Preserving the Harvest Peppers and Chillis

Making the most of the vegetable garden, involves stocking up on those things in glut.  At the moment it’s chillies and peppers.  And, it looks like it may well stay this way for some time.  That’s okay though, as I’m a lover of the humble pepper.  Mild ones, sweet ones, spicy ones, super hot killer ones, I’m happy with them all.  Preserving the harvest is a great way to extend the seasons and help your vegetable patch keep you self sufficient in certain foods for as long as possible.

This year we have a few different sorts of chillies and sweet peppers  growing in the vegetable garden.  We have a type of Tabasco chili (I think),  Serrano, Cayenne, Numex Big Jim (what a name?) and Hungarian Hot Wax (ditto), plus a few local sweet peppers.

We have a few different methods of storing each type of pepper here at a Self Sufficient Life.  Let me explain…

Drying Peppers

Peppers to be dried must be completely ripe and blemish free.  If not fully ripe, hang them up in the sun to dry.  They should continue to ripen so long as the weather is favorable.

How to dry peppers depends on the weather and the type of fruit.   Similarly, what you do with them once dried is variable.

For the larger specimens such as Numex and Hot Wax we tie them together on string, and leave outside to dry quickly in the breeze.  I usually tie each pepper by its stem onto the string, leaving a 6 inch gap before tieing on the next.  This allows plenty of space for air to circulate around the fruits.  Later in the year, we dry indoors in a cool shady room, but they do take a lot longer to completely dry out.  Lastly, when things are getting damp, we hang them near, but not directly above the wood burner.  This dries them quickly and adds a smoky flavor, but keep an eye on them, as drying them really fast can leave them overly desiccated.


Large peppers are best re-hydrated before use.  Simply cut in half or slit down one side, to allow water in.  Then immerse in hot water for half an hour, before using just as you would fresh peppers.

The Tabasco types are just too fiddly to string up, so I just dry them on a metal grill outside.  Dried until brittle they last pretty much indefinitely stored away in jars.  We only dry ripe peppers.  So for these that means only those which have turned red or orange.

Cayenne peppers are dried tied on cotton, which I just do with a needle and thread as the stems are easy to sew through.  I admit part of my motivation for stringing up the cayennes is  because they make rather lovely Christmas decorations!  All the smaller chillies are either crumbled into recipes or left whole.  I don’t bother re-hydrating them first though.

Pickled Peppers

Not all peppers are great pickled.  But many are fantastic.  To find out whether this year’s particular varieties are worth pickling, I always make some tiny ‘tester’ jars early in the season.


Then after a fortnight when they’re ready, I can taste-test and decide which are worth pickling for winter use.  I tend to pickle green peppers, as very ripe ones seem to soften more readily.  However, the large waxy varieties seem to pickle brilliantly whatever the colour.  I dare say you should really blanch green peppers for a minute to help them retain their colour.  I can’t say the olive green hues have every put me off my dinner so this is one step I omit.

To pickle peppers I simply follow the same recipe as for dill pickles.

  • That is wash and prepare the peppers.  If small I leave whole and simply prod with a fork or toothpick to allow the pickling liquid to permeate into the fruits.  Usually I leave the stem on, but the mood took me to trim it off for this batch.  If large I slice in rounds.
  • Pack into sterilised jars, throw in some garlic or other spices if the mood takes me, then top with vinegar brine.
  • Seal and wait two weeks before eating.

The larger milder Numex and Hot Wax peppers are great spooned over dry pasta and rice dishes for a little added pep.  The whole small serrano and cayenne are killer, but great sliced up in spicy cous cous or rice salads.   And, of course they can be used in cooking too, when fresh chillies are no longer in season.  These should last up to a year.

Or try Hot Chili Paste like ‘Sort of Schug’.

Right, I’ve made myself hungry now, so I’m off to taste test a few batches of pickled chillies…

For a more self sufficient future

3 Responses to “Preserving the Harvest Peppers and Chillis”

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  1. Kelly says:

    When you dry peppers are you talking about sweet peppers too?

    • Kelly – you can dry sweet peppers but we never do – we usually eat them too soon or prefer to make sauces with them, or indeed you could just freeze them – if you have a larger freezer than us!

  2. cubrikaska says:

    Este tema es simplemente incomparable:), me es muy interesante)))