NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Picked a Peck of Peppers

Picked a Peck of Peppers

Peppers have grown in popularity recently – due in large part to the new American favorite condiment, salsa.  Peppers are native to both North and South America.  Green bell peppers are the most popular type of pepper as they can better withstand transportation, tend to last longer and so are often less expensive than other colors and shapes of peppers.

There are dozens of different types of peppers, each with their own amount of heat.  The chemical substance that makes some peppers hot is capsaicin and is measured in Scoville units.  In the early 1900’s, Wilbur L. Scoville devised a test to determine the relative hotness of different peppers. Caspsaicin from a known weight of pepper was extracted with alcohol and mixed to various concentrations with sweetened water.  Taste testers then were asked to determine the point at which the water neutralized the hotness.  A rating in Scoville units was assigned based on the volume of water required to neutralize the hotness.

It is a common misconception that the hotter the pepper, the more acidic it is. The hotness of a pepper depends on the amount of capsaicin it contains and not on the level of acidity.  All peppers are classified as low-acid foods and have a pH of 4.8 to 6.0 depending on maturity and variety.

When pickling or canning peppers, it is important to follow recipe directions carefully.  If improperly preserved, peppers can cause botulism poisoning.  Never taste food that appears to be spoiled. If the contents of the jar appear gassy, mushy, moldy or have a disagreeable odor, discard the food carefully and in an area where pets won’t taste test it.

The ideal storage temperature for fresh peppers is 45 F but they will last about one week in a typical home refrigerator.  Fresh, whole peppers will last longer if they are kept dry.

Peppers can also be sun-dried, air-dried or dehydrated in a home dehydrator oven.  The finish product can be crumbled or powdered in a blender to use as a flavoring.  Soak dried peppers in water to rehydrate them for use.  Dried peppers can be stored in moisture- and vapor-proof packaging in a cool, dry, dark place for several months.

Roasted red bell peppers have become a popular addition to variety of dishes.  They can be prepared in advance and frozen for later use.  Start with peeling the peppers.  Wear gloves!  To peel, heat over a gas flame, on a grill or under the broil until the skins separate from the flesh.  Then place the peppers in a bowl, cover and allow to sit for 5 -10 minutes. The skins will slip off.  Remove the stem and seeds.  Cut into strips and pack in to moisture- and vapor-proof packaging.  A sheet of waxed paper or plastic wrap between peppers will make them easier to handle when thawing.

For home canning of peppers, again wear plastic gloves while handling and wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before touching your face.  Small peppers maybe left whole. Large peppers may be quartered. Remove cores and seeds.  Slash two or four slits in each pepper and either blanch in boiling water or blister as for roasting peppers.  Fill jars loosely with peppers and add fresh boiled water leaving 1 inch of head space.  Add ½ tsp. of salt to each pint jar.  Process in a pressure canner at 25 minutes for pints at 15 lbs. pressure for our region which is above 1,000 ft. in altitude.

Store sealed jars in a cool, dry, dark place.  Open jars of peppers need to be stored in the frig.  For a new twist, combine the taste of onions with peppers for this peppy relish.


Pickled Pepper-Onion Relish

6 cups finely chopped onions

3 cups finely chopped sweet red peppers

3 cups finely chopped green peppers

1½ cups sugar

6 cups vinegar (5%), preferably white distilled

2 tablespoons canning or pickling salt

YIELD: 9 half-pints

Wash and chop the vegetables. Combine all ingredients and boil gently until the mixture thickens and the volume is reduced by one-half (about 30 minutes). Fill sterile jars with hot relish, leaving ½ inch of head space, and seal tightly. Store in the refrigerator and use within one month.  NOTE:  For extended storage, outside of a frig, process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.


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