Jul 6, 2023
Peppers add great flavor and texture to food. The mild ones are sweet with a bit of tart, a sort of bitter taste. The hot ones really perk up your appetite and make you want to eat more. They’re so colorful and versatile, and you can use them however you want! They don’t store well, though. If you are lucky to have a garden of peppers, you have to be creative in storing them. The best way to do it is, of course, to freeze-dry peppers.
There are many reasons why freeze-drying chili peppers.
Fresh peppers last 7 days in the fridge, but freeze-dried peppers stay good for 25-30 years if stored correctly. That’s because freeze-drying removes almost 97% of the water from the food. Since it’s so dry, there’s no medium for microorganisms to grow in.
Peppers lose their flavor as they gradually mature, whether they’re on the vine or after harvesting. The freeze-drying process helps preserve the peppers’ flavor, taste, and aroma. What you get is preserved food that is rich in flavor, aroma, and heat.
Flavor and aroma aren’t the only things that peppers lose as they mature. This is because of food respiration. It’s a process wherein crops use their stored nutrients to stay “fresh”. The more the harvested crop sits at room temperature, the faster the nutrient loss. Freeze drying helps stop cellular respiration and locks in all the vitamins and minerals in the peppers.
These are the recommended things you should do to help prepare your spice.
Before handling peppers, always make sure you have protective gear on. It’s okay to go barehanded with bell peppers since they’re the mildest variety. But when we’re dealing with jalapeno, poblano, or other hot peppers, protective gear is a must. This can include gloves, masks, and goggles. Double your gloves if you need them, especially if you’re sensitive to capsaicin.
Clean the peppers under running water or washing them in a bowl. You must still practice proper food handling even if you harvested them in your garden. Freeze drying may preserve your food, but it doesn’t microorganisms that cause foodborne illnesses. Then dry the peppers for the next step of the process.
The next thing you need to do is to cut the peppers in half lengthwise. This will expose the inner parts of the spice, where you can see the pith and the seeds. Carefully remove them by using a knife or your hand to pull them out. We know, it’s a shame to take out the pepper’s source of heat. But these don’t freeze dry well and can ruin your efforts.
Afterward, you can dice, slice, julienne, or leave the peppers as they are. Larger ones, like bell peppers, shouldn’t be wider than 3/4 of an inch. The lesser the surface are, the better for the freeze-dryer to do its job properly.
Once you got your peppers ready, place them on the tray. Make sure that you can fully identify which pepper is which. You don’t want to use hot ones for mild dishes.
Pre-freezing is an option, especially if you have the updated software. The new version doesn’t ask you whether you have pre-frozen food or not. If you have the old software, it’s also an option. However, pre-freezing does help cut down the freeze-drying time. If you decide to pre-freeze, let the spice stay in the freezer for at least 48 hours. Then take it out only when the freeze dryer is ready for you to load the food.
The good thing with Harvest Right freeze dryer is that you don’t have to program it. Instead, everything’s pre-set, so all you have to do is put the trays in.
Freeze drying peppers can take 20-32 hours, depending on several factors like:
You can store them in Mason Jars for on-demand use. Sometimes we prefer to do this because they just look so pretty sitting in our pantry. Mylar bags, on the other hand, are great for long-term storage. We recommend them if you have a small pantry. Or when you want to bring your spice on a camping trip.
Before sealing your container, add in oxygen absorbers. About 1-2 of the 300cc packets are good enough for every gallon size of your container.
If you’re going to use the freeze-dried peppers in dishes like casseroles, soups, and sauces, there’s no need to rehydrate. They will absorb the moisture from the cooking liquid and soften as you go. Unfortunately, this may also mean that you need to add a bit more water to the food.
In case you’ll use it with salads or as toppings to a toast, you only need a little water. You can use 1/4 or 1/2 cup of water for every cup of freeze-dried peppers. Let it sit for 5-15 minutes until they become soft. The hotter the water, the faster the freeze-dried peppers will rehydrate.
However, these are good to use as they are. The crunch and flavor, especially the mild ones, are great for snacking. Reconstituted freeze-dried peppers don’t have the same fresh crunch as the original ones. In addition, the skin can be tough, and the flesh is too soft.
Freeze-dried peppers can last for 25-30 years under ideal storage conditions. Keep the containers in a cool, dry, dark place with a temperature lower than 72°F (22 °C). Maintain the humidity at 15% or less if you can prevent the growth of molds and other microorganisms.
Freeze-drying peppers helps prevent their color, texture, taste, and aroma. You get to preserve them for years instead of throwing them away because of spoilage. They’re good to use in all your recipes and can make almost any dish so satisfying to eat.
What peppers do you want to freeze dry? Let us know in the comment section.
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