I inherited my love of gardening from my mother and grandmother. I am a garden blogger, freelance writer, and Master Gardener emeritus.
How to Preserve Tomatoes and Peppers
Skip the heat and hassle of canning on a hot summer day! Quickly clear those kitchen counters covered with an overflow of homegrown vegetables by preserving peppers and tomatoes at their best.
- Freeze tomatoes to process later when the weather is cooler and the garden has slowed down. Imagine canning tomatoes on a snowy day instead of during the hottest days of August.
- Freeze a variety of summer peppers to avoid those overpriced winter imports.
- Dehydrating tomatoes is the best space-saving method of storing them. Save the tomato peels or skin to dehydrate to make tomato powder.
- Drying at low temperatures preserves much of the vitamin, mineral, and fiber content.
Freeze Whole Tomatoes
Tomatoes are best processed or canned when freshest. That’s usually during the hottest time of the year. Beat the heat and can tomatoes later this winter. Gather up the last garden produce before the first frost. If you want to eat local year-round, consider buying fresh tomatoes at the farmers market. I buy a boxful to make enough homemade tomato soup and salsa to feed the family all winter. Ask the seller for “canners.”
- Wash and cut out any damaged areas before freezing.
- Freeze them in a single layer on a cookie sheet, then place in a heavy plastic bag.
- Store tomatoes in the freezer until ready to use.
- Simply freeze tomatoes whole and add the frozen tomatoes directly into broth, chili, soups, or sauces. Place them directly into the cooking liquid.
- Whole frozen tomatoes thaw quickly in a crockpot on low heat.
- Tomato skins will loosen and float to the top of the cooking pot. Remove with a slotted spoon. As tomatoes thaw, break them up with a wooden spoon, potato masher or stick blender.
The Best Way to Store Peppers
- The best way to keep the flavor and color of sweet and hot peppers is to freeze them. Bell peppers do not need blanching or special preparation beforehand, but you can roast them like chiles. Roasting chiles or hot peppers before freezing is the most flavorful method.
- Fresh bell peppers are best chopped or cut into strips, then spread on a cookie sheet and frozen. Then put the frozen peppers into heavy plastic zipper bags. Take out as you need them and add to recipes, no need to thaw first.
- Chopped, frozen peppers can be used in any cooked dishes. Add peppers to spaghetti sauce or chili. Use pepper strips for fajitas or sausage and peppers.
Peppers That Aren't Too Hot
I’m a coward when it comes to heat. Peppers that are so hot that you can’t taste anything else for the day are too hot for me. My favorite mild peppers:
- Anaheims are a very mild pepper. They are about 8 times milder than the jalapeño.
- Poblano are famous for roasting and stuffing in chiles rellenos. When they are dried, they are known as ancho chiles.
- Pimiento de padrón are popular served as tapas. Only about 1 in 10 are really hot. These little nutty-flavored peppers are best harvested young and small.
- Jalapeño (a.k.a. chipotle) have a great flavor, but they are about as hot as I can appreciate. I like the felicity variety which has all the flavor, but none of the jalapeño heat.
Dry Tomatoes to Concentrate Flavor
The natural sugars in the tomatoes concentrate to create a healthy snack. Sundried tomatoes are almost never dried in the sun. Although you can dry tomatoes or other fruit and vegetables in the sun, most people choose to dehydrate their garden bounty using a dehydrator or oven.
The cost of sundried tomatoes is shocking. Making your own adds a gourmet ingredient to your pantry for only a few cents. Dehydrated tomatoes, or any dried vegetable, requires little special equipment or storage space. The advantages of drying tomatoes:
- space-saving storage
- sweet concentrated tomato flavor
- extended shelf life
- make tomato powder
Dry Tomatoes, Herbs, and More
- Cherry tomatoes are excellent for dehydrating. Simply wash cherry or pear tomatoes and cut in half. Place tomatoes cut side up and dry until crisp.
- Drying cherry tomatoes concentrates the tomato flavor and the natural sugars. These little guys are a healthy snack.
- Any tomato can be dried. The quickest to dehydrate are the paste type. Peeling is unnecessary and optional. Cut in half, lengthwise.
- They are dry when leathery and crisp. Store in heavy plastic ziplock bags in the freezer. Or, store in airtight glass or plastic containers in cool, dry, dark place.
- As the garden explodes with vegetables, consider dehydrating herbs, peppers, carrots, potatoes, green beans and onions.
How to Roast Peppers
Roasting or charring blackens and loosens the pepper skins making them easy to peel. I grill peppers but you can use a broiler. Roasting adds a mild smoky flavor. Wear gloves when peeling the charred and steamed hot peppers.
- Grill: Place peppers directs on the hot grill. As they blacken, use tongs to turn them. Continue turning until they are completely blackened on all sides.
- Broil: Arrange peppers, not touching, on a broiler pan or baking sheet. Place sheet about six inches from the broiler. Watch them closely, turning with tongs until each one is blackened all around.
How to Peel the Skin Off Peppers
- Using fingers or a knife, the peel easily slips off the charred/steamed Anaheim peppers.
- Wrap charred peppers directly into a large sheet of aluminum foil. Fold foil over and seal the hot peppers into a foil packet. They will steam inside.
- When they have cooled to room temperature, open the packet. Gently remove the skins using a paring knife. Remove the stems and seeds. Peppers are ready to use.