Confession: this year is the first year I’ve grown enough peppers to preserve. Usually, our peppers end up being stringy, tough, and bitter – something that I have learned is the side effect of too little fertilizer, poor soil, and cold weather that doesn’t allow the plants to mature properly.
However, this year I remedied all those issues with a few easy gardening hacks, and I’m happy to report that I have harvested several pounds of delicious bell peppers.
That’s the good news – the bad news is that once I harvested them and made my fair share of stuffed peppers, spaghetti sauce, and other delicious concoctions (I also ate quite a few of them raw!) I had no idea what to do with them.
Luckily, the pepper is one of those foods that does quite well when frozen or canned. You can easily can any kind of fresh pepper, including bell peppers or hot peppers. Hot or sweet, pickled or plain, there is a lot you can do to your own peppers.
In this article, I will walk you through how to traditional bell peppers (also referred to as sweet peppers). There is no pickling involved in this procedure, so you’ll want to have a pressure canner on hand – peppers are too low in acid to be safely canned in a water bath canner.
Other than that, the equipment is the same as what you would use for water bath canning. Once you have your peppers gathered and your equipment ready to go, you can follow the handy guide below.
What Kinds of Peppers Work Best for Canning?
Make sure you select the freshest peppers that are bright green in color, like these.
When you are selecting peppers to be canned, only choose those that have ripe, unblemished fruit and skin. Ideally, the skins should be thick and difficult to pierce, as this will help to indicate the quality of the vegetable within.
Otherwise, any kind of pepper will do! There is no one type of pepper that is best-suited for home processing. If you plan on pickling peppers (which is something that this recipe doesn’t call for, though the steps are similar), you might choose peppers like yellow wax, sweet banana, Cubanelle, or sweet bell peppers.
Standard canned peppers (the non-pickled variety) can be made out of any kind of pepper, including spicy ones like poblano, jalapeno, serrano, and ancho chile. You can also make canned peppers out of red, green, or yellow sweet peppers. Even banana peppers can be canned!
Adding Other Ingredients
Keep in mind that if you add other ingredients, like onions or tomatoes, to your canned peppers, you may need to alter your canning times and pressures.
Always look for a recipe that matches your intended canning plan exactly – you don’t want to stray from a recipe because these are tried-and-true plans to help preserve your food in a safe way. Don’t make yourself sick by trying to be creative!
- 1 lb raw peppers per pint jar (18 lbs if you are double stacking)
- Salt (optional)
- Vinegar (optional)
Step 1. Cut Up Your Peppers
Before you do anything at all, you need to go through your peppers and select the ones that will work best for canning. Look for individuals that are unblemished and have nice, waxy skins. Try to avoid those that have become wrinkly or old.
Wash your peppers carefully, taking extra caution to remove any built-up dirt, insects, or other unwanted debris. Once your peppers are clean, cut them on a clean cutting board. You can cut your peppers into small pieces, rings, or slices.
I personally recommend cutting your peppers into large pieces. The reason for this is that when you cook your peppers in a pressure canner, they will soften quite a bit. If you make the pieces too small, you may find that they turn into a mushy mess.
If you’re canning bell peppers, you can quarter them. Both Ball and Bernardin, two major canning authorities, along with the USDA, recommend not dicing or mincing your peppers, as I mentioned.
However, if you are canning chiles or another kind of small hot pepper, you can easily can them whole (slicing into large pieces is also fine). You should pack large chiles loosely to prevent any issues.
As I mentioned, this recipe will deal solely with the process of pressure canning bell peppers. You can also pressure can hot peppers, or you can pickle either type and then process them in a water bath canner.
If you are processing in a water bath, you can cut up your peppers however you’d like – the pickling will help preserve some of the crunch in the smaller pieces of peppers.
Step 2. Clean and Heat Your Jars and Canner
While you are washing and chopping your peppers, you can have your other equipment getting ready at the same time.
You will need to put a large pot of water on to boil – this will be the pot you use to blanch your peppers. In another pot, you should heat additional water to boil – this will be the pot you use to sterilize your lids.
There is a lot of debate over whether you actually need to sterilize your lids or not. The jury is still out on whether it does anything or not – I always sterilize my lids because I store them in the basement all winter long
Although you should never reuse lids – it’s perfectly fine to reuse bands and jars – I buy my lids in bulk after the canning season has ended so that I can save a little bit of money in the off season. As a result, I like to sterilize my lids to make sure there is nothing to contaminate my hard work.
The old train of thought was that the process of heating the lids helped them seal better, but this is no longer the case. Now, heating your lids won’t necessarily hurt the food you are canning, but it will take some extra time. Therefore, the choice is up to you.
You do, however, need to heat and sterilize your jars. Cold jars placed in a hot canner are more likely to break – this is a huge pan that you aren’t going to want to deal with. Run your jars and bands through the sterilization cycle on the dishwasher (or heat them in the oven) before beginning.
You should also prepare your canner. You will need to get the canner going with about four inches of water. Put it on a low heat until your peppers are ready to go, and make sure it’s nice and clean, too.
Step 3. Put Peppers in the Jars
Got your jars ready to go? Now it’s time to load them with the peppers. You should first let them boil in hot water for about three minutes. This will help them retain a nice, bright green color during the canning process.
Once the three minutes has elapsed, you can pack your pint or quart jars full. You should be able to fill about 18 pint jars full of peppers if you have a pressure canner that will allow you to double-stack, or five quart jars.
Some pressure canning recipes will tell you that your canner can fit seven quart jars, and this is true. However, make sure you use uniform regular or wide-mouth jars to allow them to fit nicely – otherwise, you’re going to have to worry about jar breakage.
