Preserving the Pepper Harvest ~ Freezing Bells, Stringing Anaheims, Canning Green Chile Hot Sauce
I missed so much of my Smoky Mountain garden’s harvest by abandoning it at the end of July that I’ve been really glad I planted early enough to enjoy at least some of the bounty.
But because we moved to the Mennonite farm, owned by a man who had been raised on the very same property and taught how to live off the land, I was just in time to reap the rewards of the hard work he and his wife had put into their organic, non-GMO crops months before I had any inkling that I’d be walking away from my own. The produce that I’ve bought from these farmers is amazing.
I’m still buying the potatoes they keep stored in a root cellar they finished digging into the side of a hill just before the cold season hit. Cow poop veggies. That’s what I call them because they are grown in cow manure from the dairy. And though I was convinced that rabbit droppings made the best fertilizer after experimenting in my own garden, I’m now certain that cow poop veggies are the best! I’ll be happy to have a mountain of cow leavings dumped in our yard when planting time gets close, assuring me that there won’t be a shortage of fertilizer to use to amend the soil in the enormous plot they will plow for us when the ground thaws.
As I pined for my long lost garden and dreamed of a spring garden, months and months away, I stocked up on what I could reasonably preserve for the winter. I thought I was really smart by buying 20 whole pounds of potatoes to keep in our second fridge for the winter. I underestimated the flavor and texture of cow poop taters so never imagined that we would go through an additional 20 pounds and be left wanting for more. Peppers were another story. I am still happily stocked up on the green bells that I froze in various forms, the red Aneheims that I threaded onto quilt string and hung to dry in the kitchen windows, and the jars of the green chile sauce I made to use in place of the Texas Pete hot sauce my husband is absolutely addicted to. Preserving them all was a long but fun process.
I rarely buy frozen vegetables, but I’m not above freezing my own chemical free finds to assure that my family has nutritious, clean food to eat and I have a readily available supply for pulling out to use in a pinch. I’ve been saving raw bell peppers in the freezer for decades with great success. The majority of the bell peppers I bought in the fall that I didn’t use outright for salads and such, I diced for cooking. I also cut several pounds into julienne strips.
Some I sliced into rings because we really like rings of peppers on pizza.
I I.Q.F.-ed (Individually Quick Frozen) all them on sheet pans and bagged them in the BPA free freezer bags I find at Target. I still don’t like using plastic or foil, but I feel that they are the best available solutions for freezing food, even though BPA free is not guaranteed to be safe, either. I used butcher paper for a while, but can only find plastic-coated in the grocery store these days, which defeats the purpose of using it in place of plastic. I would like to try waxed cloths for use in the refrigerator, but haven’t gotten around to it. They don’t seem to be a perfect solution for all food storage needs, but I intend to see if they are worth the money.
The Anaheims I purchased were green when I brought them home. Half of them I threaded to dry on very thick quilt string. It was a simple task to take a standard threaded needle and pull it through the tough stem of each pepper before looping it around and through the double strings to secure a knot.
I looped excess string to make hangers, then dangled each string of peppers from existing cafe rod hooks on either side of the kitchen windows where I already had my onion and garlic braids from my mountain farm drying.
It was fun to watch them turn red and shrivel as time passed.
Now that they are finally completely dried out, I am using the spicy seeds to add zing to pots of chili and ethnic dishes, and rehydrating the pods as I need them.
To make my hot sauce, I first pickled fresh, green chiles in a brine for one month, then pureed and canned them.
Green Chile Hot Sauce
4 (1/2 pint) jelly jars
28-30oz. white distilled vinegar
2 tsp. table salt
2T whole peppercorns
20 peeled, smashed garlic cloves
1/2 lb. green Anaheim peppers with tops removed, cut into wedges short enough to fit in jelly jars
Divide the peppercorns, garlic, and salt among the mason jars.
Pack in the peppers.
Heat the vinegar to boiling.
Pour over the peppers in the jars.
Seal with lids and rings and store in a cool, dark place for one month to make pepper vinegar. This was a very mild condiment when it was finished infusing. I took the sauce a step further by pureeing it and properly canning it for long-term storage.
I strained the liquid out so that I was sure the peppers would puree in the processor.
Then I added the liquid back in before canning.
I use it as I would any hot sauce, but bear in mind that it is a tart, vinegar based sauce when I cook with it. It’s excellent alone as a condiment.