separate your capsicum so they receive good air circulation
- Rotate the peppers every few days to avoid moister settling in one area
2. Freezing Bell Peppers
Freezing your bell peppers is the best option for maximum versatility and a shelf life of up to six months. Frozen capsicum retains its flavor and nutritional value but will lose much of its crispness once thawed.
To freeze bell peppers:
- Wash, core, and allow your bell peppers to dry
- Cut bell peppers into slices or small pieces. Size doesn’t really matter.
- Place your cut capsicum on cookie sheets making sure they are separated and not touching.
- Place pans in the freezer and leave them for an hour or more.
- Remove cookie sheets from the freezer and place peppers in airtight containers or freezer bags, leavening as little airspace as possible.
- Label your containers and return them to the freezer.
3. Dried Bell Peppers
Dehydrating foods is one of the oldest food preservation methods used by man. Dried foods resist mold and bacterial breakdown due to their low moisture content. Drying also preserves the natural flavor of your peppers with very little loss of nutrition. We will look at two methods of dehydrating bell peppers, using a food dehydrator and an old-school approach.
Drying bell peppers with a food dehydrator is a simple process:
- Wash, dry, and core your capsicum
- Slice them into rings or slivers, whichever you prefer
- Blanche your bell pepper slices in boiling water for 3-4 minutes
- Move capsicum directly from the hot water bath into ice water to stop the cooking process
- Place capsicum on dehydrator trays with parchment paper
- Put trays in your dehydrator and choose appropriate settings
- Check your pepper every few hours until dried
- Place in airtight containers and store in your pantry
Bell peppers will take 7-10 hours to dry out entirely with most home dehydrators. The shelf life of dried bell peppers can be for years if properly stored.
If you don’t have access to a dehydrator or prefer traditional methods then sun drying may be right for you.
To sundry capsicum:
- Prep your bell peppers as described in the first four steps above
- Place between two fine mesh screens and ensure your capsicum doesn’t overlap or touch.
- Prop or suspend your screens in direct sunlight
- It is essential the air can flow freely around your peppers so, do not place them on a flat surface.
- When your bell peppers have dried, place them in airtight containers and store them in your pantry
It can take days or longer to dry bell peppers using this method. It depends on your climate to a great extent, but zero energy is used.
4. Pickling Bell Peppers
To pickle bell peppers, you will need a canner or pressure cooker. You can find an infinite number of pickled pepper recipes online, but the process generally goes like this.
- Clean, core, and slice your bell peppers.
- Place them in sealable glass jars with other solid ingredients (Ball or Mason jars are best)
- Combine liquid ingredients and dry herbs in a saucepan and bring to a boil
- Pour hot liquids into jars, leaving a half-inch of headspace
- Loosely place domes or lids on jars and put them in your canner
- Heat under pressure for approximately 15 minutes.
- Seal your jars and allow them to cool
Pickling will usually involve vinegar, brine, or both. In the absence of these, the process is called canning, which we will discuss next.
5. Canning Bell Peppers
Canning bell peppers is very similar to pickling them. The main difference between pickling and canning is that instead of preserving them with salt or acid, you put them through a pasteurization process. In most cases, people will make a sauce or soup with their bell peppers and then can it for later use.
To can bell peppers:
- Make your sauce or soup as you normally would but with a slightly shortened cooking time
- Pour into your Ball or Mason jars, leaving a half-inch of headspace.
- Loosely fit domes and rings onto your jars
- Place jars in a canner or pressure cooker with water
- Process your jars under pressure for a minimum of 15 minutes
- Allow canner to cool until it can be safely opened
- Using a hot pad or oven mitt, tighten the rings on your jars and remove them from the canner
- Allow to cool at room temperature and store in your pantry
The shelf life of canned and pickled vegetables is generally estimated to be 5-7 years, but some vegetables have stayed fresh tasting for much more extended periods.