Monday, September 3, 2012

Preserving: Peppers, Chilies & Pesto

Summer is coming to an end, and so is the first season I've put an effort in preserving the harvest.  It's been a learning process and a revelation as to the amount of stamina it takes to really put by enough food for winter.  I didn't even come close to hitting that mark, but now there's a better understanding of what it would take.  My hat is off to our grandparents and all the ancestors before us who danced to the annual rhythm of sowing, growing, and preserving food.  It's truly and art.  And a marathon.

One of the last tastes of summer to tuck away are the peppers and chilies.   To preserve extra bell peppers for later use in dishes like simple chili, refried beans, and spaghetti sauce, I simply chop the tops off, de-seed, cut them into fourths, and give them a whirl in the food processor.

I chopped three peppers this time around, so I'm dividing it into thirds and freezing them in individual containers.  When a recipe calls for a minced bell pepper, I grab one of these guys from the freezer and plop it in the pot, already nicely minced and harvested in-season.

After making several batches of salsa verde, there are still serranos and jalapeƱos that need to be rescued from going bad, so I followed the first part of the same procedure as the bell peppers.  You can de-seed these smaller guys but you don't have to.  I just chopped the tops off and called it good.

I keep track of how many chilies (or peppers) I'm mincing, then they are divided into however many were just processed, gently pressed down into an ice cube tray, and frozen in one-chili-sized cubes.

Once they are frozen, they're put into an air-tight container (this is what I use and love) and stored in the freezer for whenever I'd like to add a bit of summer's heat to a dish.

I also freeze pesto in ice cube trays and use them for turkey pesto pasta, as pizza sauce, in soups, or anything I want tasting pesto-ish.

Have you done any preserving this year, or tried any new methods?  I'd love to hear about your success stories and save them to pull out for next year.  Happy harvesting and preserving, friends!  Before we know it, we'll be sipping hot tea by the wood stove again.  Bliss!


  1. You spoke of our ancestors wonderful ability to preserve and store certain food items. Most of that was fairly recent. There are other ancestors, those that date back 50 thousand and then millions of years ago who never preserved or stored anything.
    I suspect they knew that eating ones food fresh was the only way to maximise the nutrient value of the plant or beast.
    Like 98 percent of the other species, they know to eat their food fresh.
    The process of slicing and dicing and then putting veggies into a proceesor to make the parts even smaller, exposes the whole of the plant to the elements - light and oxygen - this aids in speeding up the decay process - one of the first stages of decay is the breaking down of vital nutrients, vitamins, proteins etc.
    The time it takes a sliced apple to go from white to brown is all it takes for light and oxygen to cause a molecular change.
    It's good that you put them in vacumm sealed containers and freeze them, but the damage is already done - and of course if your going to cook the stuff, well the there will be surely zero nutrient value left - maybe a mineral or two if it hasn't leached out in the steaming, boiling or stir fry process.
    It is best to just take the plants (pepers or veggies - the grown stuff), not cut them until ready to serve and don't freeze them but put thm in a really cold part of the fridge ( just shy of freezing). Freezing can cause cell damage and impact nutrient damage - so too can the thaw process.

  2. Maybe 98 percent of other species eat their food fresh because they don't live on the east coast or Midwest (or siberia or the arctic or the Antarctic) with cold and snowy winters when very little food grows, and because they don't have the ability to cook. Or maybe the winters weren't so harsh millions of years ago...(i find humor in this, by the way)

  3. I love your blog! As a fellow small homesteader, homeschooler (completely understand your need for school this year!), gardener, goat/chicken/cow/ bee farmer I agree that the effort can be overwhelming at times. I told my husband the other day that anyone who calls it the lazy days of summer, never had a small farmette! I preserved 80 pounds of tomatoes last week- ok so some went to the chickens- and thought at the end, "This is not worth it." I wish there were no BPA's in those darn cans. The jam is definitely worth preserving in my mind, because I love picking the fruit ripe and use 1/2 the sugar that normal jams in the store use. I pickled my own cucumbers for the first time this year and my kids definitely love those. You inspired me to make my own fruit leathers again. I just blended those ripe peaches, put them on the trays, and tried to hide them from my kids. So easy. I will still be buying my spaghetti sauce. I just takes too many tomatoes and too long to make it. Good luck with the garden expansion!

  4. Everything OK over there? Its been a while since you've blogged.. Is school working out alright for your clan? (I've got 4 in christian school again, one is part time, and am loving the quiet of just having number 5 (9 months old) around - the little sweet thing that she is!)

  5. Thanks so much for checking up on us. :) We are good! Just recovering from a crazy week. Christian school has been amazing for this year. It's amazing how there is still no free time for me, even without homeschooling! Never a dull moment with a big family, I guess. ;)

  6. Glad to hear it. I'm always surprised by how little the kids being at school or at home affects my workload. The dynamic of the house changes, but the work never ends!

  7. I have to agree with everything in this post. Thanks for the useful information.The best siteLove

  8. just found your blog through my mother in law and i am so impressed and inspired. thank you for taking the time to share it with all of us. i was wondering if you need to add a bit of water to the ice cube tray to help the cubes of jalapeƱos hold their shape? or do they hold together fine on their own?

  9. I'm so glad you enjoy the blog. :) I didn't add any water; the chili cubes stayed together by themselves. Blessings!


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