Grit Blogs > Desert Homesteading

Arizona Homestead Heat: Preserving Peppers

Dave L HeadshotHere at the Bear Cave, we like our food spicy. During the summer and early fall, we love to overdo on fresh peppers in spicy salsa, pimento and cheese sandwiches, stuffed bell peppers and many other pepper dishes. Once in a while, when the poblanos are big enough, Barbara treats us to a great dish of chili relleno, peppers stuffed with a great cheese, breaded, and fried in hot neutral oil. I can’t resist them and have to say it’s a good thing she makes them on special occasions only.

By the way, anchos and poblanos are the same pepper.  Down here in the southwest, we refer to the Capsicum annuum as a poblano when it’s fresh and an ancho when its dried.

     Large Peppers in a Basket

We've grown four kinds of peppers this year at the Bear Cave: bells, jalapenos, anchos/poblanos, and pimentos. We find that the sweet, heavy bells and pimentos are delicious if we allow them to ripen, then roast and pickle them. Many cooks recommend roasting peppers under the broiler or over the direct flame of a gas range in the kitchen, but around here it's still WAY too hot for that. We prefer to keep the heat outside by using the gas barbecue. The peppers acquire a rich, smoky flavor and the kitchen stays cool.

     Roasting Peppers

So it's pepper harvest and time to crank up the barbecue and roast those babies! Some peppers, especially pimentos and red bells, are perfect candidates for this treatment. They are thick-walled and sturdy, which makes them easy to peel once they're roasted. Besides being much easier to peel prior to pickling when roasted, we enjoy the flavor of a smoky pepper.

The process is simple. Turn all the bbq's burners on high (Our unit has three, and we roast up to a dozen peppers at a time.) and place the whole peppers over the hottest part of the grill. Protect your hands from the heat with oven mitts or heavy gloves, and use long bbq tongs to turn the peppers from time to time as they char. You want to end up with the peppers black all over, the skin completely charred.

     Blackened Peppers

Once the peppers are well blackened, they are put in a sealed container. We use an oven-proof casserole dish with a lid and place the peppers directly in the sealed container to steam after roasting. Peeling is a breeze. We then pickle the roasted peppers in the same way we pickle fresh jalapenos which we describe below.

            Jalapenos in a Basket

Jalapeno peppers are easy to preserve. Just rinse, halve, and remove the stems and seeds. Wear gloves to protect your hands from the hot pepper juice, which can sting skin.

Note: Do not handle these peppers with your bare hands and then rub your eyes or any other sensitive part of your body. Some serious discomfort will be the consequence. But with some care, the very chemical, capsaicin, that can sting will make a great eating experience.

        Preparing Jalapenos for Canning

Barbara is very good about removing the seeds and inner tissue from the peppers. They are milder and still very flavorful with the seeds removed. I admit that when making salsa or pico de gallo, I leave the seeds in the mix. I enjoy the contrast between mucho picante jalapenos and the garlicky frijoles that I make up in a cast iron skillet and then roll in a tortilla with my HOT jalapeno salsa.

Note: If you are experimenting with these fresh peppers and feel like your mouth is on fire, have some milk handy. It is the best fire extinguisher I know for a picante capsaicin overload.

       Small Canning Kettle

Because we preserve smaller batches of peppers, we don’t use our big canning kettle. Any covered kettle will serve for canning as long as you place an insert of some kind in the bottom to prevent the jar bottoms from contacting the bottom of the kettle. We use the insert from our pressure cooker.

Pack the pepper halves into clean pint-size canning jars which have been heated in boiling water. Then cover them with a mixture of 2 cups distilled vinegar, 1 cup water, and 1 teaspoon salt, heated to boiling. Leave 1/4 inch between the top of the liquid and the rim of the jar, apply the lids, and process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes. More detailed information is on our web site, Check the drying and pickling pages.

          Canned Pickled Peppers

The pickling process is nearly the same for pimentos or other roasted peppers. Roast them according to the process we've described above, remove the stems and seeds, peel and pack them into clean, heated pint jars, fill with the pickling mixture to within 1/4 inch of the rim of the jar, and process for 15 minutes.

Pickled jalapenos can add zip to spaghetti sauce, chili, or salsa. Pickled roasted peppers are marvelous on sandwiches or in dips. We hope you enjoy these ways of preserving the bounty of your summer garden!

9/24/2011 6:36:05 PM

Has anyone tried this with Italian Peppers? I have them coming out my ears!!!

dave larson
9/20/2011 6:09:53 PM

Hey Margie, Great Idea! Thanks for visiting and the suggestion. Love to have you contribute that idea on our web site at We are always looking for good ideas on uses for our "Bean Friends".

dave larson
9/20/2011 6:06:54 PM

Hi Emily, sounds like you live in some cold country. Might I suggest a pepper plant or two in a couple large pots. I know a Minnesotan that plants them in pots and puts them on an old child's coaster wagon and brings them in and out of the garage. You might also consider a cold frame to accelerate the start. Check our site at for some suggestions on building and using a cold frame. Good luck and keep on trying!!

dave larson
9/20/2011 6:03:07 PM

Hi Paula, Thanks for visiting and for your comments. We have used plastic bags as well and agree that they work well. However, I sometimes take them off the grill a bit hot and have melted a few bags. With care, plastic bags work very well indeed. Enjoy those peppers!!!

dave larson
9/20/2011 6:02:26 PM

Hi Paula, Thanks for visiting and for your comments. We have used plastic bags as well and agree that they work well. However, I sometimes take them off the grill a bit hot and have melted a few bags. With care, plastic bags work very well indeed. Enjoy those peppers!!!

dave larson
9/20/2011 5:19:08 PM

Hey N Dave, It sounds like you are getting really serious about gardening. Are you thinking of the additional space as a community garden activity. In any event, growing food is one of the best activities I can think of. Keep me posted on the expanded garden. Enjoy your fall day in Nebraska.

margie hazelwood
9/16/2011 10:46:13 AM

We love spicy foods and have found a new trick! We take our surplus peppers..clean and seed them...put them in the dehydrator and dry 24 hrs......we then put in a blender and grind to powder and shake out for extra boost to all our foods...spagetti, chili, sandwiches, eggs, etc. Salt free and flavorful!!!

emily matthews
9/16/2011 8:27:33 AM

'Sigh' ; if only I could grow peppers! Some years we never can get any, and it looks as if this might be one of them. A cold June so they didn't grow even though they'd been started end of January, and 2 days ago we had our first frost. Oh well.

paula ebert
9/12/2011 11:58:06 AM

Dave: I roast peppers in a similar way, but then pop them into a plastic bag. I know it sounds like they would stick, but they don't, and they are steamed and ready to peel. I usually do enough for batches of salsa, but canning them is a good idea too!

nebraska dave
9/9/2011 8:52:39 PM

Dave, you sure love your peppers. Apparently they grow well in the Arizonia high plains desert. I do like a little salsa now and then but easy on the hot scale. I'm not a sissy mild kind of guy and do like quite a zip but nothing that would have me guzzling the milk jug. I'm in process of buying an in town foreclosed property to grow more gardens instead of filling up my backyard with garden beds. It would be for the bigger space stuff like melons, squash, corn, and possibly some fruit trees and berry bushes. Actually there are a couple connected properties that would be just 200 square feet shy of being an acre smack dab in the middle of town. Yet it kind of in secluded area because of where it sets. Not all of the property is good for gardening but it would be plenty for me. I would definitely keep me busy for the rest of my life. Have a great pepper pickling and preserving day.