Cukes may be classics when we think of making a batch of pickles, but they can’t beat peppers for ease and versatility in preserving. Small, thin-walled peppers dry easily and look beautiful hanging in your kitchen, while juicy poblanos, long hots, or jalapenos are great roasted and almost any pepper keeps perfectly in the freezer. Here are a few methods that will allow you to hang onto summer’s heat.
Dry: Run a needle and heavyweight thread (or fishing line) through the pepper stems, and then create a small loop to hold each pepper in place. Space peppers about 1” cm apart and then hang to dry in a well-ventilated area. When peppers feel totally dry and leathery, snip them from the thread and store in a sealed jar or container to protect them from dust and humidity.
Infuse: Dilute the heat of chilies by infusing them into vodka or vinegar. Pour a bottle of either into a clean glass jar and add 3-10 halved chilies, seeds and all, depending on your heat tolerance. Steep for a few days, tasting periodically. Once it has reached your desired level of spice, strain out the peppers and store it either in its original bottle or a glass jar. Chili vodka is a great excuse for a Bloody Mary, and pepper vinegar is perfect sprinkled over sautéed kale in the cooler months. Olive oil is lovely with chili as well, but only infuse chilies in oil after they’re dried. Fresh chilies contain enough moisture that they can actually spoil even when submerged in oil.
Freeze: Toss an assortment of clean, dry chilies into a gallon sized freezer bag and freeze. To use, remove one and run it under the faucet for a moment and then stem, seed, and chop as you would a fresh chili. It’s actually that easy.
Roast: Toss peppers in just a little bit of oil and fire up your grill or broiler. Char over high heat until their skins appear completely blackened. Remove them to a container with an airtight lid for about five minutes. The peppers will continue to soften and the steam they release will loosen their skins. Wearing rubber gloves, use your thumbs to rub the charred skin away and remove stems and seeds. Store peppers in a jar in the refrigerator coated with a layer of olive oil, or freeze in an ice cube tray for longer storage. To use, toss in a spoonful or a frozen pepper cube in the pan
Pickle: Stem, seed, and slice a pound of any kind of hot peppers and pack them into a quart jar. Bring to a boil a simple brine of one and a half cups white vinegar, one-cup water, and a tablespoon each of kosher salt and sugar, and pour it over the peppers, making sure that they’re submerged. Seal with a lid and, once cooled, store in the refrigerator.
Jam: Jam-making and other preserves rely on sugar as a preservative, and the heat of a chili can add zip to almost any sweet preserve. Consider adding some to a batch of peach jam, or seek out a recipe for that classic-with-cream cheese hot pepper jelly.