Leave about an inch of headspace when you pack your jars. Top up each canning jar with clean boiling water and remove any bubbles.
You should use a plastic or wooden bubble remover tool to do this – don’t use metal, as it can etch the glass. Add more water if needed, then wipe the rims to remove any food particles.
Once your jars are clean and filled with peppers, you can put the lids on and screw on the bands. Don’t over tighten the bands – this can cause a sealing failure. Tighten just enough so that there is a little bit of resistance.
Step 4. Fill Your Canner
Your next step is to slowly and carefully put each jar into your canner. The water should cover your jars but this is not required if you are double-stacking.
Step 5. Process Your Jars
The next step is to allow your pressure canner to vent. Make sure your canner lid is nice and tight and twist it into place. Continue heating the canner with the vent open (or the gauge off).
Let the canner vent steam for ten minutes – this will purge the extra airspace inside the canner. Keep your stove’s heat on high while you are doing this.
After you have finished venting the canner, you can reattach the weight or close the vent (this depends on whether you have a dial-gauge or weighted-gauge canner – make sure you read your instructions carefully). Then, allow your canner to build pressure.
You will need to can peppers at a processing pressure of 10 lbs for a weighted gauge canner or 11 lbs for a dial gauge (remember to adjust this if you live at a higher altitude).
The processing time is 35 minutes.
Keep a close eye on the pressure and start timing once you hit 10 or 11 lbs (depending on your canner type). Once it hits your goal pressure, you will want to monitor the heat to make sure it doesn’t drop or rise.
If your temperature is too high, you will want to throttle down the heat every so slightly. If it drops too low, you will need to turn the timer off and start the process all over once you are back at the goal pressure.
Because of this, it’s important that you keep a close eye on the pressure canner while it’s building pressure. Now is not the time to pop out for groceries or even to head into the adjoining room to watch some television! You need to make sure your pressure is remaining stable during the canning process.
Not only can inadequate pressure alter your canning results (making your food either overprocessed or unsafe to eat, or both) but it can also be dangerous. Don’t risk it! Just be vigilant.
Step 6. Remove the Jars
Once your processing time has elapsed, you should avoid the temptation to instantly lift the canner lid. A couple of bad things can happen here.
Your canner can release all of its steam and pressure as you open the lid – directly in your face, causing severe injury – or it will cause the liquid in your jars to rapidly dissipate.
Don’t try to hasten the cooling of your jars. You need to wait until the pressure has returned to zero before you can open the canner.
To do this, simply turn the heat off on your burner. Do not move your canner off onto another burner, because you need to avoid jostling the jars. Once the canner’s pressure reads zero, you can then remove the lid and take the jars out to cool.
Place your jars directly on a clean towel. These should be left to cool out of an area of a direct draft, and you should not leave them on a bare countertop. This is recommended for several reasons – first, jars can damage a countertop when left unprotected, and second, the cold temperatures of a counter can crack a scalding hot jar.
Step 7. Storing Your Finished Jars
Let your jars remain in the canner until the pressure has dissipated.
Allow your jars to cool for roughly twelve to twenty-four hours. Once they have cooled down, check the seals. Press the top of your lids and if they don’t flex or pop, you’re good to go.
If a seal has not formed, you should put the food in the refrigerator and use it as soon as possible – the canning process failed and your food is not safe for long-term storage.
Otherwise, your canned jars can be stored for quite some time in a cool, dry location like a basement, root cellar, or pantry. Rotate your jars and use up the old ones first, keeping a good eye out for signs of spoilage.
- This recipe will yield roughly 18 pints – enough for one or two canner load’s full, depending on how you choose to stack your jars. Some pressure canners can accommodate two layers of pint jars, but you may need to add a rack in between. Be sure to check the specific make and model of your pressure canner before attempting this. The jury is still out as to whether it’s safe to can peppers in quart jars. I have only ever canned peppers in pints, so to be safe, you may want to stick to the smaller jars, too.
- These canned peppers are quite good for you. Just one can has just 78 calories and zero sodium if you forego the added salt. It’s also packed with fiber and natural sugars.
- If you can spicy peppers like jalapenos, you might want to prepare them in a separate batch to prevent the cross-contamination of capsaicin. In addition, it’s smart to wear gloves! Jalapenos can dry out your hands and cause them to burn. Even if you think you can tough it out, don’t risk it – it will be really hard to operate a pressure canner when you feel like your hands are on fire!
- You don’t have to add salt if you don’t want to. This is for flavor alone. Some recipes also call for vinegar, but since this isn’t required for the canning process and is merely for taste, that decision is up to you.
- Canning at a higher altitude? This recipe is for people who are at altitudes below 1,000 feet. If you are using a dial-gauge canner between 2001-4000 feet, can at 12 lbs. For 4001-6000 feet, can at 13 lbs. For altitudes up to 8000 feet, can at 14 lbs. If you are using a weighted-gauge pressure canner, you will need to process at a pressure of 15 lbs for any altitude above 1000 feet.
- Finally, some recipes call for peeling your peppers first. This is usually done for cleanliness, but if you wash your peppers thoroughly, you should have all your bases covered.
How to Use Canned Peppers
Canned peppers are quite versatile. Canned jalapenos can be used atop nachos or in jalapeno poppers, while banana peppers make a great garnish a salad or sandwich. Sweet bell peppers, on the other hand, are quite convenient when they are already canned.
You can use them in soups, stir fries, and sauces, giving you an endless supply of peppers to be used at a moment’s notice – no dicing or cooking required.
Rebekah is a high-school English teacher n New York, where she lives on a 22 acre homestead. She raises and grows chickens, bees, and veggies such as zucchini (among other things).